The WLAN, or wireless LAN, sector is pretty hot at the moment, as user endpoints break free from their previously wired existence. A wireless LAN links devices together over a spread-spectrum or OFDM (orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing) network within a limited area: your home, school, or office building, for example. From their humble beginnings, when they were not very stable, WLANs have become a staple of our always-on lifestyle. We now have connected cities, in which you can walk from one end to the other and always be connected to a Wi-Fi link.
This has become a big business: WLAN vendors and mobile data management companies have become hot properties. The traditional vendors are keen to get into that space. The main consolidation started with HP’s purchase of Aruba Networks, followed by Fortinet buying Meru Networks and Cradlepoint acquiring Pertino. Last year, Ruckus acquired Wi-Fi onboarding specialist Cloudpath Networks.
Brocade announced on Monday, April 4, that it plans to buy Ruckus Wireless in a cash and stock deal valued between $1.2 and $1.5 billion (the value of the deal may fluctuate between these figures until the deal closes in the third quarter). Brocade, which has its roots in storage networking, said the acquisition of Ruckus will boost its enterprise networking product line, thereby strengthening its position in the service-provider market. This deal will also help Brocade target the emerging Internet of Things and the next-generation 5G markets. According to Brocade CEO Lloyd Carney, “We’re positioning ourselves to lead where technology is headed.”
One possible cloud on the horizon is Ruckus’s strategic partnership with Juniper Networks. The partnership between Ruckus and Juniper was announced last year in the wake of HP’s acquisition of Aruba. After Brocade’s announcement, shares of Sunnyvale-based Ruckus soared 32 percent to $13.20 in Monday’s trading. Brocade’s share price fell 14 percent to $9.14.
From an ongoing management perspective, it seems that Brocade will initially take a hands-off approach. The Ruckus unit will be led by current Ruckus CEO Selina Lo, who will report to directly to Lloyd Carney.
Brocade and Ruckus have been working side by side on various projects for the past two years, so there is an already-existent synergy and a good understanding of each others working practices and foibles. For example, they separately provided the networking switches and wireless hookups for the city of San Jose, and more recently for Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center arena.
Ruckus CEO Selina Lo observed, “That’s when we realized there’s a lot of complementary [between the two companies’ products]. We looked at what’s coming down the road and saw that an ability to offer a complete solution is very attractive.”
Under Carney, Brocade has been gearing up for what it calls “the New IP,” a set of technologies and trends that are disrupting the old private, closed corporate network in response to the growing needs of mobile computing, social media, the cloud, and big data.
Recent acquisitions have included Riverbed’s SteelApp cloud and e-commerce business unit and Connectem, a mobile and cloud computing company.
As Brocade SVP Jason Nolet commented, wireless has become “the new edge of the network, and the edge is the on-ramp to the data center. The IT network used to be a cost center and a necessary evil, but now it has moved to be a core competency for many companies. Customers are looking to evolve their network infrastructures to be more agile, more capable of supporting innovation in their businesses.”
This merger focuses Brocade’s rebuild of its business—from a legacy provider of Fibre Channel switches and an also-ran in a traditional networking environment dominated by Cisco and Juniper to a wireless networking–focused business—and positions it well for the eventual adoption of 5G.