New WLAN product links central and remote sites

A new wireless LAN access point is designed so that users in remote offices can be managed by a wireless switch in a central site.

The new product, called the Airespace 1200R Remote Edge Access Point (REAP), makes use of centralized administration services without having to deploy expensive WLAN switches, in addition to access points, at scores or hundreds of remote sites.

Airespace, in San Jose, California, this week also released Version 2.0 of its switch operating system, AirOS. The new software includes a change that lets Airespace access points track the location of other WLAN radios, such as client NICs and rogue, or unauthorized, access points.

Like any other access point, the new 1200R provides local wireless connectivity for the remote office users. But it plugs into a wide area router or gateway or cable modem, and then uses a modified version of the proposed Lightweight Access Point Protocol (LWAPP) to talk to an Airespace 4000 WLAN switch.

The 1200R downloads from the switch the appropriate configuration settings, security and authentication policies, sets itself up and begins running.

Access points from rival switch vendors have to have an Ethernet LAN connection between their stripped down access points and the WLAN switch. Some of these vendors have recently unveiled smaller, less expensive switch models specifically designed for small, remote sites. But these products still typically list for at least US$1,000 or more. The 1200R has a list price of US$750 since it's still essentially little more than a WLAN radio with a RJ45 connection to the remote site's WAN link.

"It's a phenomenal idea," says Jamie McGann, business development executive with GTSI Corp., a computer services company focused on government accounts. GTSI resells Airespace products and has deployed them to create an enterprise WLAN for about 200 employees at its Chantilly, Va., headquarters. "The 1200R can get what it needs for its security from the (4000) switch. It's more like a remote node on the entersprise net (than a conventional stand-alone access point)."

The 1200R will be popular in government accounts, he predicts, because there are large numbers of remote field offices, branches, and military or emergency and law enforcement uses for a WLAN access point that can be centrally controlled over a WAN link.

The 1200R is available now.

The new version of AireOS, which runs in all the Airespace products, will let these devices have a basic level of location tracking. Any 1200 or 1200R access point now will be able, nine times out of ten, to identify the location of any WLAN radio within 30 feet of the Airespace device, says Jeff Aaron, senior manager for product management at Airespace.

There are some specialized WLAN location products available, such as that from Newbury Networks of Boston. These products typically use separate, dedicated air monitors to locate, identify and track WLAN users.

A separate Airespace software program, priced at US$4,000 for 12 access points, runs as part of the Airespace Control System, a net management application. This optional program offers a set of location-based features that let administrators see precisely where there are gaps in radio coverage or where signals are weak, and lets administrators find specific users based on their radio transmissions.

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