Symbol wireless switch to centralize control of WLANs

Symbol Technologies Inc. unveiled this week an intelligent wireless LAN switch that may herald a change in how IEEE 802.11x networks are configured and managed.

The Mobius Wireless System, which Symbol claims is the first of its kind, includes the Axon Wireless Switch and Access Ports, rather than Access Points.

The Symbol access ports will use power over Ethernet and contain only an omnidirectional antenna and a radio chip, according to Ray Martino, vice president of network products at Symbol in Holtsville, N.Y.

"There's not much more in a port than you find in a NIC card," Martino said.

The Linux-based switch will support IEEE 802.11b, 802.11a and 802.11g and comes in a 1-U rack-mount design.

Management features include class of service, quality of service, and switched Virtual LAN support.

Class of service allows administrators to centrally manage and control access rights and features, Martino said.

"For example, in a university environment you might want to turn off Instant Messaging during exam week or have a policy that says no peer-to-peer class of service in certain locations," Martino said.

Using a central switch will give administrators the ability to set these policies just once rather than having to upgrade individual access points, which was the case in the past.

Multiple VLAN support will also allow a manager to centrally configure different access rights to different groups on the same network, a feature that is not yet available with current access points.

One industry analyst said that it is the ability to manage hundreds of distributed nodes from a central location -- more than any other new features -- makes the Mobius System unique and worthy of attention.

"By putting intelligence into the switch, all management and security are done centrally which will bring down the total cost of ownership and it makes it an easier way to manage," said Aaron Vance, industry analyst at Synergy Research, in Phoenix.

The centralized system will also allow managers to run numerous security alternatives including WEP, Kerberos, 802.1x, TKIP, and Radius.

Pricing for the Mobius Axon switch is based on number of access ports with a six-port configuration priced at US$2,895 and a 12-port configuration priced at $3,719. Each switch can be configured for as many as 30 ports. IEEE 802.11b access ports are listed at $249.

Units will ship at the end of next month, according to Martino.

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