This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

Bold move for Adtran, now it’s time to go execute.

On Tuesday, Adtran announced that it has acquired privately held Bluesocket. Bluesocket is one of many wireless LAN solution providers that offer a solution that is an alternative to the traditional controller based products. Bluesocket’s solution uses VMWare to virtualize the controller functionality. This allows Bluesocket to create a completely virtualized control plane for managing the WiFi infrastructure. This means greater flexibility for IT as to how and where to deploy the controllers, which optimizes for both performance and cost.

Bluesocket is trying to capitalize on the current shift going on in the IT marketplace of raising the bar on wireless LAN, where it becomes a company’s primary network instead of augmentating the wired network. Wireless LAN has gone through several evolutionary changes before–from autonomous access points to controller based solutions to where we are now, which is a controller-based solution with independent control and data planes. This type of solution has been great for building out wireless networks that act as an augmentation to the current wired network.

Because of mobility, consumerization, and device evolution, we’re clearly trending towards wireless as the primary network, which is creating another transition point in the industry. If you’ve followed my blogs and reports over the years you’ll know I’m a big believer that market share change only happens at points of market transition, and this shift to wireless as the primary network creates a great opportunity for vendors in the wireless LAN space with alternative solutions.

For this reason, I like the move by Adtran acquiring Bluesocket much more than Juniper’s acquisition of Trapeze. Trapeze was one of the first wireless providers to separate the control and data planes and there was a window where they had a technology advantage over the market leaders Aruba and Cisco. However, Aruba and Cisco have caught up and it’s unlikely that Juniper can significantly gain share with a product that is actually well behind Cisco and Aruba now.

Bluesocket, like Aerohive, Ruckus and Meraki, promotes an alternative deployment approach. Of all the alternative wireless LAN solution providers out there I liked the approaches taken by Aerohive and Bluesocket the most. Both promote the concept of creating distributed intelligence with different ways of managing it, which is why I’m a fan of this move by Adtran. So now for Adtran to take advantage of this new asset, they’ll need to step on the gas and be a lot more edgy and marketing-focused than they have in the past. Those who know Adtran know them to be a very well run, efficient company with high quality products. They also know that Adtran’s marketing prowess, particularly on the enterprise side, is somewhat limited. I’ve been down to the Huntsville facility and when you’re there you do get an appreciation of how well run a company they are and why they roll out such high quality products that are reasonably priced with good margins.

The current level of marketing aggressiveness, though, won’t be enough to catch the technology leader Aruba or the share leader Cisco, as they’re two of the best marketing organizations out there today. I certainly don’t expect Adtran to market like Cisco overnight, but I would like to see the company step on the gas with marketing material like white papers and webinars around the concept of virtual wireless LAN. Virtualization and wireless LAN are two of the hottest IT trends and combined should create some interest from current evaluators.

Since I can’t realistically expect Adtran to change their marketing roots overnight, a good interim step would be to work with the likes of Microsoft, Citrix and VMWare to build demonstrable case studies of how the Bluesocket solution provides a distinct benefit for things like VoIP, video and desktop virtualization. This can be difficult to do but as I said before, Adtran is a great engineering organization and they should be able to find the verticals and use cases where they do have an advantage. The difficulty with all of these various wireless solutions is that they all have their own unique strengths and weaknesses and it’s important that Adtran be able to identify and articulate what those advantages are as soon as possible.

One of the other interesting points about this acquisition is that Adtran actually chose to buy instead of build. Adtran has historically built almost everything. Instead of buying a switch vendor, it built its own; instead of buying a UC vendor, it built its own; so I find the fact that it chose to buy here a recognition of how fast and how competitive the wireless LAN market is.

Bold move for Adtran, now it’s time to go execute.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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