WLAN System Centralizes Management

Mobius Axon transfers features from access ports to switch.

Symbol Technologies Inc. this week will introduce a WLAN system that centralizes the features of a wireless LAN on a single switch, rather than on multiple access points.

To be generally available at the end of next month, the Mobius Axon Wireless System comprises a switch that runs embedded Linux and access ports that bridge packets to the switch.

The switch handles security, quality of service, network management and load balancing, as well as a number of upcoming features for wireless networks. It supports 802.11b-, 802.11a- and 802.11g-based WLANs. Pricing is based on the number of ports. A six-port switch costs $2,895, a 12-port switch costs $3,719 and a 24-port switch costs $5,367.

Symbol officials said the system eliminates the need to buy and build multiple, expensive access points as more features become available.

"Since all the intelligence has been crammed into the access point, it runs out of horsepower, so you have to get another one," said Ray Martino, vice president of network products at Symbol, in Holtsville, N.Y. "All that has meant a high cost of ownership as you try to track these things. They fail to have the life customers expect."

The access ports (designed to replace access points) are priced at $250, but officials said they will probably end up costing less than $200. They are fire-retardant and can safely reside near ceiling tiles. Symbol also plans to let existing access points work as access ports with software upgrades.

Keeping the radios separate from the features that are now included in the switch should help improve security as well. "This way, its just an antenna, for the most part," said Kevin Baradet, network system director for technology services at the S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., and an eWeek Corporate Partner. "This way, theres nothing to tamper with remotely."

The Mobius Wireless System will debut this week at NetWorld+Interop in Atlanta, where it will be used to run the shows public WLAN, the eNet. Show officials said it took much less time to set up versus the one at the N+I show in Las Vegas in May.

"A single access point is typically a single point of failure," said Jeff Horn, senior network engineer at Key3 Media Events Inc., in Foster City, Calif., which operates several industry trade shows. "With the new design, we eliminated all sorts of engineering."

Other industry vendors said they intend to keep shipping feature-rich access points. Intermec Technologies Corp., of Everett, Wash., at N+I will introduce two dual-mode (802.11a and 802.11b) access points that include internal heaters so that they can be used in freezer storage, shipping docks and other cold areas. Other companies said they had no plans to centralize the intelligence of their WLAN systems.

"We take the view that you do need to have a substantial amount of intelligence local to the access point," said Ron Seide, product line manager for WLANs at Cisco Systems Inc., in San Jose, Calif. "When one puts a substantial amount of intelligence back in the wiring closet, that introduces latency."