WLAN Gear Corrals Wi-Fi Nets

On deck: switches and access points.

Networking hardware maker Extreme Networks Inc. this month will begin shipping new wireless LAN switches and complementary access points for customers that want centrally managed Wi-Fi networks.

The Summit WM100 switch supports as many as 50 access points, while the WM1000 switch supports as many as 200, said company officials. The switches are designed to be integrated into existing wired networks, which is the Santa Clara, Calif., companys traditional area of expertise.

The Altitude 350-2 access points can find the switches automatically, anywhere on the network, at which point the switches provision the access points with access domains, officials said.

Access points in branch or home offices can be configured to bridge traffic locally so that there is no need for a switch at the remote location, said officials.

The switches support Layer 3 roaming between subnets, with average roaming times of 8 to 12 milliseconds, officials said, saying that speedy cross-subnet roaming is key for customers that want to deploy VOIP (voice over IP) on their WLANs (wireless LANs). The switches also use AutoCell radio-frequency interference reduction technology from AutoCell Laboratories Inc.

Centrally managed WLANs have gained popularity in the past few years among IT administrators who need to support large campuses with limited staff; most viable companies in the Wi-Fi hardware market now offer WLAN switches.

"We started out small, with individual access points, but we quickly determined that without a centralized management infrastructure this was going to be a nightmare to maintain," said Hal Marietta, director of network services at Liberty Healthcare Group Inc., in Port St. Lucie, Fla., who is looking to upgrade the companys WLAN. "We are leaning toward thin [access points]. One reason is, in the event of an AP failure, there is nothing to do but replace the faulty unit."

The Summit products are due July 15. Pricing starts at $16,995 for the WM100 and $32,995 for the WM1000.