Banking on the notion that sprawling industrial enterprises will want one wireless LAN to connect everything from the corporate headquarters to the most remote outdoor locations, Aruba Networks has acquired industrial wireless outdoor mesh vendor Azalea Networks for approximately $40 million.
Industrial wireless outdoor mesh enables enterprises that reach into remote locations such as mining operations, oilfields and water pumping stations to connect through a single network where one would otherwise be nearly impossible to establish.
For these enterprises, a single industrial wireless network means the ability to optimize business processes, according to Mike Tennefoss, Aruba's head of strategic marketing.
"If you look at what's required for companies to optimize business processes, you need to establish a secure link between all of the assets of an enterprise and people who manage them so you can optimize and look for ways to improve productivity and efficiency," Tennefoss said."The kinds of assets you need to keep in touch with vary, but it could be people carrying ruggedized handhelds or laptops, or it could be assets like supervisory control and data acquisition networks … substation automation or intelligent metering … robotics and production equipment that is Wi-Fi enabled."
Industrial wireless outdoor mesh is by no means a blockbuster technology, said Paul DeBeasi, vice president and research director for Gartner. But vendors have recognized that as wireless LAN adoption spreads from education and healthcare into industrial environments with super-remote locations, it will become more necessary.
Industrial wireless outdoor mesh: Lots of options
In response to this need, specialized industrial wireless outdoor mesh vendors have sprung up to offer solutions. They include Azalea, BelAir Networks, Tropos Networks and Firetide. Other, more traditional, enterprise wireless LAN vendors, such as Motorola with its MotoMesh product line, have introduced their own outdoor wireless mesh products.
Aruba currently has a line of outdoor wireless mesh products, but they are short-haul technologies for specific applications tied closely to a corporate headquarters. Azalea's products are designed to provide outdoor mesh across a six-mile distance.
Integrating outdoor mesh portfolios
Azalea APs have multiple specialized radios – one is dedicated to granting clients network access; others are dedicated to mesh trunking. Azalea's products also feature a specialized algorithm that optimizes the outdoor mesh network and helps the access points route around interference and failures to plot low-latency paths through the network, Tennefoss said.
Once the Azalea deal closes in August, Aruba will integrate the vendor's products into its AirWave wireless network management technology and merge the two mesh portfolios, he said.
"Azalea is a peer-to-peer technology," he said. "There is no controller in the network. The opportunity to have peer-to-peer capabilities in other Aruba products is desirable. Also, Azalea's Layer 3 best path selection algorithm could migrate across Aruba's product lines."
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