Motorola plans to buy AirDefense

Motorola has agreed to acquire wireless LAN security vendor AirDefense for an undisclosed sum, adding to its arsenal of enterprise network products.

Privately held AirDefense was founded in 2001. It sells systems and software to help enterprises secure their LANs against wireless threats. Motorola expects the deal to close in the next few months, following regulatory and other approvals, and will integrate AirDefense into its Enterprise Mobility business.

AirDefense is one of several companies specializing in security for wireless LANs. In addition to intrusion prevention, its products are designed to meet a growing need for compliance, enforcement, forensics and reporting

Motorola will maintain AirDefense's Alpharetta, Georgia, headquarters. Most of the company's 91 employees, including President and CEO Mike Potts, will join Motorola, said Sujai Hajela, vice president and general manager of Motorola's enterprise wireless LAN business.

There is no overlap between the two companies' products, Hajela said. Motorola has been selling AirDefense products since 2005 under the Motorola brand, alongside its enterprise wireless LAN gear. Following the acquisition, it plans to further integrate AirDefense's security capabilities into its own products, such as wireless switches, he said.

Motorola also hopes to sell more wireless LANs to general enterprises through AirDefense's strength in that area, Hajela said. AirDefense has more than 800 enterprise customers worldwide, in areas such as financial services, retail, health care and government, AirDefense's Potts said. Among those are the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Army. Motorola's core markets are vertical industries, namely retail, supply chain, transportation and logistics, manufacturing, health care and government.

AirDefense's products can secure wireless LANs from a wide variety of vendors, and that capability will remain after the acquisition, Hajela said.

Motorola bought into WLANs in 2006 by acquiring Symbol Technologies. Lately, Motorola has been pushing WLANs for general enterprises, including as an alternative to wired Ethernet, which the company claims can be significantly less expensive to maintain. About 10 years after the introduction of standard IEEE 802.11 wireless LANs, the technology is still more popular in homes, public hotspots and specialized enterprises than in general business offices.

The deal follows the acquisition of Trapeze Networks last month by cabling and LAN equipment vendor Belden. The enterprise wireless LAN market, though dominated by Cisco Systems, still supports several dedicated vendors, though it is not growing at phenomenal rates. Revenue in the first quarter rose 14 percent from a year earlier, hurt partly by the economic slowdown in North America, while unit shipments of access points fell 5 percent, according to Dell'Oro Group. Orders of more expensive products accounted for the difference, the research company said.

Motorola had the second-largest market share in the first quarter, at 8 percent, followed closely by Aruba at 7 percent, according to Dell'Oro. Cisco held 63 percent of the market.

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