Aruba AirMesh Line Targets Robust Outdoor Wireless Requirements

Aruba Networks on Monday debuted a new line of outdoor wireless mesh products, along with a planning tool and a certification program for solution providers eyeing the space. It's the first major product launch from Aruba to incorporate technology it gained through its 2010 acquisition of Azalea Networks.

The new products are collectively called AirMesh, and according to Aruba, meet the needs of enterprises looking to provide high-performance, multiservice wireless mesh outdoors. Everything from Wi-Fi access to smart grid applications requires the most robust multiservice mesh possible, said Greg Murphy, vice president of marketing at Aruba, and that means wireless products and planning have to rise to that level outdoors.

"We're starting to see more and more of our customers moving their indoor wireless networks and coverage outdoors," Murphy told CRN. "For an awfully long time, when people talked about outdoor networks, they were usually talking about some minor, nice-to-have application like, 'I want to cover the courtyard where our employees eat lunch outdoors,' or something relatively simple like a K-12 school district with portable classrooms."

The AirMesh family includes new 802.11n routers, all ruggedized for harsh environments and including dual and quad-radios for multi-hop capacity, as well as software configurable for Wi-Fi access or mesh access. AirMesh also includes Aruba's MeshOS software, which has integrated mobility, intelligent Layer 3 routing and is optimized for HD video. Aruba's Active Video Technology performs deep packet inspection, frame prioritization (meaning it classifies video traffic), and automatic buffering.

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Capping the product family off are management and deployment tools that provide discovery, set-up, and performance and fault management. The Aruba Outdoor RF Planner is an 802.11n 3D virtualization product, and what Aruba is calling the industry's first such RF planner.

The AirMesh routers themselves are the MSR4000, an outdoor mesh router with quad radio, 802.11n, and software configurable for 2.4, 5 or 4.9 Ghz; the MST 200, an outdoor mesh router with single radio, 802.11n, software configurable for 5 Ghz and an integrated MIMO antenna; the MSR2000, an outdoor mesh router with dual radio, 802.11n, and software configurable for 2.4, 5 or 4.9 Ghz; and the MSR1200, an indoor mesh router with dual radio, 802.11n and 2.4 or 5-Ghz configurability.

The MSR 1200, 2000 and 4000 products are available starting Monday, and U.S. list price starts at $1,495, $3,295 and $5,495 respectively. Each has optional power conversion and antenna additions. The MST 200, whose pricing has not yet been determined, will be available in the summer. The planning tool is free to channel partners.

Aruba acquired wireless mesh startup Azalea Networks in May 2010, for $27 million in stock and up to $13.5 million cash over two years. According to Murphy, Azalea's hardware and software were brought into the AirMesh products and enhanced with Aruba features like AirWave management, and brought up to 11n connectivity.

Next: Aruba Offers Training Behind AirMesh

More robust wireless is required for outdoors, Murphy said, and one of the biggest opportunities for large enterpirses is in video surveillance, especially Fortune 500-level companies with sprawling campuses that require potentially hundreds of cameras and 24/7 monitoring.

"There's a huge shift going on in the surveillance and physical security industry," Murphy noted. "The old CCTV systems you and I are familiar with are an older generation, and all the new systems are IP-based and use IP video cameras. You can obviously do a lot more analytics with those and the storage is much more efficient."

That filters down to channel partners, Murphy explained, because it involves networking and infrastructure VARs in security, and opens up as an opportunity what before was more the province of a building's maintenance or facilities department, but is now part of IT. So, behind the AirMesh products, Aruba is also debuting the Aruba Wireless Mesh Professional (AWMP) certification program: a three-day training course required for VARs who want to sell AirMesh.

Most of Aruba's reseller base have sold Aruba outdoor gear before, Murphy said, especially if the deal involves a college campus or a hospital. The difference now is being able to deploy at scale: a much larger outdoor environment that requires selecting different antennas and a more comprehensive outdoor design. That's what the AWMP training will accomplish, he explained.

Along with the AirMesh debuts, Aruba has also entered into a distribution agreeement with ScanSource's Security unit, lending credence to the idea that security VARs, as well as networking VARs, will find lucrative infrastructure opportunities with the products.