Microsoft promotes Win CE network gateways for Wi-Fi

Four wireless networking equipment makers will use Microsoft's Windows CE .Net 4.2 operating system in gateway devices for both corporate and home networks, Microsoft announced Thursday at the 802.11 Planet Conference in Boston.

Device makers Abocom Systems Inc., Accton Technology Corp., D-Link Systems Inc., and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. will release wireless gateway devices that use Windows CE .Net 4.2 later this year, said Jawad Khaki, vice president of Windows networking and communications for Microsoft, during his keynote address at Boston's World Trade Center.

"Windows CE uses a broad set of features to allow companies to rapidly build secure network gateways," Khaki said. Devices based on Windows CE .Net 4.2 can make use of several security protocols, including WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), 802.1x, and PEAP (Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol).

Gateways are devices that control the flow of traffic into or out of a network. Routers, switches and firewall servers are all examples of gateways.

During his speech, Khaki outlined Microsoft's vision of its "dream" wireless network, which requires networking equipment that is secure and easy to deploy "out of the box", Khaki said. The convergence of voice and data also requires that wireless networks be able to transmit audio and video just like a wired network, without interruptions or delays, he said.

The market for wireless network equipment is evolving as more corporations deploy wireless networks in their offices, industry analysts said during a panel discussion after the keynote.

Wireless access points and routers have typically sprung up around the edge of a company's network, but companies will want to bring some of that equipment into a centralized location for easier management, said Aaron Vance, an industry analyst with Synergy Research Group Inc. based in Phoenix.

Much of that centralization stems from security threats that are both overhyped and frighteningly real, said Julie Ask, a senior analyst with Jupiter Research Inc. The issues have been slightly overblown by a raft of wireless security companies trying to make a name for themselves, but one-third of companies that are thinking about deploying a wireless network cite security problems as a barrier, she said.

Secure equipment is paramount to protecting networks against not only rogue users looking to steal information, but to ward off viral attacks against wireless networks, said Russ Craig, research director for Aberdeen Group Inc. based in Boston. There have been enough examples of rogue users gaining access to confidential company data for IT managers to take the threats seriously, especially in industries such as health care where secure networks are now a legal requirement, he said.

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