SD-WAN vendor Riverbed announced plans to acquire Wireless LAN vendor Xirrus today. Riverbed emphasizes its product line and portfolio strategy in the Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) market. Xirrus has emphasized its product portfolio as being a cloud-enabled Wireless LAN (WLAN) market vendor. Two main themes come to mind with this acquisition:
- the most recent acquisitions of Enterprise-class WLAN vendors (Arris/Ruckus and now Riverbed/Xirrus) have been quite different from those before them (HPE/Aruba, Extreme/Zebra), which were Campus Ethernet Switch for WLAN deals, and
- SD-WAN vendors (like Riverbed) are going to great lengths to differentiate from one another.
As background, it is quite interesting to see the journey both Riverbed and Xirrus have followed over the years that makes this deal work. Both today are active participants in the cloud and software defined markets. Both Riverbed and Xirrus have participated successfully in their respective marketplaces to have undergone transformations as their markets have evolved.
- When Riverbed was publicly traded, its focus market was WAN Optimization. This was largely a hardware market with little in the way of cloud-connectivity and software services. However, the market has changed since those days, the company went private and now SD-WAN is the latest trend in WAN connectivity. What this means is the company can enable its customers to allow policy-based orchestration and one-click wide area connections to cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, while still providing customers with the core function of WAN optimization.
- Xirrus, on the other hand, is a WLAN infrastructure vendor, offering high-performance WLAN Access Points that initially were targeted a high traffic venues, and then broadened out its product line to allow it to serve other vertical markets. The company has a strong reputation in serving high-end customers. A few years back, Xirrus began offering cloud-services to allow customers to manage multiple access points, and thus differentiated from other WLAN vendors. In fact, it is one of the leading cloud-managed WLAN market players.
Our view is that SD-WAN is more than WAN optimization. It is more than just security and services. And it is more than branch routers. SD-WAN is a full branch play. Every vendor will approach SD-WAN differently depending on their strengths. With the Xirrus acquisition, Riverbed just differentiated from its SD-WAN competitors by doubling down on enterprise relationships. We are excited about the SD-WAN opportunity. Many vendors are repositioning their product lines to address SD-WAN, and Riverbed is both strengthening and differentiating its product line to more fully address enterprise needs by adding LAN and WLAN capabilities to its portfolio.
WLAN industry consolidation has been a major theme in the past several years. Most recently, we’ve seen:
- Extreme Networks complete its acquisition of Zebra’s Motorola WLAN business (Oct 31, 2016),
- Arris (broadband equipment company) announce plans to acquire Ruckus and the Brocade ICX switch product line from Broadcom (February 22, 2017)
- Riverbed announced plans to acquire Xirrus (today)
Consider that the early consolidation deals for WLAN companies were mainly to allow Ethernet Campus switch companies to sell WLAN/Campus Switch products to their customers. HPE’s May 2015 acquisition of Aruba was a good example of this kind of acquisition. And the acquisition was done in large part to respond to Cisco’s acquisition of Meraki a couple years before the HPE/Aruba deal. And, in a corporate M&A twist-of-fate, in mid 2016, switch vendor Brocade announced plans to acquire WLAN vendor Ruckus. But, before it could complete the deal, semiconductor vendor Broadcom announced its own plans to acquire Brocade and spin off all Brocade assets but its Fibre Channel assets, putting in motion the Arris for Ruckus and Brocade ICX switch products deal. So, the first several deals were switch/WLAN related, and like we said, more recently, WLAN acquisitions are related to broader themes than just campus switch consolidation of WLAN, including broadband equipment vendor Arris for Ruckus and SD-WAN company Riverbed for Xirrus.
This leaves very few pureplay Enterprise-class WLAN vendors in the marketplace these days, Aerohive being the largest among the pureplays. Interesting indeed.