It’s a song you’ve heard before. The days of overlay wireless LANs are coming to an end as enterprises start to integrate the build-out and management of wired and wireless networks. Switch and router vendors have targeted wireless LAN vendors for acquisition in recent years in order to build their own integrated wired and wireless strategies. Juniper Networks was the most recent shopper, buying Trapeze Networks last year.
Now Adtran has gotten into the action, buying wireless LAN vendor Bluesocket. Adtran is a manufacturer of low-cost, NetVanta-branded network infrastructure based in Alabama (it also sells carrier grade infrastructure to service providers) that sells mostly into wiring closets. BlueSocket is a Massachusetts-based, venture-backed startup founded in 1999.
Last year Bluesocket launched what it calls “virtual wireless LAN” or vWLAN. While most WLAN vendors still rely on a hardware-based centralized controller, Bluesocket has abstracted its controller appliance as software, allowing it to run as a virtual machine on a VMware host server. By freeing the WLAN control plane from a hardware appliance, Bluesocket offers solutions to two wireless networking challenges: scale and cost. A software-based controller is cheaper than a physical appliance, and the scalability of the controller is bounded only by the power of a customer’s virtual infrastructure. As more access points are brought online, customers can devote more computing resources to the virtual controller or add more virtual instances.
Prior to its transition to vWLAN, Blusocket’s largest controller appliance could support up to 200 access points and 4,000 users, according to Chris Koeneman, Bluesocket vice president of sales and marketing. In tests and trials with its virtual controller, the company has scaled up to 1,500 access points and 48,000 users. Koeneman noted that Bluesocket’s virtual controller could scale higher than that. It hasn’t hit a ceiling in tests yet.
Bluesocket’s was named a visionary on Gartner’s last Magic Quadrant for enterprise wireless LAN infrastructure vendors. However, the company is small and it was in the midst of building out a channel partner program. Adtran, on the other hand, is a fairly large (2010 revenue was $606 million), diversified networking vendor with a large sales channel, according to Gary Bolton, Adtran’s vice president of global marketing.
Bolton said Adtran will put its R&D budget into Bluesocket in order to integrate its products with the NetVanta line, particularly around network management and the consistency of network access across wired and wireless connections.