Powering Wireless LANs

Upcoming IEEE standard to speed implementation and improve management.

A cadre of networking companies is striving to make it easier for customers not only to integrate WLANs into their existing wired infrastructures but also to manage them. To do it, the vendors are taking advantage of an upcoming IEEE standard that adds power management to the overall management mix.

PowerDsine Ltd., AirWave Wireless Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. are each readying products that incorporate the developing POE (power over Ethernet) technologies, such as 802.3af, which lets IT managers use a single Category 5 cable to power a wireless network.

PowerDsine, of Hod Hasharon, Israel, this week will introduce the 6000 family of "power" boxes, which have SNMP capabilities. The line also features a Web-based remote management system, enabling customers to control the power supply to a wireless LAN via the Web. As a result, rogue WLAN usage and service calls related to power issues can be greatly reduced, officials said.

PowerDsines new "midspan" power boxes are compliant with 802.3af and connect with existing Ethernet switches to provide power through a single Category 5 cable to devices such as wireless access points and IP telephones.

But while the incorporation of 802.3af may cut down on implementation hassles, it can also lead to risks. With the technology, for example, its easy to forget the location of access points and that they need to be secured. SNMP, however, allows IT managers to more easily track the performance and presence of the devices.

The 802.3af protocol is not yet an IEEE standard, but the companys partners are confident that PowerDsines implementation will look like the final standard.

"Thats always a concern when you have people being aggressive with [adopting a standard] before it is ratified, but PowerDsine has OEM agreements with enough key manufacturers that were not concerned," said Anthony Daley, general manager of Westcon Division, a division of Westcon Group Inc., in Tarrytown, N.Y.

The IEEE is meeting this week to hammer out final issues with the standard; ratification is expected within months.

Available now, PowerDsines new boxes come in four versions: 24-, 12-, six- and one-port models. PowerDsine also makes embedded solutions for several third-party switch manufacturers, such as Nortel Networks Ltd., which will add PowerDsines SNMP capabilities to their products, officials said.

Other WLAN industry players said they are paying more attention to power management, among other management issues.

"[POE]is a huge advantage," said Greg Murphy, CEO of AirWave, in San Mateo, Calif. "To be a significant player in the enterprise, you need to be able to provide that."

AirWave this week plans to introduce the next version of its AirWave Management Platform for WLANs. Version 2.0 improves on the previous version by better integrating with a companys existing wired LAN. While the initial version of the platform used existing wireless access points to detect unauthorized users, the new version adds a wire-line detection module; it polls an organizations existing Ethernet routers and switches to detect rogue access points.

Version 2.0 also includes better integration with HPs OpenView management platform, officials said.

"Within that, you can manage both the wired and the wireless network," Murphy said.

For its part, HP this week plans to roll out HP ProCurve Networking Adaptive Edge Architecture. The products are designed to make it easier for companies to manage applications and devices from the edge of a network.

Chief among the wireless products in the new lineup is the HP ProCurve Wireless Access Point 520wl, according to officials at HP, in Palo Alto, Calif.

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