Aruba, AirWave Team To Tame Legacy WLAN Gear

Via product integration and a joint marketing agreement, Aruba and AirWave are targeting the legacy customer base of Cisco Systems as well as other vendors of thick or "fat" access points, including Symbol Technologies, 3Com and Proxim Wireless, said Gary Singh, senior director of product marketing at Aruba, Sunnyvale, Calif.

"We're targeting what we term as the five million access points orphaned out there as islands with no migration to a next-generation switched architecture," Singh said.

The two vendors will "meet in the channel" as solution providers certified to work with both companies build and deploy solutions that incorporate Aruba's WLAN switches with the AirWave Management Platform (AMP), which now supports them, Singh said, noting that there is a 70 percent overlap among top-performing partners between the companies. He declined to provide the number of solution providers that are working with both vendors.

"This is going to improve migration strategies for people that have legacy access points," said Matt Bossom, director of wireless solutions at Accuvant, one such Denver, Colo.-based partner.

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At issue is the changing architecture of wireless deployments, as "thin," unintelligent access points centrally managed by WLAN switches have gained in popularly over the past year-and-a-half against the fat, stand-alone, intelligent access points of earlier years. Even Cisco itself - which championed the stand-alone access point long after startups like Aruba emerged with their portfolios of centrally managed WLAN portfolios - finally came around to the new architecture with its acquisition of Airespace in March, 2005.

Bossom estimates that about 75 percent of Accuvant's customer base has fat access points deployed. While vendors do offer ways for customers to convert their old access points to be centrally managed by WLAN switches, those options can prove troublesome, Bossom said.

"There are ways to do it, but there are a lot of security vulnerabilities and management issues that come up," Bossom said.

With the new Aruba/Airwave combo, AMP will take control of thick APs for configuration, monitoring and management, but traffic will be routed through the Aruba WLAN controller, which provides centralized encryption and packet processing. The controller also features a built-in firewall, which compensates for the security deficiencies in thick access points, Singh said.

The end result offers improved support for new demands on WLANs, including guest access, voice, and rogue AP detection, Singh said.

Aruba support is available now on AMP. Small network deployments of AMP cost approximately $5,000.