TechWatch: Wireless

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As a judge for Best in Show at NetWorld+Interop, I was asked to review new wireless products. The following three caught my eye.

Wireless Switching

Cisco might have been late to the wireless party that is in full force with such vendors as Aruba and Airespace, but for those of you who have already invested in Catalyst switches, its latest upgrade is a welcomed, albeit expensive, addition. The Wireless LAN Services Module is a blade that fits inside the switch, ushering in a number of wireless-management features that previously have been found only in competitors' products. The product brings the redundant power supplies and hardware-acceleration features to the wireless world, while also adding an Auto RF Optimization capability that automates the process of adjusting optimal access-point radio transmit power, channel selection and radio-coverage areas. I was impressed with the switch's failover abilities with no loss of quality.

Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series Wireless LAN Services Module, Price: about $25,000

Outdoor Meshing

Mesh networks are hot. The notion is to assemble a wireless network from scratch, without knowing exactly where to place APs and without the luxury of being able to backhaul wired traffic from the APs. Mesh networks are self-healing and self-configuring, so they are ideal for emergency communications or in places where you don't want your IT support staff to frequent, such as war zones or urban streets. Last year, Firetide came out with indoor mesh products; this year, it has an outdoor mesh router that includes a weatherized antenna. The downside is the product is only 802.11b, but it claims a range of two miles. It has several power options, including power over Ethernet, and the vendor says its offering can hand off signals at up to 200 mph. Not too shabby.

Firetide HotPoint 1000R, Price: $2,000

Network Monitoring

AirMagnet made a name for itself in the wireless network-monitoring arena, and its latest tool is just another feather in its wireless cap. Surveyor performs site surveys of any wireless environment and delivers detailed maps of coverage areas to help with optimizing radio reception and eliminating dead spots. VARs can use this product to determine the best placement for access points (APs), identify which APs will be used by which clients as they roam about a wireless campus, and measure potential for packet and signal loss. The product collects data in a variety of methods, and the maps produced are clear and easy to use. Surveyor also provides a tool to simulate AP placement to help solution providers experiment with various settings and locations.

AirMagnet Surveyor, Price: $2,000

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