Alcatel is going to resell Aruba's wireless LAN system, fixing a hole blown in its wireless LAN strategy by Cisco's purchase of Airespace - which left Alcatel, inadvertently, with Cisco technology in its catalogue. Nortel is still in that position, and as the dust settles some expect its new partner to be Trapeze.

Alcatel will resell the whole Aruba portfolio to the voice on WLAN market, replacing its badged Airespace products, said Keerti Melkote, vice president of marketing at Aruba. Beyond that, the companies will cross-licence technologies, so Alcatel can use Aruba technology in products designed for voice, and use Aruba's open source boot code, now posted on SourceForge, to integrate other access points. "Over time we will port our technology to different hardware," said Melkote.

Alcatel turned to Aruba before the Cisco purchase was even announced, said Aruba marketing director David Callisch: "Alcatel were not the happiest campers with Airespace," he said. "In the US, they kept getting squeezed out of deals by Nortel." Nortel had better terms and undercut Alcatel on solutions based around the same box Alcatel was selling, said Callisch.

Aruba is free to work with other vendors for data networking, but has already rejected an OEM proposal from Nortel, claimed Melkote: "Nortel did come to us after the Cisco announcement. They were annoyed at having the rug pulled out from under their feet. We chose not to work with them, because we couldn't come to terms with the kind of things they wanted us to give away." Callisch commented: "We were hungry but not desparate."

Perhaps a bit more desparate than last October however, when Aruba CEO Don LeBeau told Techworld that such OEM deals were not worth having: "A large OEM distribution is very, very wrong for a high end product," said LeBeau. "OEMs tend to be big box shifters."

"Nortel is playing hardball" said Melkote. "They want to make sure the Airespace thing doesn't happen again." He predicted that Nortel would buy a partner to avoid this.

Of the wireless LAN switch start-ups, many industry observers feel the only suitable one left is Trapeze, but rumours of a Nortel purchase are still just rumours at this point, and we have not been able to pin them down from any reliable source.

For instance, Aruba stands to gain if it became the only independent WLAN switch vendor, so we don't put any store by the fact that Melkote is quoted elsewhere as saying Nortel would be likely to buy Trapeze, although when questioned by Techworld, he said nothing.

Trapeze itself did not answer our requests at press time. In any case, Nortel would have to extricate it from a cosy relationship with 3Com if it bought it.

Meanwhile, Alcatel will take on Aruba's current, more security-focused approach, said Melkote, including selling access points that provide wired/wireless security. "We want to move to an environment that addresses mobility and not just wireless - where people plug in laptops as well as walking around with them."