The wireless LAN infrastructure for Microsoft's own use is considered to be one of the largest in the world, serving more than 25,000 people each day in more than 60 countries. The new equipment from Aruba, which consists of controllers, software, and 5,000 "thin" wireless access points, will be deployed in Microsoft's 277 buildings and will cover more than 17 million square feet.
Aruba's equipment will allow Microsoft to centrally control and encrypt wireless devices. Most of the configuration will be done inside Aruba's wireless switch, which means Microsoft won't have to manage individual access points, says Don LeBeau, Aruba's president and CEO. "To configure and manage so many devices is difficult as opposed to managing one device in a central location," he says.
Centralized Wi-Fi systems like Aruba's are more cost effective and easier to manage than traditional systems, Farpoint Group analyst Craig Mathias says. "Aruba's system has lots of capabilities, and Microsoft will be able to do things now that it couldn't do before. For example, configuring [virtual LANs] will be much easier," Mathias says.
Microsoft selected Aruba following rigorous security, scalability, performance, and functionality testing of its equipment. Microsoft has confirmed the deal with Aruba but wouldn't comment on the specifics of the deployment. Mathias says, "This is one of the largest, if not the largest, wireless LAN deployments in the world."