Network startups centralise wireless LANs

Seizing an opportunity to centralise WLAN security, startup networking vendors will tackle established competitors this week at NetWorld+Interop in Las Vegas.

Newcomers BlueSocket Inc., ReefEdge Inc., Aruba Wireless Networks Inc., and Perfigo Inc. will introduce and demonstrate WLAN products that shift the locus of management, monitoring, and configuration away from individual access points, moving these security activities instead to a centrally located device.

Attacking a space occupied by incumbents Proxim, Cisco Systems, and Symbol, the new entrants have developed software that resides within appliances to offer Layer 2 and Layer 3 security, access control, authentication, QoS (quality of service), and roaming capabilities.

Centralized WLAN switches are gaining attention as enterprises seek ways to ease the configuration and management of wireless access points to keep in step with changing security specifications and user-access privileges.

ReefEdge on Monday will introduce Wireless Service Platform, according to SandeepSinghal, CTO of Fort Lee, N.J.-based ReefEdge. The platform offers services -- including security, performance management, and multisite management -- that run in conjunction with existing networks or with the startup's CS200 Wireless Services Concentrator.

"We think enterprises will deploy services dedicated to single tasks, while others will deploy lots of services," Singhal said. "The one-size-fits-all model doesn't fit most enterprises. Things differ based on what you have."

Singhal notes that, as opposed to competing offerings, the CS200 is not a switch. "All enterprises have enough switching capacity," Singhal said. "They don’t want a solution that replaces their existing environment. We're not replacing other vendor's equipment."

BlueSocket on Tuesday will introduce its WGX-4000 WLAN switch, which the Burlington, Mass.-based company says supports third-party access points. Meanwhile, San Jose, Calif.-based Aruba will demonstrate its WLAN switching system, Aruba 5000. The four-slot system, which is designed for use in the datacenter, will be used as part of the conference's eNet -- the network that will provide Internet connectivity for exhibitors and attendees alike.

The startups will have a tough time out-engineering those WLAN veterans that have already adopted their own centrally managed architectures, according to Gemma Paulo, senior analyst at In-Stat/MDR in Scottsdale, Ariz. "You'll see the startups knocking on a lot of doors, concentrating on new implementations," Paulo said. "The WLAN market is large, and there is still a lot of opportunity, but you have to wonder if all of them will make it this year."

One concern Paulo and others have is that many of wireless switches are designed to work with their own access points. Aruba, among others, has taken this approach. Last week Aruba introduced the Aruba 5000 switch and the Aruba 50 access point. The two products work in concert, and Aruba is betting that several green-field deployment opportunities still exist.

"Today most enterprises still have pilot WLANs," said PankajManglik, president and CEO of Aruba, noting that the market is still in its infancy. "We moved all the stuff that used to change into the switch."

Also at the show, Forum Systems and Tarari will introduce technologies that relieve servers from the burden of processing content. Tarari will introduce two versions of its programmable content processor built specifically to handle anti-virus functions such as decoding and decompression. The San Diego-based company will also introduce a processor that parses XML.

Waltham, Mass.-based Forum Systems will introduce Version 2.0 of its Forum Sentry 1500 XML security appliance. The new iteration takes advantage of evolving common Web Service security specifications such as Data Privacy Server, Digital Signature Server, and XML-Aware Firewall.

Foundry Networks will make news on the switching front by introducing its next-generation 10GbE architecture, which will anchor a series of products to be released during the next few years, said Bobby Johnson, CEO and founder of the Alviso, Calif.-based company.

"The future line of products based on this architecture will generate more revenues than our previous lines of products," Johnson said. "We have 5,800-plus customers, and we believe it will be easy to get adoption."

Johnson argues the technology is not simply an extension of Foundry's existing Gigabit product line.

The first two products based on the new architecture are expected to be BigIron MG8 and NetIron 40G, which are aimed at the enterprise and service-provider markets, respectively. Initially the MG8 will be geared toward companies that run high-performance, grid-computing-based networks and those that offer Gigabit connections to desktops and servers.

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