Aruba Networks is to buy the multi-vendor network management company AirWave.
AirWave — not to be confused with O2 Airwave, the company behind the UK emergency services' communications — provides wireless-network management software for use with equipment from a variety of manufacturers. These technology partners have for the past year-and-a-half included Aruba itself, but also rivals such as Colubris, Avaya, AirMagnet, Juniper, Tivoli and HP OpenView.
On Wednesday Aruba announced that it had agreed to buy AirWave for $37m (£19m) in shares and cash. AirWave will become a business unit of Aruba and, according to Aruba's head of marketing for the EMEA region, Roger Hockaday, it will retain its multi-vendor focus.
"It is not our intention here to acquire a company and then dissolve it and just take the best bits — what we are doing here is entering a new market for us," Hockaday told ZDNet.co.uk on Wednesday. "They will remain 100 percent focused on multi-vendor management. They will be able to draw on the resources of Aruba [and] we want them to expand the number of vendors and products they manage. We want them to remain the Switzerland of network management."
According to Hockaday, who admitted that "even some Aruba customers use AirWave to manage their Aruba kit", network management has tended to be the "Achilles heel" of wireless vendors.
"[Manufacturers] tend to focus on the radio design and the controller architecture," said Hockaday. "All that focus has meant that the user interface, the reporting, the diagnostics, may not be as sophisticated as you might find in a more mature platform like wired networks. With AirWave, that's all they do."
Hockaday suggested that analysts such as Gartner generally advise companies to go for the best-in-class product for their needs at the time, rather than sticking with one manufacturer for all their disparate networking requirements. "But you need a management platform that can manage them all," he added.
Aruba intends to bring "all the people [AirWave's staff] over", said Hockaday. "There may be one or two positions duplicated, but we need their experience. We want them to remain experts in their field."
Hockaday added that he expected the deal to go through in March.