Aruba Networks announced it is moving enterprise Wi-Fi outdoors with the $27 million acquisition of outdoor mesh vendor Azalea Networks, whose gear was chosen to provide wireless broadband access over more than 30 miles for the Olympic games.

But Aruba's head of strategic marketing Mike Tennefoss said Azalea's gear won't be used in a mesh deployment but industrial enterprise deployments that require Wi-Fi both inside and out.

"Our customers expand into a broad range of industries, and they need to keep people in touch with assets at all times. That might be supporting process-control equipment or connecting with substations," Tennefoss said. "Those applications aren't sitting in a carpeted space. They are sitting in places like oil and gas fields. Extending enterprise to the outdoor oil field requires mesh technology."

Tennefoss said the industrial base has been ignored for years when it comes to Wi-Fi solutions, but the industrial infrastructure is coming to fruition in a big way in China and other parts of Asia.

Azalea, which has a presence in both Silicon Valley and China, currently supplies China's largest wireless broadband network to the Daqing oil field. The deployment currently covers about 50 square miles and is being expanded to over 100 square miles. SCADA networks transmit remote well information, while video-surveillance backhaul runs at 30 frames per second over 6-mile links. Other applications include VoIP services and broadband access.

The challenge in the outdoor industrial market is delivering latency applications with full fidelity, Tennefoss said. Five-year-old Azalea has focused R&D on solving this problem by routing traffic differently through specific algorithms that detect the shortest path through a mesh network and specifically deal with quality of service over these paths.

Azalea currently plays in several markets, including delivering broadcast-quality video to vehicles as fast as 60 mph. This session-persistence capability has implications on the many universities Aruba already serves in terms of high-quality video surveillance to more remote parts of campuses and being able to feed video to public-safety officers as they are driving to the scene of an incident.

Another market Azalea plays in is the smart grid. The China Electric Power Bureau has deployed the vendor's network.
It's not clear, however, whether Aruba will jump into some of these markets. Tennefoss said Aruba's initial focus is on video surveillance.