Aruba, Trapeze Present WLAN Switch Protocol

Aruba and Trapeze propose a protocol that lets wireless access points from disparate manufacturers work with centralized wireless LAN switches and controllers.

Two wireless-hardware makers have joined in a last-ditch attempt to come up with a protocol that lets wireless access points from disparate manufacturers work with centralized wireless LAN switches and controllers.

Aruba Wireless Networks and Trapeze Networks Inc. submitted SLAPP (Secure Light Access Point Protocol) to a group in the Internet Engineering Task Force known as CAPWAP (Control and Provisioning of Wireless Access Points). The group has worked on a switch-to-access-point protocol for more than a year. The deadline for submitting drafts to CAPWAP was March 31, and the companies barely made the deadline.

SLAPP will vie with a handful of proposals already submitted. The best known of these, LWAPP (Lightweight Access Point Protocol), is a specification that market leader Cisco Systems Inc. plans to support in upcoming products, subsequent to its acquisition of Airespace Inc.

Employing SLAPP, an access point—or any device with an IP stack—first discovers a switch or controller using any one of a number of existing protocols, including DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) or IP Multicast. Then the device authenticates using DTLS (Datagram Transport Layer Security), so secure authentication is required for communication to occur—a no-brainer when it comes to enterprise deployment.

"In the case of wireless LANs, security has been the big excuse for a company not to do anything," said Abner Germanow, an analyst at IDC, in Framingham, Mass.

SLAPP proponents said that previous CAPWAP submissions depended too much on features within access points.

"We want to make the access point simple and move things back into the switch," said Partha Narasimhan, chief wireless architect at Aruba, in Sunnyvale, Calif., and co-author of the SLAPP proposal.

Narasimhan said that while most current WLANs are based on IEEE 802.11 standards, SLAPP takes other up-and-coming standards into consideration.

Both Aruba and Trapeze, in Pleasanton, Calif., recently introduced separate, interim certification programs to make third-party access points work with their switches, and both intend to use SLAPP in those programs. So far, only Trapeze and Aruba are on board with SLAPP, but proponents expect more support as the IETF continues to evaluate proposals.

IETF officials have yet to pick sides, but they cannot stay neutral for much longer. The CAPWAP road map calls for submission of a final proposal to the Internet Engineering Steering Group by March 2006. If CAPWAP does not submit an initial objective draft to the IESG by next month, however, the group will disband, according to the road map.


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