Wi-Fi to Get Big Extensions

Several companies are readying products to improve security and management of wireless LANs.

Several companies are readying WLAN hardware and software to address the security and management of remote networks, especially in larger enterprises.

The Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expo in San Jose, Calif., this week will host security and management product announcements from vendors such as Enterasys Networks Inc., ReefEdge Inc., Motia Inc., Chantry Networks Inc. and Propagate Networks Inc.

Enterasys at the show will launch the RoamAbout AP3000, the companys first dual-radio wireless LAN access point, which runs in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands and supports 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g. The AP3000 also supports security protocols not found in Enterasys previous products, including Wi-Fi Protected Access and Advanced Encryption Standard, as well as the latest draft version of the IEEEs upcoming 802.11i standard, which is due for ratification next year.

The AP3000 succeeds the AP2000, which supports only 802.11b. It is the companys first major product release since 1999. Company officials said the update took as long as it did because of a strategy switch. Initially, Enterasys was encouraging customers to migrate to pure 802.11a systems, but the vendor decided to support multimode systems when users demanded 802.11g as well. The 802.11g specification is backward-compatible with 802.11b, which is important to customers supporting a variety of clients.

"We have to go to the lowest common denominator and make sure we can support anyone who brings their stuff on-site," said Mike Morgan, director of events at Novell Inc., in Provo, Utah, which uses Enterasys WLAN equipment at its annual BrainShare conference.

The AP3000 uses chip sets from Atheros Communications Inc. However, it does not use Atheros optional, and controversial, Turbo mode, which employs nonstandard channel-bonding technology to bump up the speeds of 802.11g networks. Atheros competitor Broadcom Corp. last month released a study showing that Atheros Turbo mode causes interference in the 2.4GHz range. Many WLAN manufacturers that use Atheros chips have steered clear of Turbo.

"Cisco is not supporting any sort of proprietary turbo mode on our adapters," said Ron Seide, product line manager at WLAN hardware vendor Cisco Systems Inc., also in San Jose, which announced its 802.11g products last month. "We have a commitment to interoperability. Anything else leads to confusion."

Meanwhile, ReefEdge at the show will announce the ReefEdge WLAN EcoSystem, which targets enterprises with several sites. The ReefSwitch family of WLAN switches and appliances and its companion software support branch offices, central offices and network operations centers.

"As we started to roll into [large, multisite companies] we saw that management became as critical [as] security," said Mark Giuliano, vice president of strategy at ReefEdge, in Fort Lee, N.J., explaining why the wireless gateway company decided to jump on the WLAN switch bandwagon. "Management is the difference between a switch and a gateway."

Motia, a startup in Pasadena, Calif., will debut at Wi-Fi Planet and announce its Javelin technology. Officials described Javelin as a smart antenna that fits into existing WLAN clients and access points, increasing the range of a WLAN by up to four times. The idea is that WLAN hardware manufacturers can enhance their products without having to rebuild them. Samples are due to reach the market early next year; the company expects to announce customers shortly thereafter.

WLAN switch startup Chantry Networks at the show will announce a partnership with Propagate Networks. Chantry will integrate Propagates AutoCell software, which lets WLAN equipment self-adjust according to the ever-changing radio-frequency environment.

Propagate will announce several AutoCell products, aimed at enterprise and consumer customers.

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