Aruba rolls out Wi-Fi mesh gear from Azalea deal

SAN FRANCISCO – Aruba Networks is introducing the first fruits of its acquisition of Azalea Networks this week, boosting the speed of the wireless mesh gear with IEEE 802.11n technology and integrating it into the Aruba MeshOS management system.

By buying Azalea, Aruba acquired access-point technology that can route traffic across a mesh without forcing all the data to go through a single gateway. The US$40.5 million acquisition closed in September. Starting on Monday and continuing over the next few months, Aruba will roll out its own products based on Azalea’s technology, which it will combine with its own existing mesh products and sell under the AirMesh name.

The gear is designed primarily for outdoor mesh networks across wide coverage areas such as cities and industrial facilities. Because the access points can handle multihop routing, network designers are less constrained in laying out the infrastructure because they don’t have to find as many sites for wired uplinks from an access point, said Greg Murphy, vice-president and general manager of Aruba’s outdoor mesh and industrial business.

Aruba expects to find a significant customer base for such products in local governments, which mostly have moved away from the public municipal Wi-Fi schemes of the past decade but are deploying wireless networks for their own operations, Murphy said. The speed boost to 802.11n from the 802.11a/b/g technology that Azalea sold will allow both government and enterprise users to put bandwidth-hungry tools such as IP (Internet Protocol) video surveillance systems on wireless networks, according to Aruba.

The company has equipped two outdoor routers in the AirMesh lineup with multiple radios that can be configured for the  4.9GHz public-safety band as well as the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands used in Wi-Fi. It expects municipalities to also use the networks for broadband services for public-safety workers such as police and firefighters.

Administrators can configure these access points to suit their particular needs, assigning different radios to different bands. The flagship MSR4000 outdoor mesh access point comes with four radios. So, for example, it can be set up with two 2.4GHz radios for client access in different channels and two 5GHz radios for redundant backhaul connections to the rest of the network, Murphy said. The MSR2000, a current Aruba product with two radios, also can be configured to use two different bands at the same time.

In addition to those routers, Aruba is introducing the MST200, a single-radio 802.11n outdoor mesh router that uses 5GHz. The MSR1200, a dual-radio indoor 802.11n router with 2.4GHz and 5GHz capability, was introduced earlier by Aruba.

All the AirMesh devices can be managed using the Aruba MeshOS software, with features for intelligent routing, high-definition video support and mobile session persistence. The company is also announcing the Aruba Outdoor RF Planner, an application designed primarily for system integrators and other Aruba channel partners to lay out mesh networks for their customers. It gives planners a 3D view of the area where the network is to be deployed and indicates where radios can most effectively be installed, Murphy said.

The MSR4000 has a a starting list price of US$5,495. The MST200 will ship around the third quarter for a price that has not been announced. The MSR2000 and MSR1200 are already shipping, priced starting at US$3,295 and US$1,495, respectively.

Prior to the Azalea acquisition, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Aruba had about 800 employees. With the buyout, Aruba absorbed a company of about 100 employees, most of whom were based in Beijing. A flagship project for Azalea was a Wi-Fi mesh built for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Aruba has maintained the Beijing development team and integrated it with operations in Silicon Valley and India, Murphy said.

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