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Start-up edges Cisco for Microsoft Wi-Fi deal

After months of testing, Aruba Networks wins major contract to supply software giant with wireless gear, replacing Cisco.

Aruba Networks has won a major wireless contract with Microsoft, beating out Cisco Systems.

Microsoft plans to use Aruba's wireless switches and roughly 5,000 Wi-Fi access points to replace its 6-year-old wireless gear from Cisco on its corporate campuses, Aruba announced Monday.

The new deployment is considered one of the biggest of its kind in the world, serving more than 25,000 simultaneous users each day across more than 60 countries around the world. Microsoft will deploy the gear in 277 buildings covering more than 17 million square feet.

Financial terms of the contract have not been disclosed.

Aruba's Wi-Fi gear, which centrally manages radio frequency access points, will greatly reduce the amount of wireless local-area-networking equipment needed to be managed. The new infrastructure will also eliminate the need for Microsoft to deploy separate overlay networks for voice-over-wireless, guest services, radio frequency security and wireless location services, Aruba said.

Microsoft has been using wireless equipment from Cisco since 1999. The software giant tested Cisco's older products based on its acquisition of Aironet Wireless Communications, a transaction valued at about $799 million in 1999. It also tested new wireless products from Cisco's recent $450 million acquisition of Airespace. But ultimately, Microsoft chose Aruba as its only provider for mobile wireless equipment, said Don LeBeau, CEO of Aruba.

"It was a very rigorous testing process that lasted about six months," he said. "And they selected us based on the strength of our technology. Microsoft's decision really validates our technology. And we've already had several calls from other companies that have spoken to Microsoft about how well our product did in the testing phase."

Cisco declined to comment for this story.