Here we go again, the most recent in a rash of acquisitions, but only the second of an infrastructure vendor this year as HP  today announced its intent to acquire the Colubris Networks.

Why this is good for both sides:

  • I’ve long viewed Colubris a a strong technology play in search of a
    wider audience. I don’t think many would disagree that, of the vendors
    Forrester has evaluated
    in the past, Colubris may have been in tight contention for limited
    reach due to channel and plain, physical size in comparison to some of
    its rivals.
  • Colubris will bring to ProCurve a solid WLAN infrastructure base of IP to HP; one of the earliest vendors to get into 802.11n infrastructure development, and early proponent of a tri-radio access points, the company brings solid technology to HP.
  • Perhaps most importantly, the capital to make the Colubris acquisition shows that HP is investing in ProCurve and is committed to the business unit’s success competing in a market with formidable competitors such as Cisco in the wired and wireless networking space.

What’s missing? A couple elements:

  • There is clearly interest from WLAN infrastructure vendors in providing Wireless IDS/IPS capabilities, Aruba’s acquisition of Network Chemistry’s assets  and Motorola’s recent announcement are testament. Bringing on WIPS/WIDS functionality would do well to round out the ProCurve WLAN suite.
  • Cross-sells with HP’s iPaq team in Cupertino. HP is a massive entity, however, the natural synergy between the Wi-Fi enabled enterprise handsets the company sells and it’s voice-ready WLAN infrastructure is a solution sell waiting to happen.

As IT departments seek to build or winnow vendor shortlists of WLAN providers, the list gets shorter and shorter. Among the WLAN pure-play, or overlay vendors, 3Com, Bluesocket, Extricom and Meru remain. Based on Aruba’s shares outstanding value on paper – making it multiples above the price paid for Trapeze – the field of "independents" (and, for that matter, acquisition targets) shrinks to three. Nortel, given it’s lack of a clear strategy on 802.11n (very reminiscent on ProCurve, pre-announcement) could benefit from the infusion of WLAN IP. I’ve speculated in the past that a Meru/Nortel combination would be a winning one given a shared affinity for voice. After all, what ever happened to the Unwired Enterprise vision at Nortel, anyway?

Should IT buyers expect more of this same type of activity? Aside from Nortel, it’s hard to see any major vendors hurting for a WLAN product line, but it is likely to remain a buyer’s market across the remaining independents. Established players, such as Siemens, Aruba Networks and 3Com are likely to remain intact given their valuation, parent company structure and SMB niche, respectively. As for Bluesocket, Extricom and Meru, I hear Toronto is lovely in the summer…

By Chris Silva

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