HP, Aruba competitors seize the day, expect 'huge opportunity'

It didn't take long for Aruba Networks' competitors to seize on the company's acquisition by HP, letting the world know that they will take advantage of the situation and do their best to steal market share where they can.

The companies earlier this week announced that HP will acquire Aruba in a $3 billion transaction. Aruba has about 1,800 employees. 

While they wish Aruba well and give a respectful nod to its CEO, Dominick Orr, Wi-Fi competitors are also emphasizing the questions that arise from such an acquisition. The new combined organization will be led by Orr, who is a former HP exec, as well as Chief Strategy and Technology Officer Keerti Melkote, reporting to Antonio Neri, leader of HP Enterprise Group.   

"The combination of HP and Aruba definitely will cause customers to question whether or not they want to deal with ANOTHER HUGE company for their Wi-Fi needs when they can get a better, "best in class" solution from companies such as ours," said David Callisch, vice president of corporate marketing at Ruckus Wireless, told FierceWirelessTech. "So we expect to be able to take share and resellers away from Aruba and HP as a result, which helps us immensely."

HP's acquisition of Aruba Networks validates the increasingly critical role of wireless networking, "and we think this is a huge opportunity for Aerohive," said Aerohive CEO David Flynn in a statement. "Merging two companies is complicated, and inevitably slows down product development, breaks partnerships, and creates headaches for customers. Meanwhile, we'll keep focusing on innovation, advancing our technology, expanding our ecosystems and bringing better wireless and better intelligence to our customers."

Aerohive Director of Product Marketing Abby Strong expanded further in this blog, noting that this is HP's third attempt at acquiring a solution--it's already added Colubris and 3Com to its lineup. "As we've seen with Juniper/Trapeze, Zebra/Motorola, and even Cisco/Meraki--there is a huge amount of disruption as the acquiring company tries to balance the competing solutions within the portfolio," she said.

Xirrus CEO Shane Buckley also told FierceWirelessTech that he expects to see a dramatic impact on the Wi-Fi market. "This creates, I think, a lot of opportunities for companies like Xirrus," which considers itself to be one of the leaders in its slice of the market, which Buckley described as fragmented, with Wi-Fi vendors touting various specialties. At the same time, he noted the crossover as well. One of areas of focus for Xirrus, for example, is higher educational institutions, including dorms and shared living spaces.

Aruba is the second-largest WLAN vendor by market share after Cisco, a title it earned through a lot of hard work, while competitors point out, again, that HP gained its Wi-Fi expertise from the Colubris and 3Com acquisitions. According to IDC data from November, Cisco leads the WLAN market, followed by Aruba, Ruckus, HP and Motorola Solutions. A lot of companies also make up the "others" category.

HP has an OEM relationship with Aruba, and that likely will lead to disruptions for existing customers, Buckley said. Because Aruba also OEMs its products to HP competitors such as Dell, Brocade and Alcatel-Lucent, the transaction "creates as many questions for them as it creates for current HP and Aruba customers," he said.

Aerohive's Strong said that unless Dell and HP "suddenly decide to become besties, this could result in some serious thrashing for customers who are waiting to see who will support their WLAN infrastructure solution."

Aruba had a relatively strong channel partner lineup, but many of them already offer switches as part of their portfolios, Strong added. "Aruba Channel partners may not be happy having to compete against the huge HP channel in products and services, as well as meeting the more stringent HP partnership requirements."

An Aruba spokesperson was not immediately available to comment. An HP spokesperson declined to comment. 

HP's announcement also touched off another round of speculation that other Wi-Fi vendors may be up for grabs. Ruckus, which this week announced its 802.11ac technology is being integrated with Nokia Networks' popular Flexi Zone indoor and outdoor small cell solutions, saw its share price rise 5 percent on Monday.

Some analysts point out that HP's acquisition of Aruba will make it a stronger force with which to reckon once all is said and done. 

Rohit Mehra, vice president, network infrastructure at IDC, said HP's plans to acquire Aruba will have significant implications for the enterprise wireless business, as well as wired (Ethernet) domains, in the coming years.

In Mehra's opinion, the combined entity will no doubt become an even stronger player in enterprise mobility and networking, bringing unified access to the forefront. In turn, "this will mean greater market and partnering opportunities for other Wi-Fi infrastructure players such as Ruckus, Aerohive, Meru and Xirrus," he said.

"Specifically, the enterprise mid-market will likely see the most uptake and opportunity, exploiting the diversity in various Wi-Fi deployment models that we have seen in recent years," Mehra said.

The transaction is expected to close in the second half of HP's fiscal year 2015, which ends Oct. 31.

For more:
- see this Aerohive blog
- see this Business Insider article

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