Wi-Fi News from Interop

Vendors urged conference attendees to cut the cord this week at Interop Las
Vegas, where a new wave of increasingly innovative 802.11n products made their
debut.

According to a study announced by Motorola, enterprises providing WLAN access
to more than half their workforce grew 20 percent last year.

“The technology is ready to evolve from the wireless edge to the
completely wireless enterprise,” said Sujai Hajela, VP of Motorola’s Enterprise
WLAN business.

To help fund this sea change, Xirrus
announced that its Wi-Fi Array customers will receive a $50 credit for each
Ethernet switch port replaced by 802.11.

“We are at the defining moment in the networking industry as Wi-Fi
becomes the primary connection,” said Xirrus CEO Dirk Gates.

However, last year’s Interop headlines did not trigger broad 802.11n
adoption. Thus far, businesses have approached 802.11n with caution. While any
major upgrade requires planning, dozens of options can make 802.11n products
challenging to understand or use to their full potential. As a result, many
vendors announced products to simplify deployment and maximize return on
investment.

Getting a handle on 802.11n

AirMagnet‘s new 802.11n WLAN Suite
products took home this year’s Best of Interop award in the Wireless and Mobile
category. According to Wade Williamson, Director of Product Management, 802.11n
technology brings together multiple disciplines, but few people understand all
of them.

“Our customers were asking: How do I evaluate 802.11n products? How do I fit
them into my existing network? And how do I deal with problems? So we focused on
our latest releases on helping them answer these questions.”

The 802.11n WLAN Suite combines new releases of AirMagnet Analyzer and Survey
products, available separately or with a custom AirMagnet 802.11a/b/g/n PC
card. Many new 802.11n-centric tools have been incorporated, from a simulator
that uses baseline observations to predict the impact of 802.11n options to an
integrated iPerf client that measures actual uplink and downlink throughput. The
Suite also demystifies 802.11n by providing context sensitive Help and an
integrated How-To Guide to help customers more effectively plan and manage their
802.11n investments.

Easing 802.11n deployment

A number of new product announcements were aimed at businesses interested in
802.11n but worried about common deployment challenges. For example, several
vendors—including Trapeze and Aruba—announced new APs that can
provide full 802.11n functionality on the power delivered by standard 802.3af
Power over Ethernet.

Trapeze Networks also
demonstrated its new NonStop Wireless solution at Interop. This “virtual
controller” approach is supported by the latest releases of Trapeze Mobility
System Software (MSS) and Ring Master, paired with Trapeze’s new MP-432 APs and
MX-2800 Controllers. In a nutshell, MSS attempts to automatically remap
resources whenever an AP or controller fails, responding fast enough to avoid
disrupting active SIP calls. The new MP-432 and MX-2800 will be generally
available in late May, assisted by a trade-in promotion to help customers update
out-of-date APs.

Aruba Networks‘ AirWave division
announced AirWave Wireless Management Suite 6, used to manage this year’s
Interop show WLAN. By providing multi-vendor management for both legacy
802.11/a/b/g and new 802.11n products, the latest AirWave release facilitates
migration.

“Instead of forcing customers to rip-and-replace their legacy network, they
can instead add 802.11n on a schedule that meets their logistical and budgetary
requirements,” said COO Greg Murphy. Version 6 is available now as a free
upgrade for AirWave customers enrolled in a support plan.

Enabling Ethernet-like reliability and capacity

Meru Networks announced the AP440,
a flexible 4-radio AP that can be configured for gigabit capacity or RF
redundancy. According to chief architect Joe Epstein, the AP440 is uniquely
capable of delivering true RF robustness. Most other APs shift channels to avoid
RF interference, disrupting both clients and nearby APs. With the AP440, one
pair of radios can be dedicated to 2.4 GHz and the other pair to 5 GHz, creating
an active/active configuration that enables rapid fail-over without disruption,
he said.

Alternatively, the AP440 can take advantage of Meru’s virtual cell
architecture by combining four 300 Mbps radios operating in the same band to
carry up to 1.2 Gbps of traffic.

“Our customers tell us that reliability is their #1 issue, but we also wanted
to provide the potential for gigabit capacity,” said Epstein. To avoid upstream
bottlenecks, Meru also announced the MC5000, an acceleration module that can be
used to boost controller capacity to 20 Gbps.

Despite its power, the AP440 is surprisingly compact, with all four radios
and their internal 3×3 MIMO antennas tucked into a single laptop-like
enclosure. An integrated USB port provides extensibility—for example, a WiSpy fob can be inserted for full-time
spectrum analysis. The AP440 will be available 3Q08.

Finding new opportunities for 802.11n

Several vendors announced products intended to exploit the power of 802.11n
as a mesh networking technology, including Aerohive and Ruckus Wireless.

According to Ruckus Wireless CEO Selina Lo, many businesses will start using
802.11n for wireless backhaul. In the near-term, most wireless clients will
still use legacy 802.11a/b/g protocols. However, many businesses could
significantly reduce the cost of installing new 802.11n APs if they could reduce
the number of wired Ethernet drops required for backhaul.

Legacy WDS links were too static and too limited by bandwidth, but 802.11n
solves the bandwidth problem—particularly in the 5 GHz band—while
Ruckus’ SmartMesh technology can make a backhaul mesh self-organizing and
self-healing. A Ruckus SmartMesh consists of a ZoneDirector and up to 250 Ruckus
ZoneFlex 802.11g/n APs ‘see “Can Ruckus Redefine
How Enterprise WLANs are Deployed?
“‘

At Interop, Ruckus unveiled performance test results to demonstrate how
SmartMesh compares to another-vendor 802.11n AP using the same chipset, but
without the benefit of Ruckus’ Smart Wi-Fi antenna technology. In those tests,
Ruckus performed just as well over a single 802.11n hop, but noticeably better
over multiple mesh hops. If Ruckus APs had been permitted to self-optimize
during the test, the number of hops would have been reduced by path
optimization, further increasing the benefits afforded by SmartMesh. SmartMesh
is available today as a free upgrade to customers with ZoneDirector WLAN
controllers.

Lisa Phifer owns Core Competence, a consulting firm focused on
business use of emerging network and security technologies. She has been
involved in the design, implementation, assessment, and testing of NetSec
products and services for over 25 years.

Article courtesy of Wi-Fi Planet

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