Colubris Looking to Raise Wireless Networking Bar

A new line of WLAN products improves voice services and integrates wired and wireless networks.

WLAN hardware maker Colubris Networks Inc. is targeting corporate customers with a new line of products designed to improve voice services and to integrate wired and wireless networks.

Next week the Waltham, Mass., company will launch a family of wireless LAN controllers for both large campuses and small businesses. The product line, which works exclusively with Colubris access points, targets voice-over-WLAN implementations—segmenting voice traffic and prioritizing voice packets, officials said. Handoff of secured traffic between access points averages less than 50 milliseconds.

Along with security, QOS (quality of service) has been an issue in WLAN deployments, according to users.

"I do have concerns in adding voice traffic in the mix in terms of QOS and the shared-bandwidth nature of wireless LANs," said Derek Kan, manager of advanced network technologies in the Information Technology Unit at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va., which has deployed voice services over IP but has avoided it on the WLAN so far. "Well test the QOS functionality of the Colubris access points this fall to see if we would like to have a limited rollout of voice over WLAN in some areas."

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The products to be launched include the InMotion MultiService Controller 5500, which supports as many as 200 access points, and the InMotion MultiService Controller 5200, which supports as many as 25 access points. They cost $15,999 and $4,799, respectively. Both products are due next month.

In the next year, Colubris will go even smaller with new controllers that support just five access points. The products are designed to work with a customers existing LAN. They are the first products resulting from the companys Unified Services Network strategy, which focuses on integrating the management and traffic of wired and wireless networks.

Colubris competitors have been focused on integrating wired and wireless networks as well. Aruba Wireless Networks sells controllers that enforce security policies for both systems. Cisco Systems Inc. sells blades that turn its existing Ethernet switches into WLAN switches.

Industry experts say that the term "unified" is overused but that WLANs have proved worthy of integration.

Colubris officials said they have plans with a major networking company to develop an Ethernet switch that supports both wired and wireless networks; that switch should reach the market next year, officials said. The company declined to name the partner.

In the meantime, though, the industry has been watching Colubris 2-year-old marketing agreement with Juniper Networks Inc. According to several sources, Juniper, of Sunnyvale, Calif., has been looking to buy a WLAN switching startup to keep pace with competitors such as Cisco, which earlier this year announced the acquisition of WLAN switch maker Airespace Inc. Colubris is among the companies Juniper has considered acquiring, sources said. Juniper officials declined to comment.

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