Bluesocket unveils new WLAN architecture

Announces its first 802.11n access point

Bluesocket has unveiled a wireless LAN software architecture, along with its first 802.11n access point.

The new architecture is intended to simplify WLAN deployments by enabling the access points to cooperate with each other, by distributing data traffic entirely through existing Ethernet switches at the network edge, and by reserving a select set of Layer 3 control functions to the WLAN controller.

The changes will reduce the capital cost, and complexity, of WLAN deployments because fewer controllers are needed, and improve access point performance and reliability for such applications as VoIP, according to executives at the Burlington, Mass., vendor.

The architecture is broadly similar to those being adopted by other vendors, such as Trapeze. Instead of all wireless data and control traffic funneling through the controller, these newer architectures separate the data and control functions, and increase intelligence on the access point so it can enforce usage and security policies and direct data packets. Startup vendor Areohive has taken this the furthest: its meshed access points works with no controller at all.

Analysts such as FarPoint Group's Craig Mathias (a Network World blogger) have pointed out that there are no real industry benchmarks available to quantify the claims put forward by vendors promoting these architectural innovations.

The new Bluesocket software now lets the access points themselves participate in Layer 3 packet switching decisions, without the need for a WLAN controller in each different subnet. The access points connect directly to LAN switches and rely on that hardware for traditional switch functions. Adjacent access points can set up and tear down tunnels between themselves, so a client can roam from one to another. Access points further away from each other or on separate subnets are helped in creating tunnels by the Bluesocket controller. The access points now act as local enforcers, to their attached clients, for centralized security, authentication, and usage policies, all set via Bluesocket software.

The new access point is the BSAP-1800, a two-radio device based on the latest Atheros Communications draft 2 802.11n chipset. One runs as an 11abgn radio, the other as a 11bgn radio. Network World recently tested products based on an early version of the 802.11n standard.

The chipset's power management functions make it possible to run both 11n at the same time with a single existing 802.3af power-over-Ethernet port. Most rivals can only do that by shutting down some 11n features, such as running one radio at a time, or using fewer antenna pairs. The 1800 plugs into an upstream switch via a gigabit-Ethernet port.

The 1800 will ship in early 2008, along with various releases of the software architecture for existing Bluesocket access points and controllers. Pricing for the 1800 has not been set, but executives say it will be "in line" with rivals.

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