Back in the day, Bluesocket was THE commercial captive portal for wireless networks. As WLAN in general gained broader acceptance and the market widened, Bluesocket also started providing access points and morphed their captive portal appliance into a controller (like the WLAN big guns were starting to use with thin APs.) As this was playing out, Cisco, Aruba, and at the time Meru, were largely dominating the market and Bluesocket didn’t generate a lot of buzz anymore. But- nor were they “over”.
My Own Bluesocket History
I have covered Bluesocket through the years for my column in Network Computing, like when the company introduced their initial controller offering, and then their virtual controller option. Network Computing also covered ADTRAN’s acquisition of Bluesocket in a piece done by colleague Steve Wexler.
On the personal front, I helped pre-ADTRAN Bluesocket develop a new guest access feature set that perfectly fit the needs of my University when our native Cisco wireless guest option was anemic by comparison. To this day we still use the Bluesocket portal for guests, and though it may be a bit dated, it still has amazing administrative flexibility and works great for letting guests self-sponsor or be sponsored based on cell phone number as user name. (I made more than one plea for both Bluesocket and ADTRAN to spin this off as a separate product but they didn’t bite.)
Bluesocket also donated controllers that I took to Haiti on a humanitarian IT visit that serve as the functional heart of two networks on University of Haiti campuses that me and my fellow volunteers created.
You could say I have a bit of a soft spot for Bluesocket given my history with the company and their products. But after the ADTRAN acquisition, the already small player in the WLAN space seemed to get even quieter. But wait…
With their latest announcement, ADTRAN’s Bluesocket may be on to bigger things.
ADTRAN calls their new offering ProCloud, and it hopes to empower channel partners, integrators, and service providers with the ability to provide hosted enterprise-grade WLAN offerings to customers built on established the Bluesocket vWLAN magic-in-the middle.
Also announced are ProStart (installation, service, and training for customers that can’t do their own wireless for whatever reason) and ProCare (customer-selectable maintenance support options.)
Wireless is certainly a competitive landscape to begin with, and the expanding managed WLAN pot is starting to simmer with interesting players jumping in. Though I get that ADTRAN and competitors see the hosted WLAN thing as an easy service-add for partners that don’t yet really offer wireless, I hope those who follow this path all don’t lose site of the fact that “easy wireless” doesn’t automatically equal “good wireless” and that proper design and policy are still the cornerstones of successful WLAN.
I wish ADTRAN and my old Bluesocket friends best of luck in their new venture, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be following how managed wireless services will impact our industry.