Legra ships WLAN switch

Legra Systems this week begins shipping its wireless LAN (WLAN) switch and companion access points, and finally reveals more details of its products.

Like all of this emerging class of products, the Legra LS2012 switch sits, in effect, between wireless access points and the wired net, acting as a central point for WLAN management and security.

But the Burlington, Massachusetts company is emphasizing the advantages of having several specialized processors in the Legra switch. One is the CryptoFlex chip, designed by Legra engineers to handle several crypto algorithms at once and give different priorities to different types of WLAN traffic, such as data or voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) of video. The chip funnels traffic to one of four software crypto programs on the chip iteself. Each program can handle a different cryptographic algorithm, and all four can run in parallel.

"Our goal is to run cryptography with no performance impact," says Paul DeBeasi, Legra's vice president of marketing.

A separate network processor acts as a packet accelerator. Among other functions, it handles the crypto key lookup for every packet passing through the switch. Each packet has to be identified, associated with a user, and the correct crypto method identified, before handing the packet off to CryptoFlex.

Legra also has a dedicated applications processor, dubbed "TrueApp," which is based on a RISC processor running a Linux-based operating system written by Legra software engineers. The switch includes a 30G-byte hard drive for storing wireless net applications from Legra and third parties. New applications can be downloaded to the switch, where the dedicated processor handles them.

As part of the release, Legra is also shipping a program called Automatic Optimizer. The program "visits" each installed access point, makes a complete scan of all the radio channels, identifies signal strength, and collects other data. Then, the optimizer can automatically set channel assignments for the group of access points, to minimize interference and optimize throughput for users. The next release of the program will be able to adjust the radio power levels.

The Legra Radios are available in 802.11b and a combination 802.11a/g. Using a Layer 3 protocol written by Legra, the Radios can be place anywhere, and will seek out and connect to the Legra switch. The Radios and switch don't have to be directly connected to each other.

Legra is marketing the switch to systems integrators, and value-added resellers. Pricing can vary widely as a result. DeBeasi declined to give a price, since it would not reflect the system price paid by enterprises to one of these partners, who typically add an array of services and software. He says Legra's pricing is generally competitive with rivals such as Airespace, Aruba Wireless Networks, Chantry Networks and others.

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