Cisco Unveils Wireless Integration Hardware

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Cisco's Unified Wireless Network Architecture consists of a Wireless Service Module (WiSM) for the Catalyst 6500 series of switches, and the Cisco Wireless LAN Controller Module for Cisco's Integrated Services Router (ISR) family, said Alex Thurber, director of wireless and security for worldwide channels at Cisco Systems. As CRN reported last week, Cisco will also be introducing an outdoor mesh networking solution based on the Aironet 1500 mesh access point.

Tracy Butler, president of Acropolis Technology Group, a Cisco partner in Wood River, Ill., said the vendor's strategy to integrate wireless capabilities into its routers and switches provides a foundation for simpler, cleaner solutions.

"That's one [device] we have to manage, one less thing the client has to buy and it's all housed under one platform," Butler said. "It's great for them and great for us," he said.

The Wireless Service Module is a network card that plugs into a 6500 switch. Each module provides control over 300 access points, and each switch can control and manage up to 1,500 access points per chassis, according to Alex Thurber, director of wireless and security for worldwide channels at Cisco Systems. "This enables us to take the high end enterprise class performance of the 6500 and extend that to the wireless network," he said.

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Designed for use with Cisco's Integrated Services Router (ISR), the Wireless LAN Controller Module boosts security with wireless intrusion protection, automatic configuration, and support for up to six access points, said Thurber. He estimates that half the ISR units in use today have open wireless ports that can house these modules. "Being able to go wireless is a great advantage for our partners, and the ISR is a platform we will definitely be adding more services to in the future."

The new modules are designed to reduce the time and effort needed to deploy and operate a wireless network, said Thurber. "This reduces the burden of the work that has to be done manually -- partners can go in and provide wireless capacity through the module and then provide services on top of that, such as planning, deployment, and ongoing support," said Thurber.

Thurber said that Cisco's plan to bring the mesh products to market began a few months ago when the company trained an initial group of about 30 partners in the installation and support of the product. He said the Cisco mesh solution has already been deployed at several trial sites, with larger trials under way in Dayton, Ohio, Lebanon, Ore., and the University of California at Berkeley.

"The nice thing about our mesh solution is that the common centralized architecture makes it possible to manage indoor and outdoor access points from the same controller," said Thurber.