At the launch of two not-very-exciting access points, Cisco Systems has confirmed that big vendors' wireless security is not good enough without help form smaller, specialist start-ups.
During the launch of two dual-band 802.11a/b/g Aironet access points, Cisco announced that its SWAN architecture will allow the integration of security products from other vendors -- first up being AirDefense, whose wireless IDS has just been updated.
While Cisco has been criticized for lagging on access point security, the new 1130AG and 1230AG access points catch up, with 802.11i security at Cisco prices (a hefty US$699 and US$999 per AP, respectively). The new APs have passed the Wi-Fi Alliance's WPA2 branding scheme for 802.11i.
Cisco has promised to deliver an upgrade to existing 1200 APs for the AES encryption which is part of 802.11i - in this announcement it offers a US$299 upgrade which adds an 802.11a wireless to the older access points.
If that sounds pricey compared with other companies' dual-band APs, Cisco claims some improvements: the new .11a radios have a better range than previous ones, to the extent that .11a now goes as far as .11b/g. The APs can be put in with one site survey, the company claims.
More significantly, Cisco has opened up its SWAN architecture to allow IT managers to slot in security products form other vendors -- AirDefense featured as a partner in this announcement.
Cisco's SWAN has an intrusion detection feature, but many users have found it not adequate. Cisco's mobility marketing manager Christophe Servais admitted to website Unstrung, that the AirDefense IDS was "better".
Instead of specialist probes, the AirDefense IDS will use dedicated Aironet APs, and the AirDefense server can be accessed through Cisco's wireless management console, Wireless LAN Solution Engine (WLSE).
Despite the superiority of security products from the start-ups, they will need deals with the big guys to survive, and Unstrung predicts a shake-out as the less successful go to the wall. AirDefense is likely to avoid this fate, with this deal adding to an earlier partnership with IBM.
And other start-ups are jockeying for position. AirMagnet, will also be there according to Rich Mironov, marketing vice president there. He told website Wi-Fi Planet his product would be in there too: "To be a stand-alone application is great, but being part of a system is better."
One final point though -- Cisco is continuing to play with a big company's cards. Like the other behemoths, it believes its announcements are so strategic they have to be trailed months in advance: the AirDefense integration won't actually be available till March.