An array of network products at PC Expo last week are offering net managers more options than ever before to extend corporate networks to handheld devices and to secure and manage the wireless link to them.
Wavelink Corp. launched a new and renamed version of its wireless LAN management software, now called Mobile Manager. The application lets administrators work with different brands of 802.11 wireless LAN hardware, and administer nets of hundreds of access points from a central location.
A key change is in-depth support for more product lines. Using Mobile Manager, administrators can now "see" into wireless access points from Cisco Systems Inc., L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co., Intel Corp., and Symbol Technologies Inc. Wavelink added code that lets the software identify specific versions of firmware in a Cisco access point, for example, or alert the administrator to reset another brand of access point after making a change in its encryption key. Later this year, Wavelink will also support products from Lucent Technologies Inc. and 3Com Corp.
Another change is the creation of standard profiles for each brand of access point. Mobile Manager's network agents use the profiles to, for example, automatically configure and tune an Intel access point differently from a Cisco product.
The third major change is improved security. Administrators can now create, store and update access-control lists centrally, and then distribute them to the access points. In the past, these lists, which restrict who can log into a wireless LAN, had to be changed individually on each access point.
Managing the encryption keys, based on the Wired Equivalent Protocol (WEP), now can be done centrally, and incorporated in each access point's profile.
Finally, Mobile Manager now encrypts all data moving between the central application and the outlying agents. The change should prevent an attacker from posing as the network administrator.
Mobile Manager is available now, on Windows, Unix and Linux servers. It's priced at US$1,750 for the server program, with 10 access point licenses. Additional bundles of these licenses are, with volume discounts, $150 per access point.
3Com unveiled two 11M-bit/sec wireless LAN products, one a building-to-building wireless bridge, the other an 802.11b wireless LAN access point designed for small, simple deployments.
The bridge can span about two miles with a directional antenna and about one mile with an omni-directional antenna. The product is aimed at campus deployments: schools, colleges, office complexes, warehouses and the like.
Rival products from companies like Breezecom and Cisco can reach considerably farther, up to 20 miles, but they tend to target fixed broadband applications, not LAN applications, according to Charan Singh, senior director of product management for 3Com's wireless connectivity division. Another difference is price. The 3Com bridge lists for $1,000, while the broadband bridges are more expensive, Singh says. It will be available in July.
In the future, 3Com will add the spanning tree algorithm, which will let several bridges discover each other's address to multicast and broadcast the wireless traffic. In addition, 3Com plans to add an access point to the bridge, which will let wireless clients stay connected (or "roam") from building to building.
The 3Com Access Point 6000 is designed to be set up in about one minute -- someone plugs it into a wall outlet, and if desired to a wired switch or hub. The box generates a 128-bit encryption key for each wireless user, at the start of each network session. It can also acquire and assign IP addresses. As with other 3Com products, it takes power over the Ethernet cable, doing away with any costs of running a separate power line to each access point location.
The 6000 is available now, with a list price of $600. 3Com also offers an IEEE 802.11b wireless LAN PC Card adapter, with a retractable antenna, announced in March, priced at $220.
Infowave introduced client/server middleware called AirPower, designed to let mobile applications wirelessly access data behind a corporate firewall. AirPower is based on software created by Infowave to connect handheld users with Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Domino servers.
AirPower includes a server engine that manages, secures, and optimizes the wireless connection to a client, and then passes the requests on to backend databases and applications.
A new client component, called Open Application Connector, intercepts network calls by any socket-based application on the device, and redirects them, over the designated wireless protocol, such as CDPD, to the Infowave server.
With AirPower, enterprises can wirelessly enable existing applications in hours or in some cases minutes, according to Infowave executives. AirPower, available now, is priced at $250 per named user.
To beef up wireless security, RSA Security released last week the Bsafe Wireless Core, which is a software development kit for wireless security. The product includes existing RSA algorithms for public key infrastructure. The performance of the algorithms creating digital signatures, used in authentication, has been improved 500%, according to RSA.
The kit also includes a variant of the traditional RSA algorithm, called RSA MultiPrime, which uses three instead of two prime numbers to create an encryption key. Despite the added work, RSA says MultiPrime also is 500% faster than the traditional algorithm.
Also included are an alphabet soup of other security standards, including RC4, RC6, AES and triple-DES.
The kit has a set of documentation that guides the developer through implementing encryption and certificates for their applications.