WLAN Vendors Trump Up 802.11n Offerings


On Monday, Meru Networks, Trapeze Networks and Ruckus Wireless all unveiled wireless wares, many based on the 802.11n standard, which is designed to improve range and throughput and has many saying that wireless is now a viable replacement technology for traditional wired Ethernet.

"The additional bandwidth opens up a lot of doors," said Michael Gompers, president of One Media Wireless, an Atlanta-based solution provider that has been deploying 11n in hotels using Ruckus Wireless gear.

First up is Meru Networks. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor on Monday released a new four-radio 802.11n access point the vendor hopes will lead to the eventual arrival of the "all-wireless enterprise."

The AP440 from Meru is a four-radio 802.11n access point that can support access at up to 300 Mbps for 1.2 Gbps capacity. The four radios work together for internal redundancy, load-balancing and security, reducing the number of access points and additional security sensors end users need, ultimately reducing cabling, connection and deployment costs. The radios are also backward compatible with legacy 802.11 a/b/g standards, meaning the AP440 can accommodate old and new client devices. Each radio can be dedicated to a specific frequency band.

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With the access point, one channel layer can be dedicated to redundancy for both bands. If either the 2.4 GHz channel or one of the 5 GHz channels fails, traffic will still be delivered on the channel that supports both frequencies. Having four 11n radios can enable up to 1.2 Gbps in a single access point. One radio is configured for 2.4 GHz, two for 5 GHz and the fourth for both 2.4 and 5 GHz, meaning up to four channels can be layered with all channels running at 40 MHz channel width.

On the security side, the integrated dual-bad radio eliminates the need for dedicated sensor APs because it can scan for and mitigate rogue activity while also delivering traffic. A USB port broadens application flexibility by letting other ceiling-installed, but non-802.11 devices like spectrum analysis systems, video cameras and public address systems be incorporated into the WLAN.

And an integrated omni-directional antenna system serves four layered a/b/g/n channels. Antenna casing is attached to a base unit using a special hinge that allows the AP440 to be mounted on a wall or ceiling, vertically or horizontally, with the antenna rotated in any direction.

Along with the new access point, Meru has added a new 4 Gbps Acceleration Module for its MC5000 wireless controller. Now, an MC5000 chassis fully loaded with five modules can reach 20 Gbps of throughput for encrypted traffic.

Meru has also introduced a network management software product that uses three-dimensional representations of wireless LAN deployments for detailed, real-time and color-coded views of WLAN coverage and signal propagation patterns in buildings, across campuses and in remote sites. Meru's Wireless Virtual Reality shows users areas of weak or strong coverage and floor-to-floor and cross-elevation interactions and allows them to virtually walk through their wireless environments. The virtual reality system requires users to upload their floor plans and drag-and-drop access point locations onto the map. The system creates a 3D walkthrough illustrating the wireless environment.

The Meru AP440 lists for $2,995 and the MC5000 4 Gbps Acceleration Module lists for $15,000. Both will be available later this year. The Wireless Virtual Reality management system, which will be available in August, lists for $9,995 and requires Meru's E(z)RF network management application suite, tools for planning, monitoring, securing and administering WLANs.

"Wireless is not a luxury anymore, it's becoming a necessity," said Rachna Ahlawat, Meru's vice president of strategic marketing. "And 11n is actually the tipping point wireless is no longer a technology that gives 'good enough' connectivity."

11n and new innovations in wireless, including Virtual Reality, give VARs who typically sold into wired environments a new way to engage clients, who are now seriously investigating either partial or full wireless networks, Ahlawat said.

Where Meru is positioning its new gear to the "all-wireless enterprise," Trapeze Networks on Monday released wares it's hoping will provide "non-stop wireless for the always-on enterprise."

Pleasanton, Calif.-based Trapeze unveiled its new 802.11n access point, the MP-432 802.11n Access Point, a dual-band access point featuring two physical radios that operate on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz simultaneously. The access point has six internal antennas, three each for 2.4 and 5 GHz. The access point supports 802.3 af Power over Ethernet (PoE) and features dual uplink Gigabit Ethernet ports, both of which are PoE capable. Steve Asche, Trapeze's senior director of marketing, said the 802.11n access point mounts in existing Trapeze brackets and has LEDs for power, Wi-Fi activity and Ethernet activity.

NEXT: Trapeze, Ruckus Offer New Gear Additionally, Asche said, the MP-432 is a smoke-detector form factor, making it aesthetically pleasing.

Asche said 802.11n offers VARs new inroads to clients. To help with that, Trapeze has created a trade-in program for VARs whose clients upgrade to Trapeze 802.11n, regardless of what vendor's wireless gear was previously installed at the customer site. Asche said customers who migrate from their old access points are eligible for special pricing, which is only available through the channel. VARs and customers must submit a pre-approval request and the serial numbers of the equipment to be returned. In turn, the VAR will receive special pricing and the customer will return their old gear after the new wares are deployed.

Trapeze also released a new high-capacity WLAN controller, the MX-2800. The controller offers 28 Gbps of Ethernet switching capacity and features two 10 Gbps ports and eight 1 Gbps ports. IT can support 512 active access points and 12,000 active clients, Asche said. Up to 64 controllers can be combined in a virtual stack to support more than 32,000 access points.

Trapeze also upgraded its RingMaster radio frequency planning software and released an appliance containing the software. The new RingMaster releases support 802.11n and mixed deployments. RingMaster 7.0 software lets users define indoor and outdoor coverage areas to visually display where access points should be placed for the best performance. The RingMaster appliance, the RM-200, can support 250 access points and can scale to 5,000 access points or 1,000 MX wireless controllers. Several RM-200s can be used to scale. The appliance lists for $18,995.

Asche said VARs can use RingMaster to offer wireless planning and management as a service and lets them use one tool for campus-wide network planning, both inside and outside.

"They use it today to plan and manage customers' wireless networks and offer professional services," Asche said.

Lastly, Ruckus Wireless on Monday unveiled its SmartMesh Wi-Fi meshing technology, which the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor said lets companies deploy WLANs quickly, cheaply and with high performance. SmartMesh falls under Ruckus' Smart Wi-Fi umbrella. David Callisch, vice president of marketing for Ruckus, said it helps create robust WLANs that self-organize, self-optimize and self-heal, while also eliminating the need to run cabling to every access point and also thwarting the need for radio frequency planning. Along with SmartMesh, Ruckus released its ZoneFlex 7942 802.11n access point, the ZoneDirector 3000 WLAN controller and the FlexMaster remote Wi-Fi management system.

Callisch said SmartMesh with 802.11n lets companies get immediate value from the latest wireless standard well before 11n-based clients become pervasive.

SmartMesh uses Smart Wi-Fi beam steering technology to control the form and direction of Wi-Fi signals, allowing signals to adapt in real time to the wireless environment which can change because of interference, distance and physical obstructions. Callisch said it can boost reliability, extend coverage and offer consistent performance. The ability to mesh reduces the hops and hop-induced delays in the coverage area, which can often degrade throughput. Callisch said the 802.11n SmartMesh access point can deliver higher performance than a standard 802.11g wired access point even across two hops.

The ZoneDirector updates eliminate the need to run Ethernet cables to access points and offer a point-and-click user interface to enable automatic configuration and management, along with automatic network provisioning, optimization and tuning. Callisch said basically an administrator or VAR can place access points where they're needed and walk away.

The new line of controllers, the ZoneDirector 3000, can support up to 250 ZoneFlex access points. Both the ZoneDirector and access points can be managed through the FlexMaster system meaning users and VARs can manage remote start WLANs and access points in regional or branch offices from a single point over the IP network.

SmartMesh is available now as a free software upgrade to customers with ZoneDirector WLAN controllers. The ZoneDirector 3000, which will hit the streets in July, starts at $6,000 for 25 access points, and the FlexMaster management system, is available for ZoneFlex access points starting at $5,000 for 100 access points. Ruckus' 802.11n access points are $699 each.

Gompers said SmartMesh technology from Ruckus has solved the manageability problem that wireless deployments can often present. Having software that tunes itself and the ability to blanket wireless coverage using access points that talk to each other means the wireless LAN has no single point of failure.

"I can really build a robust network," he said. "I can give 100 percent wireless coverage and the network itself is self-manageable."