Cisco to buy Airespace in US$450m deal

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Cisco Systems this week said it plans to acquire privately-held WLAN vendor Airespace in a US$450 million deal.

Airespace is one of a number of start-ups to espouse a "thin" WLAN architecture, which centralises network intelligence on a WLAN switch paired with stripped-down access points instead of building the intelligence into stand-alone access points.

Cisco has been a vocal proponent of the latter architecture.

Cisco now plans to support both its existing wireless products and the Airespace WLAN portfolio, said Alex Thurber, director of security and wireless for worldwide channels at Cisco, San Jose.

Solution provider Jeff Roback, vice president of engineering at Praxis Computing in Los Angeles, said Cisco is a company known for its breadth of offerings and could easily offer wireless technology that falls into both camps as a way of satisfying a larger number of customers.

"The interest in our side is in having a comprehensive portfolio so that we have a portfolio that meets all of our customers' needs," Thurber explained.

"There are situations where our products are the right fit, and there are situations where their products are the right fit," he said.

Airespace's centrally managed WLAN technology particularly appeals to mid-size customers rather than the lower end of the SMB market, he said. "You've got to have a need for a certain number of access points to add a management platform to it," he said.

With the acquisition, Cisco will inherit Airespace's worldwide channel of 200 partners. Airespace's strategy of recruiting security-focused solution providers to sell its wireless wares makes its channel base particularly appealing to Cisco, Thurber said.

"There's a great synergy between wired, wireless and security," he said.

Airespace's technology will be given Cisco product numbers and names soon after the deal closes and will likely be folded into Cisco's wireless technology specialisation for partners, Thurber said.

Upon close of the transaction, expected during Cisco's third fiscal quarter, ending 30 April, Airespace will join Cisco's Data Center, Switching and Wireless Technology Group, led by senior vice president Luca Cafiero. Airespace was founded in July 2001 and has approximately 175 employees.

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