Networking

WLAN product blitz shows 802.11n getting more affordable

A slew of new WLAN hardware and software suggests that 802.11n high-throughput WLANs are fast becoming more affordable and manageable across all industry segments.

Enterasys debuted its first 802.11n access point and a new high-end WLAN controller for large-scale deployments, while D-Link has a new $180 11n AP aimed at small and midsize businesses. Meraki introduced its first 11n product for municipal and multi-tenant Wi-Fi hot zones.

On the software side, Motorola’s AirDefense unit has added a WLAN troubleshooting application to its flagship wireless intrusion prevention suite, and radio frequency (RF) monitoring and configuration management to its WLAN controller software. Rival AirMagnet has created a version of its RF analysis and site survey applications and introduced a simplified troubleshooting tool, both aimed at improving WLAN performance and management for SMB customers. (Compare enterprise WLAN products)

Low-priced 11n hardware

Enterasys, which is part of Siemens Enterprise Communications, has announced the two-radio HiPath Wireless 802.11n access point, the first from the company. It supports two spatial streams over a 3×3 antenna configuration with a data rate of 300Mbps for each radio. It can run both radios, one in the 2.4 GHz band and one in 5 GHz, at full capacity over an existing 802.3af PoE infrastructure.

Enterasys is being very aggressive on pricing. Though it has a list price of $995 (which even at that is less than a number of enterprise market rivals) the new access point comes with a “limited time” pricing of just $665. That’s about $150 more than the company’s existing 802.11abg product. It’s available now.

The new HiPath C5110 wireless controller will support up to 1,000 access points, compared to 128 for the previous top-of-the-line controller, and up to almost 8,200 users. The C5110 is the first of the family to support gigabit Ethernet; there are 2 such ports. It supports all the usual enterprise-grade security protocols and standards. It comes with built-in integration with Enterasys’ HiPath Wireless Manager application for WLANs, the Dragon intrusion protection system, the NetSight network management suite, and the company’s network access control system.

The C5110 will ship no later June, available worldwide, with a list price of $31,995.

With it will come the new controller software update, version 6.0, reworked in part to handle the much larger WLANs possible with the new C5110. Customers that have the older line of Enterasys RoamAbout access points can download the corresponding software to the RoamAbout products, allowing them to be seen and managed by HiPath controllers.

D-Link’s newly announced Selectable Dual-Band Access Point, the DAP-2553, is even less expensive, with a price tag of just $180. It achieves that in part because it’s a single radio device: You can set it to operate in either of the two frequency bands. It also runs with existing 802.3af PoE systems.

The access point can be configured to bridge with other 2553 devices, while still supporting their directly attached clients. Each one supports up to four VLANs to segment users. A group of access points will automatically load balance wireless traffic. It supports the usual range of security protocols and standards, including support for back-end RADIUS servers. The company’s AP Manager II software manages the new DAP-2553 and can handle a group of different D-Link models.

The new access point is available now.

Meraki’s market tends to be quite different: Its innovative, low-cost wireless access points and routers are aimed at schools, hotels, apartment blocks, municipal hot zones and the like. Meraki wireless products are intended to plug into an available broadband service, and then share that service with users via a wireless mesh. The company-run data center hosts such functions as network management, security configurations, billing and customer service.

The new outdoor MR58 supports three 802.11n radios, one of the few triple-radio 11n products currently on the market, and the first 11n product from Meraki. Yet the list price is $1,500, which Meraki says is well below comparable outdoor 11abg offerings from rivals.

All three radios can run at the same time, and the MR58 will still work with an 802.3af PoE infrastructure.

The software load includes Meraki’s wireless mesh protocol, running with all three radios, the fruit of Meraki’s roots in the MIT RoofNet project. Meraki has a technique for creating full-duplex connections between its radios, sidestepping the performance degradation that can occur when Wi-Fi traffic hops through multiple radio nodes. The MR58 is intended to be mounted on roofs, with one or more of them plugged into a broadband Internet connection, distributing the high-bandwidth radio signals over several kilometers. The signals are then picked up by window- or indoor-mounted Meraki access points in residences or offices.

There are a range of power and directional antenna options available. The MR58 is available now.

Simplifying WLAN management

Motorola’s AirDefense group has unveiled a new optional application, AirDefense Advanced TroubleShooting, along with a new radio frequency management feature, Smart RF, that’s now part of the standard software load on Motorola wireless controllers.

The new troubleshooting tool works with the AirDefense server software, and a network of dedicated wireless RF sensors (or a dedicated radio on a multi-radio Motorola WLAN access point). It can monitor any brand of WLAN access point. The sensors blanket a site, monitoring radio activity between wireless clients and access points. The data can be used to detect rogue access points, radio interferers, and a variety of RF performance issues.

The new application lets administrators automatically monitor and test wireless connectivity, aided by being able to now activate a sensor to behave as if it were a wireless client. A Web-based dashboard is designed for use by help desk staff, enabling them to quickly run analyses and report on problems, or on trends that could lead to problems, without having to be WLAN experts.

The Advanced Troubleshooting application is available now, priced at $295 per sensor.

Smart RF, running on the Motorola controllers, automates the work of adjusting channels and power levels on access points. That means the network itself can adapt to changing radio conditions to optimize performance for users. For example, by reducing power levels in some access points, Smart RF can reduce interference, improving throughput for users, or preventing excessive “thrashing” by clients shifting between access points that are too close together.

AirMagnet — which ranked high in our recent Clear Choice Tests of WLAN management tools — has released a simplified product suite, called AirMagnet Express, with “lightweight” versions of its AirMagnet Analyzer and AirMagnet Survey tools that are designed for the SMB market. The tools provide a set of basic WLAN and radio management and security functions.

Analyzer monitors wireless packets and reports on security and performance problems. Survey is used to map signal strength and radio interference. The Express versions strip out a number of features that are more suited to high-end enterprise networks, according to AirMagnet. The new suite lacks advanced intrusion detection features and alarms, for example. With Express Analyzer, AirMagnet added a new “how-to” section, an online library of the most common WLAN tasks and problems, along with a step-by-step guide to walk users through problem analysis and solution.

Each application is priced at $1,195 or $3,500 for both together. They’re available now.

Want to compare wireless products? View our IT Product Guides now.A brand-new application is AirMedic, a simplified spectrum analyzer for fast, basic analysis of radio behaviors. The software, developed with Intel, runs on a laptop with a Centrino 2 wireless adapter, converting it into a spectrum analyzer for scanning WLAN radio activity on both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. It can display plots that show RF energy emissions, along with corresponding access point channel assignments and signal strength. The displays can show RF interference, high error rates, and so on, helping users to distinguish between radio problems and Wi-Fi configuration problems.

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