Bluesocket Inc. this week unveils at NetWorld+Interop a new gateway designed to manage large-scale, multivendor wireless LANs.
The WGX-4000 is the company's first custom-built box, intended to handle up to 800-M bit/sec total throughput. New software lets all the gateways interact with each other, without the need for a centralized server. A group of switches can share configuration and policy information, traffic priorities, and manage bandwidth to optimize performance by user, user group or by network service.
Bluesocket is one of the first wireless gateway vendors to expand into Layer 3 switching features for wireless LAN management. The basic idea is to give network executives control over traffic to and from wireless LAN access points, in a manner similar to the control they have over switched wired LANs.
Rival gateway companies include Vernier and ReefEdge. All the vendors in this segment have focused their initial products on improving wireless LAN security and management. And nearly all have said they will offer more advanced switching features, similar to those being offered by so-called wireless LAN switch vendors such as Aruba, Airespace and Vivato.
The WGX-4000 will have eight 10/100 Ethernet ports, into which access points from various wireless LAN vendors can be plugged directly. The number of simultaneous users on an access point, all sharing the available data rate of 11- or 54-M bit/sec, can vary widely. Upstream
The Bluesocket gateway authenticates each user with an array of existing enterprise systems, such as Windows NT domains, Windows Active Directory, and RADIUS servers. "For example, we offer transparent, two-way NT authentication," says Eric JanzSen, CEO of Bluesocket, in Burlington, Mass. "We hide the fact that you (the user) are logging into both the wireless LAN and into Windows NT."
Bluesocket executives prefer the term "gateway" to "switch." "The word 'switch' connotes a core network product, a replacement to Cisco hardware," JanzSen says. "We're a component that extends, and completes, what Cisco has today (for the wireless LAN)."
The WGX-4000 sits between the wireless LAN access points and, via Gigabit Ethernet ports, upstream core routers. The access points, as mentioned above, plug directly into the Bluesocket switch or into an intervening hub or wiring closet switch. The gateways communicate with each other using a protocol designed by Bluesocket software engineers. Network managers can designate one WGX-4000 as the "master," set configurations as well as user authentication policies and priveleges once, and have that data replicated automatically to each gateway in the mesh.
The company's gateway architecture means that you don't have to load software onto the wireless client devices, or on the access points, as is customary with IPSec-based VPNs.
The new gateway is limited in its ability to monitor the actual radio signals between the wireless clients and an access point. Bluesocket says it works closely with wireless LAN vendors, such as Cisco, to expose as many features of the access point as possible to the gateway.
The WGX-4000 will ship no later than June 2003. Final pricing has not yet been decided. The gateway was designed by Bluesocket and is being built by a contract manufacturer. JanzSen declined to go into details about the processor or other technical details at this time.