Aruba Networks launches three Wi-Fi controllers that inspect apps

Adjustments to network traffic flows can be made in real-time

Aruba Networks announced three new Wi-Fi controllers that have built-in controls to boost application delivery.

The new Aruba 7200 Series controllers inspect data packets flowing through Wi-Fi networks and apply software tools that can determine which applications get priority or can share the network with other applications within network bandwidth contraints. The three controllers are the 7210, 7220 and 7240. Pricing starts at $16,995.

Aruba uses its AppRF software running on the 7200s, to perform Deep Pack Inspection. Then, with Aruba's Airtime Fairness and Quality of Service software, the controller can optimize over-the-air performance.

Sylvia Hooks, director of product marketing for Aruba, claimed Aruba is the only wireless LAN provider to integrate this deep packet application information with real-time improvements in application performance. IT shops would also use a controller interface and Aruba Airwave management software to analyze traffic streams for setting network policies and making long-term plans for network expansion.

Hooks said the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., are evaluating the controllers.

In an interview, Chris Hart, a network engineer at Northwestern, said the 7240 controller is expected to have the ability to replace four older M3 controllers in a single rack-unit design to control up to 2,000 access points on the Evanston campus.

"We'll definitely be using the 7200 because it's more powerful and has a higher CPU to do packet inspection and write rules for firewalls," he said. "Voice or IPTV can be prioritized this way."

Hart said Northwestern is like most colleges where wireless access is becoming ubiquitous, especially in dorms.

"You have to have Wi-Fi, since today's students are not even familiar with plugging in with wired Ethernet cables," Hart said. "They have been living in a wireless world their whole lives. Their smartphones offload to Wi-Fi. They use video over wireless."

Craig Mathias, a wireless consultant for Farpoint Group, said Aruba's 7200 series marks a shift from technologies that focus on hardware and hardware design to enhancements to application performance through software tools.

Aruba's Hooks said the 7200s will be more cost-effective and could help corporations eliminate desk phones and the costs related to those phones. Aruba's controllers support unified communications applications like Microsoft Lync, which can help replace desktop phones and expensive videoconferencing systems.

Aruba has 20,000 customers and is number two behind Cisco in Wi-Fi technology sales and customers, Hooks said. The 7200 series controller was able to complete a download from Box.com, a cloud-based storage system, in 12 seconds, about 11 times faster than the 129 seconds it took a comparable Cisco 5508 controller. The 7200 series controller also costs half as much, she said.

As a customer, Hart said he felt Aruba offers better support and guidance than other networking vendors since it focuses on Wi-Fi and is able to specialize.

The 7200s provide control to access points based on 802.11ac technology and can be used to support up to 32,000 end user devices with 40 Gbps encryption capabilities.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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