LANs, wireless, services move into future

A new generation of wireless LAN technology this week will share the Networld+Interop show floor in Las Vegas with updated wired LAN gear and new services.

Startups and some established players will be showing off recently announced products that are designed to make wireless LANs more like wired LANs, with centralized management and tighter security. Though wireless LAN sales have boomed in recent years, security and management concerns have kept some large enterprises away from the technology, according to some industry analysts.

While startups such as Trapeze Networks Inc. show off new wireless infrastructure products, wireless management appliance vendor ReefEdge Inc. will add to its box of tools for making wireless LANs more robust.

ReefEdge, which makes appliances for managing and securing wireless LANs, will introduce new management capabilities and a hardware platform that can host all those functions and make them work together.

The company sells an appliance for setting network access policies and one for processing packets on the wireless LAN for factors such as security and bandwidth control. The set of capabilities can work with existing wireless LANs, allowing enterprises to preserve their investments. At the show it will unveil AirMonitor, which consists of software for detecting unauthorized access points, along with hardware probes that can scan the radio waves in the space covered by the wireless LAN, said Sandeep Singhal, chief technology officer at ReefEdge.

ReefEdge will also introduce Multi-Site Manager, software for remotely monitoring and updating wireless LANs at multiple locations, which can reduce the need to have IT managers on site. Through a relationship with a partner, the company also will add to its lineup a tool for remotely configuring wireless LANs, and it is working on other partnerships for accounting, billing and other functions in software.

All those features now can be integrated in one appliance, the CS200 Wireless Network Concentrator, also being introduced at the show and available immediately worldwide. The functions can now work together to automate some aspects of wireless LAN administration. For example, a company could set up a new access point just by plugging it in and setting it up. With AirMonitor, the new device can automatically be identified, configured and set up with user policies, Singhal said.

A base model of the CS200 will cost US$15,000. AirMonitor will be priced starting at $5,995 for an entry-level configuration. Multi-Site Manager will be priced starting at US$7,500, depending on the number of sites being managed.

NetGear Inc. will announce Monday an access point for 802.11b and the emerging 802.11g standard, along with antennas and signal boosters designed to give network designers flexibility in where they place their equipment.

The 802.11b/g access point, designed for small and medium-sized businesses, supports the IEEE 802.1x specification for authenticating users. It currently uses WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) encryption and will support the more advanced WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) specification with a future firmware upgrade.

With an optional accessory, the access point can be powered via an Ethernet cable from a wired LAN switch. Instead of installing the access point on a ceiling, network designers can put it in a wiring closet for easier management and place an antenna at the optimal location for user access to the wireless LAN, said NetGear Product Manager Kevin Allan. That antenna can be about 15 feet from the access point, connected by a wire. For longer distances, NetGear introduced a booster device that repeats the signal.

Also at the show, NetGear will introduce its ProSafe Dual-Band Wireless VPN Firewall, an all-in-one firewall, Ethernet switch and 802.11a and 802.11b/g access point.

Foundry Networks Inc., an established maker of enterprise wired LANs, this week will join other LAN vendors in stepping up the available power and intelligence in its switch line. Cisco Systems Inc., Enterasys Networks Inc. and Extreme Networks Inc. all have beefed up their switch lines recently.

Foundry will unveil a new switching and routing platform built specifically for 10-Gigabit Ethernet interfaces and show off the first two products based on the new architecture, one for enterprise LANs and one for service provider networks.

Although Foundry has offered 10-Gigabit interfaces for some of its existing switch platforms, now is the time for mass deployment of the faster ports, according to Chandra Kopparapu, vice president and general manager of Foundry's service provider business unit. Grid computing with 10-Gigabit links between servers is emerging as an alternative to expensive supercomputers, companies are deploying high-speed network-attached storage and Gigabit Ethernet connections to desktop PCs are driving demand for faster speeds on LAN backbones, he said.

Just as important, 10-Gigabit Ethernet is dropping in price, he added. Whereas it has cost between US$50,000 and US$60,000 per port, with the new platforms and with new pricing to be announced Monday for 10-Gigabit Ethernet on current Foundry systems, it's coming down to the range of US$15,000 to US$20,000, he said.

The Terabit System Architecture has 1.28T bits of switching capacity per system and can accommodate as many as 32 10G-bps interfaces, according to Foundry. It also is ready to support future 40G-bps interfaces, Kopparapu said.

The new platform forms the basis of two initial products: the BigIron MG8 for enterprise networks and the NetIron 40G for service providers. Each can accommodate eight interface modules and two management modules, one primary and one for backup. They use different interface and management modules and different software images, Kopparapu said.

A variety of four-port 10-Gigabit Ethernet interfaces will be available for each system, including ones with short-range (300 meters), long-range (10-kilometer) and extended range (40-kilometer) optics. The NetIron 40G also can be equipped with modules with OC-192 (10G bps) SONet (Synchronous Optical Network) physical interfaces, commonly used by service providers. With 160G bps of switching capacity on every line card, the NetIron also will be able to support bidirectional 40G-bps interfaces, Kopparapu said. Foundry expects Ethernet to take a step up from 10G bps to 40G bps in the next few years, he said.

The new BigIron and NetIron platforms will ship during summer in the United States and Europe, according to Foundry. They will become available in other regions at an unspecified later date, spokeswoman Jill Shanks said. The BigIron MG8 AC chassis and power supplies will cost US$54,995 and the NetIron 40G DC chassis will cost US$44,995.

Service providers also are using the show as a platform. Internap Network Services Corp., an Internet service provider, will introduce a managed firewall service that uses a Cisco software firewall running on a Cisco router. Also at the show, Sprint Corp. will introduce a Frame Relay over DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) service. The service will offer the security and reliability of Frame Relay service, which typically is provided over leased lines, on DSL.

Typical customers with small remote offices or retail locations will buy the service for those sites while using traditional Frame Relay for the main office, said Larry Denayer, manager of frame relay and ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) management at Sprint. It will run over Sprint's SDSL (Symmetric DSL) and IDSL (ISDN over DSL) services, provided through Covad Communications Co. in the U.S.. Both can reach customers much farther from a carrier central office than can traditional DSL.

Sprint's Frame Relay over DSL can offer 192K-bps (bit-per-second) Frame Relay for about the price of 56K bps Frame Relay over a traditional connection, Denayer said.

Networld+Interop will run from Tuesday through Thursday.

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