3Com's decision to partner with Trapeze on WLAN switches may be further evidence that the WLAN switch is here to stay: 3Com said today that it formed a partnership with Trapeze which will initially be an OEM agreement but in the future will migrate into a co-development relationship. 3Com also expects to include Trapeze software into some of its platforms.
"The growth of this market is very attractive," said Brent Nixon, director of product management for 3Com. He expects the WLAN switch market to continue to grow and believes that having a switch will allow 3Com to better target the educational, healthcare, enterprise, and public access markets.
The WLAN switch market started out as an industry crowded with startups and many experts said the market was likely to consolidate. So far, however, the switch makers aren't being bought up by more established players nor are they going out of business. They are getting creative though.
AirFlow, for example, stopped making its switch and said it would instead try to license its software to former competitors or other vendors. Airespace made a deal with NEC where NEC is selling a converged wireless voice and data platform that incorporates Airespace's WLAN switch. Airespace also has OEM agreements with Alcatel and Nortel and a co-development deal with D-Link.
3Com said it has a number of reasons for wanting to partner with Trapeze rather than develop its own WLAN switch, buy a startup, or form a basic OEM deal. "We feel that by a partnership relationship, Trapeze will be focused on maintaining their advantage in the market," Nixon said. He also thinks that a partnership will allow 3Com to reach the market faster than if it developed its own product or bought a startup. A basic OEM relationship would also fall short of what 3Com was looking for. "If you just go with a straight OEM relationship, you don't quite get the synergies you get from a true partnership," he said.
The relationship is not exclusive and Trapeze doesn't expect the co-development aspect of the deal to interfere with the possibility of OEM deals with other vendors, said Dan Simone, co-founder and vice president of product management for Trapeze.
Once the companies start working closely to develop products, they will aim to integrate the wireless switch technology into 3Com's networking technologies. "We'll get the technologies to work closely together over wireless so that it's more than just data. Our customers will be able to get more out of their wireless investment," said Nixon. 3Com hopes to integrate its voice over IP technologies into its wireless offering.
Nixon said that the first line of products will allow existing 3Com customers to use 3Com APs that they already have. "We don't want to require a big forklift upgrade," he said.