Juniper signs Aruba to revive WLAN effort

Trapeze acquisition has not delivered, now Juniper looks to chase Cisco by signing number two enterprise WiFi player

By Caroline Gabriel

Juniper is trying to shore up its lackluster enterprise WLAN efforts via an alliance with Aruba, which sits second the market after Cisco.

Aruba's enterprise WiFi access points and switch/controllers will be integrated with Juniper's routers and switches to fill gaps in its wired/wireless portfolio. In this respect, there is a gaping gulf between Juniper and Cisco.

The former hoped that its acquisition of another enterprise WLAN player, Trapeze Networks, in 2010, would help it chase the market leader. But Trapeze proved too little too late - it had only 2.2% market share in 2010, and under Juniper's control has remained stuck in the same place in the league tables, seventh, that it occupied four years ago (or may even be below that, according to Dell'Oro calculations).

There have been persistent rumors that Juniper would sell off or close down its Trapeze product line, though it says it will, for now, continue to supports its own access points and controllers, and its RingMaster and SmartPass management and security systems. Mike Marcellin, SVP of strategy and marketing at Juniper, said the firm would honor its roadmap commitments, though it is notable that the firm has not yet announced upgrades to the new 802.11ac gigabit WiFi standard, unlike Aruba and others.

The Aruba alliance does not just cover cross-marketing, but joint development, which makes it strategically significant. The partners plan API-level integration of their products to enable unified management, visibility, policy and security enforcement across wired and wireless infrastructure, while Aruba's platform offers contextual data on users, devices, apps and location.

The smaller firm's portfolio will certainly give Juniper a more convincing WLAN product, but more importantly, will enable it to pitch its core wireline switches and routers into enterprises which prefer Aruba for wireless, and those which are shifting to a network management approach that is mobile-centric, not driven by wireline.

For its own part, Aruba adds another big-name channel to similar deals already in place with Alcatel-Lucent, Brocade and other switch/router makers. In this way, it is creating a broad reach for its product in the converged enterprise space, without having to develop its own wireline offerings, or expand its direct sales efforts dramatically.

There will be three phases in implementing the pact, according to a company blog post by Jonathan Davidson, SVP and general manager of Junipers campus and data center business unit.

"Phase 1 will integrate Aruba and Juniper network management applications, allowing customers to use a common set of tools to manage Juniper wired switches and Aruba WLAN equipment," he wrote.

"Phase 2 will see the integration of policy orchestration, including the definition and deployment of network access rules across Juniper and Aruba networks. The company's plan to employ a common policy language based on user, device, application and location for network-wide consistency. Phase 3 will enable the integration of wired and wireless data planes through a published interface on the Juniper EX series switches and MX series routers. This will enable the Aruba WLAN system to directly interface with Juniper switching platforms, optimizing the network data plane for wired/wireless convergence."

Juniper has been signing a range of partners with complementary portfolios to improve its ability to target wireless and mobile enterprises and carriers. Most important is an expanding alliance with Nokia, pairing Juniper's carrier switches and other core infrastructure with Nokia's mobile broadband platforms.

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