Siemens improves wireless LAN management

Siemens has improved its WLAN gear with voice support and third-party software compatibility

Siemens is announcing a management application for its HiPath Wireless line of WLAN gear, and a new version of its systems software with expanded support for voice traffic.

Also new is a group of APIs that let third-party software vendors plug their applications into a HiPath WLAN deployment. All three changes are aimed at improving HiPath capabilities in enterprise wireless LANs, where customers look to run both data and voice applications.

Siemens' WLAN line includes 802.11a/b/g access points and controllers, based on technology acquired from the former Chantry Networks.

The new HiPath Wireless Manager is intended to be the core of an expanding set of management functions, added as modules. One module, announced in April, is the HiGuard wireless intrusion detection/prevention application, based on code originally licensed from AirTight.

Wireless Manager is a Windows Server 2003 application. For the first time, HiPath net administrators can see an overview of the entire net, now encompassing hundreds of controllers, and thousands of access points, according to Luc Roy, vice president of product planning for Siemens Communications.

This kind of capability has been a standard feature for rival vendors such as Aruba Wireless Networks and Trapeze Networks.

Previously, administrators could only log into each controller individually, via the onboard Web interface. The new application lets administrators group controllers, such as all the controllers in the Boca Raton headquarters, and configure and manage them, and the attached access points and their users, as a unit.

In a related change, Siemens has incorporated the HiGuard module into Wireless Manager. HiGuard lets administrators monitor the full range of 802.11 frequencies, automatically classify wireless devices as they try to connect, identify rogue as well as misconfigured access points, and automatically block connections by suspect devices.

The new network management application looks promising to Bob Byars, network engineer at St. Mary's Hospital, Colorado, a HiPath customer. He's just begun testing the new software. "If the 'RF Views' portion of Wireless Manager give us a true picture of RF coverage, or heck, even a best guess, it will be a benefit," he says. The hospital is a mix of old and new construction and today "determining access point placement and adjustment is difficult," he says.

The HiGuard capabilities will be increasingly important, Byars says. "As physician offices in our medical office building begin to move toward wireless connectivity, we find [wireless] 'Intruders at the Gate,'" he says. "The ability to quickly find, identify, and deal with those new devices [both authorized and unauthorized], the better."

HiPath Wireless Manager is set to ship in early December, priced at US$1,500 per server.

Separately, the new version of HiPath controller software includes a group of APIs now available to third-party software vendors, and support for several voice multimedia standards.

The APIs let third-party applications, such as a wireless patient monitoring program, make use of specific features of the HiPath product set, such as locally bridging from one access point to another, in effect bypassing the controller. That would let the patient monitoring software optimize the handoff of critical data from one nursing station to another, according to Siemens' Roy.

The new release also includes support for TSPEC, or traffic specification, which is a part of the 802.11e QoS standard. TSPEC characterizes wireless traffic so the appropriate QoS, bandwidth control, and call admission parameters can be applied to voice packets. Also supported is QBSS (Q-Bone Scavenger Service) Load IE for intelligent client roaming, which helps roaming clients negotiate with nearby access points for optimum bandwidth; call admission control to manage and minimize access point congestion of voice calls; and another 802.11e feature that minimizes WLAN power use on battery-operated handsets.

Finally, Siemens has tested and certified wireless applications from nine third-party software vendors for HiPath, covering voice, guest networking, location services and network management. Vendors include Ekahau, Drager Medical, PanGo and Vocera.

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