By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2004-09-13 Print this article Print

The latest version of Meru Networks Inc.s Wireless LAN Solution makes it easier for administrators to scale, deploy and maintain wireless networks.

eWEEK Labs tested the Wireless LAN Solution with Meru System Director 2.0 embedded software, which started shipping last month. Our testbed included a $7,995 Meru MC1100 Controller appliance and three 802.11b-compliant Meru AP110 access points, priced at $695 each.

System Director 2.0, which runs on the MC1100 Controller and AP110 access points, features a redesigned MAC (media access control) sublayer that improves access point performance with large numbers of clients through intelligent collision-avoidance techniques.

The MC1100 Controller manages the airwaves, scheduling device transmissions. Scheduling eliminates excessive retransmissions and provides predictive bidirectional quality-of-service features that can be weighted to allow priority access to jitter- and latency-sensitive applications such as VOIP (voice over IP).

Click here to read about the growing support for voice over wireless LANs. The re-engineered MAC also allows the Wireless LAN Solution to present what Meru calls a virtual access point to clients, permitting all access points in a network to emulate a single MAC address, which lets clients roam among access points with minimal handoff times as the controller intelligently migrates the signal from device to device.

Meru makes it a snap to configure radio characteristics of the WLAN with E(z)RF Quick Configuration. With the click of a button, we could optimize the network for distance, throughput or handoff times. In the background, System Director adjusts access point channel usage and transmits speeds accordingly. This process causes all access points to dynamically readjust their radio characteristics, so we dont recommend using this feature during business hours.

Merus AP110 access points offer a Layer 3 operational mode; to find controllers on another subnet, the AP110s leverage a preprogrammed default DNS (Domain Name System) entry, thereby providing wireless coverage and management capabilities to remote locations that dont have a controller. However, unlike most competing products, the AP110s support only 802.11b. An AP200 model that supports 802.11a, b and g should be available next month, Meru officials said.

Each AP110 access point supports 64 ESSIDs (Extended Service Set Identifiers), each of which can be connected to a different VLAN (virtual LAN) on the wired network. We could create individual authentication policies for each network and tie the policies to different authentication servers.

The Wireless LAN Solution supports WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) at 64- and 128-bit strength, and 802.1x authentication with a variety of EAP (Extensible Authentication Protocol) flavors. However, TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol)-based encryption is not available. IP Security termination is available on the MC1100 for $2,000 more.

The Wireless LAN Solution also detects and blocks rogue access points. We configured a list of approved neighboring access points and could then identify unknown ones and send disassociation requests to the devices.

Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at andrew_garcia@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms Mobile & Wireless Center at http://wireless.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews and analysis.

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Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for eWEEK.com, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at agarcia@eweek.com.

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