Trapeze Eases WLAN Implementation

But power setup is a limitation.

With Trapeze Networks Inc.s WLAN Mobility System, IT administrators can plan, install and manage a wireless LAN much as they do a wire-line network. The result is a reasonably trouble-free exercise that provides predictable connectivity with manageable ongoing maintenance costs.

WLAN Mobility System

Trapeze Networks WLAN Mobility System is a combination of hardware and software that advances the ability of IT departments to implement wireless infrastructure with a high degree of security and without gaps in coverage. Trapeze concentrates the network smarts in a hardware switch that is easy to integrate with existing wire-line networks. Mobility access points and non-Trapeze radios are managed via these switches using innovative Ringmaster deployment and management software. The WLAN Mobility System costs $9,500 for a starter kit that contains an MX and two access points. Additional access points are $675.
















  • PRO: Good deployment and management tools; easy integration with existing wire-line networks.
  • CON: Thin on reports, especially change management accounting; local administrators have too much autonomy.

• Aruba Wireless Networks RF Director

Despite some shortcomings common to first-release products—including limited reporting and some bald patches in administration—Trapeze WLAN Mobility System performed well in eWEEK Labs tests and will be a good choice for midsize and large enterprises that need to let users roam facilities while maintaining a secure, authenticated wireless network connection.

WLAN Mobility System is composed of one or more Mobility Exchange hardware switches (called MXes); access points (called Mobility Points); and Mobility System Software, which handles communication among MXes and integrates with its Ringmaster administrative software.

WLAN Mobility System started shipping in July and costs $9,500 for a starter kit that contains an MX and two access points. Additional access points are $675. Mobility System is a bit more expensive than rival packages such as Aruba Wireless Networks Inc.s Aruba 5000 WLAN switch and Aruba 52 Access Points (see review). However, the Trapeze systems Mobility Points have two built-in wire-line ports that facilitate reliable connectivity, which will be worth the small premium for some sites.

Trapeze access points support 802.11a and 802. 11b. The company expects to ship 802.11a and 802. 11g access points later this year. The radios are plenum-rated, so they can be placed above ceiling tiles and, in a daring move, have no external AC power and instead rely solely on power over Ethernet.

In this version, the access points must be directly connected to the MX, both to draw power and because Mobility System lacks the ability to create a secure tunnel between the access point and the MX. A future release will allow secure, indirect connection, according to company officials.

During tests, we were able to use non-Trapeze access points, but this was an unsatisfying experience: The Cisco Systems Inc. Aironet 1100 access point we used could not be fully integrated with Trapezes management system.

For a first-release product, Trapeze has a lot going for it.

For one thing, WLAN Mobility System has the best planning tool for deploying a WLAN infrastructure weve ever seen. Our tests, in part conducted using AirMagnet Inc.s namesake PDA-based wireless protocol sniffer and trouble-shooting tool, confirmed that Mobility access point placement provided effective radio coverage for our roaming users.

The deployment tool, which is part of the Ringmaster application, was able to generate precise work orders (including diagrams and measurements) that showed exactly where to position our Mobility access points. IT managers can use the site survey tool to structure Mobility access point placements because Trapeze took the time to measure the radio attenuation characteristics of a wide variety of building materials.

We imported a JPEG floor diagram of eWEEK Labs San Francisco facilities and then designated the materials used for the walls and windows in our building. Ringmaster can also factor in interference from structural radio impediments, such as elevator shafts, bathrooms and reinforced walls.

With the placement of our Mobility access points out of the way, we were impressed with how easy it was to incorporate WLAN Mobility System into our wire-line network. Although its irksome that the Mobility access points have to be directly connected to the Mobility Exchange switch, we could add WLAN support to our wire-line network simply by adding the 2U (3.5-inch) switch to our wiring closet. The switchs uplink connections support 802.1Q trunking, spanning tree and per-VLAN spanning tree, thus making a redundant, reliable connection. We didnt have to make any changes to our wireless clients or the routing protocols already in use in our network.

Of course, IT managers must plan to add an uninterruptible power supply to any wire closet that uses Trapeze so that the network, including the Mobility access points that depend on power from the Mobility Exchange switch, can continue operation in a power failure.

We were able to neatly integrate WLAN Mobility System with our existing RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service) system. Our test users were able to roam without the need to authenticate every time they were picked up by a different Mobility Exchange switch.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant is available at cameron_