The buyout last month shows that Cisco has grown tired of losing Wi-Fi deals to Airespace, whose nicely engineered distributed-controller architecture and slick management overlay makes Cisco's technology pale in comparison. Airespace also was beating Cisco and other competitors in the marketing department, delivering a clear and compelling enterprise message and quickly gaining significant mind share.
For loyal Cisco customers, the acquisition is good news. Initially, Cisco will offer the current Airespace solution with its own logo. The logo change alone will increase market demand considerably for the Airespace products, though the current Cisco wireless line may suffer as a result. Over time, the companies will integrate product lines more tightly, marrying Cisco access points to Airespace controllers by way of LWAPP (Lightweight Access Point Protocol), an Airespace technology that defines a standardized method of interaction between network controllers and access points. The Airespace controller technology will find its way into closets at Cisco sites, and with a few enhancements from Cisco's internal engineering team, will likely show up in high-end Cisco switches before too long.
Cisco's pricing model for this "smart everywhere" architecture is anyone's guess. The combination of premium-priced APs and high-cost controllers could wreak havoc with some IT budgets. Market demand and competition will of course play a role in Cisco's pricing.
With Airespace gone, Aruba and Trapeze will become the chief alternatives to Cisco in the enterprise, and we wish them, and other potential competitors, much success. Cisco has a record of leveraging proprietary extensions to move its wireless products, and it needs competition--not only to keep the company engaged in industry standards efforts, but also to foster continued innovation. A fat, happy Cisco could be bad news for everyone.