Cisco Introduces Stackable WLAN Controller

The Catalyst 3750G controller switch adds security and management enhancements to attached wireless networks.

Cisco Systems on June 20 extended its wireless reach into new mobility services and for the first time integrated its WLAN technology into a stackable form factor.

The Catalyst 3750G "has a wireless LAN controller baked into the switch," said Alan Cohen, senior director of mobility solutions at Cisco, based in San Jose, Calif.

The switch provides 24 POE (power-over-Ethernet) ports and two Gigabit Ethernet uplinks and can be stacked using Ciscos StackWise technology to increase port density in the wiring closet.

The integrated wireless controller adds new levels of security, including features such as intrusion detection, RF (radio frequency) management for self-configuration, and self-healing, and will allow users to roam between access points and across bridged networks.

In some ways, Ciscos new switch embeds capabilities already available to users of Trapeze Networks and Aruba Networks controllers.

Ciscos initial integration of wireless technology into its switching fabrics began in the modular Catalyst 6500 switch. But market pressures spurred Cisco to extend that to the stackable form factor, said Zeus Kerravala, an industry analyst with Yankee Group, in Boston.

"In the last couple of years weve seen more demand for stackables. Ciscos trying to replicate the same features you can get in a modular [switch] into a stackable," he said.

As enterprises began to see value for WLANs extending beyond their initial appeal, Cisco moved to offer four new types of services in its Cisco Unified Wireless Network Software Release 4.0.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Ciscos Catalyst switches.

In the security realm, Cisco added a new security service that represents an industry first, according to Cohen. The ability to encrypt management frames, following the 802.11i specification, is intended to prevent most signature attacks on a WLAN, Cohen said.

Cisco also implemented hybrid remote-edge access points that to aim to allow simple-to-manage remote WLAN authentication. The company also integrated its WLAN offerings with its ASA integrated security appliance to extend the appliances intrusion detection to WLAN-attached devices.

Cisco also added a new guest access feature in Release 4.0 so that enterprises can allow guests to use their WLANs in a secure fashion.

"You can tunnel guest traffic outside the DMZ, establish how much bandwidth you get, and its all done by a [line of business] person—not IT," Cohen said.

The software now supports customizable log-in screens and lobby ambassador portals.

New Wi-Fi voice services include Call Admission Control, performance metrics and enhanced secure roaming to improve voice quality over WLANs.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead details here about Ciscos entry into the physical security market.

Cisco in the new release also added a location-based service, advanced location planning and deployment, integrated with Ciscos Wireless Control System management application.

"You can create context awareness so that you can set how you want to be dealt with. The network starts to take over how you desire to use the network," Cohen said.

Editors Note: Wayne Rash provided additional reporting for this story.

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