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Issue #2003 - 04 (February 2003)
(Updated Feb. 5, 2003)


Wireless LANs As Edge Switches in Enterprise Networks

Source: Several including eWeek, with editing by MobileInfo.Com

Growth of WiFi WLANs has been phenomenal during the past year even under difficult economic climate. In fact, the success of WiFi has caused some networking experts to wonder if current implementations are the right way of implementing in the enterprise. As a result, several vendors have started developing high-density wireless Ethernet switches and sophisticated management software that keep intelligence at the edge of a wireless network rather than in individual access points.

Silicon Valley startups Aruba Wireless Networks Inc., Black Storm Networks Inc., Trapeze Networks Inc., Symbol Technologies Inc and recently Proxim have announced products or their intentions to produce next-generation wireless switches that enhance centralized WLAN management.

Aruba, of San Jose, California is a startup but a leader, so to speak, It came out of stealth mode recently to announce its WLAN switching system, code-named Mother Ship, which isolates users' traffic. It also authenticates each user over each switched connection, using one of several standard encryption schemes. Once authenticated, the switch, which sits at the edge of the network in a wiring closet, applies user-specific firewall policies.

The monitoring software in the Mother Ship system performs an automated site survey initially and then balances traffic on the fly when the network is operating. The system works with most standard access points, but users with Aruba access points gain added features such as remote reconfiguration to extend coverage if another access point fails.

Aruba also uses Power over Ethernet, allowing installation with a single Category 5 Ethernet cable that carries power and data to each device. The Aruba products will go into beta tests this month and should be available by the middle of the year, officials said. Pricing has not yet been determined.

Two other well-funded startups, Black Storm, also of San Jose, and Trapeze, of Pleasanton, California., are focusing on centrally controlled WLANs and will be delivering switching systems within the year, said sources close to both companies. 

Meanwhile, Symbol, of San Jose, has plans to beef up its Mobius product line. Launched last year, Mobius comprises a wireless switch with two trunk ports that sits in the middle of a network and attaches to an existing Ethernet switch from a third-party vendor, such as 3Com Corp. or Cisco Systems Inc. It supports from six to 24 Mobius "access ports." Officials said that Symbol plans to launch a higher-port-density switch, which can sit on the edge of a large network, by the end of the year.

Beyond security, a main goal with a switch-managed WLAN is to make it easier to update a network. Obviously, it easier to upgrade one switch than dozens or hundreds of access points in a large enerprise network. 

MobileInfo Comments and Advisory: This turn of product evolution in WLANs fitting into enterprise network frameworks and architectural schematics is extremely important, in our view. It imakes a lot of sense to us. We expect this trend to take off because it is fundamentally right. In fact, we have a steadily-evolving vision of WLANs with more centralized and converged functionality into existing infrastructure. We are glad that market is picking up on our thoughts. We expect that even the heavy-weights like Cisco will cave into the market pressure. We bet their product strategists and engineers are working hard in the labs. In fact, this evolution fits right into Cisco's long-term product strategy - the way we see it anyway. We intend to write further on this trend.

Note: This news release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and section 21E of Securities Exchange act of 1934 in USA. Similar provisions exist in other countries. There is no assurance that the stipulated plans of vendors will be implemented. MobileInfo does not warrant the authenticity of the information. Readers should take appropriate caution in developing plans utilizing these products, services and technology architectures.  All trademarks used in this summary are the property of their respective owners.

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