New Meru Wireless Platform Anticipates All-Mobile Edge

As Meru Networks sees it, the enterprise network edge is going inevitably wireless -- inevitably mobile -- and that move is going to require the most robust and flexible wireless networking solutions possible.

To that end, Meru Wednesday debuted what it calls the industry's first three-stream 802.11n quad-radio access point (AP) platform. Dubbed the AP400 Mobile Edge AP platform, and also known as Teton, it's designed to service next-generation mobile devices, from smartphones to tablets, that will comprise the wireless edge of next-generation enterprise networks and that need to support high-definition video, wireless VoIP and other demanding applications.

"The new edge is untethered. By definition it's mobile," said Joel Vincent, director of marketing for Meru.. "It's not just phones and laptops, but tablets, scanners, machine-to-machine instances, everything. It's a diverse environment, but users expect the same level of connectivity and experience."

Meru compares the AP400 Mobile Edge platform as similar to that of a wired switch. It offers a maximum total data rate of 1.8 Gbps -- clocked as 450 Mbps on each radio -- in every square foot, and includes Meru's VIrtual Cell technology, which pools access points together in a wireless LAN via virtualization similar to how storage and server resources are pooled in a data center.

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"Once they're deployed, and you have the virtualized wireless LAN, it basically gives you a software-configurable edge of your network," Vincent explained. "You can do things like complex RF surveys and more importantly, you can dedicate spectrum to specific things with commands to the controller."

Among the platform's features is a "WLAN 500" density mode, which optimizes the wireless network for maximum capacity, as well as client density and quality of service. Multiple AP400s can be combined, Vincent noted, to create essentially a mobile edge fabric for wireless coverage in a facility. There's also what Meru is calling "mobile application segregation," in which users can dedicate single, virtualized channels to specific applications, letting them provision or limit specific applications for designated channels as they choose.

The platform, which according to Vincent saw about two-and-a-half years of development by Meru, also leverages Meru's Orthagonal Array Beam Forming and sub-carrier-level beam forming technologies, and includes 3x3 MIMO configuration.

On the hardware devices that support AP400, there's also an on-board USB port for providing optional cellular WAN backhaul via an additional WLAN radio.

"3G offload is a huge growth area," Vincent said. "What people are doing these days is very bandwidth intensive."

The first products on the Teton platform are Meru's AP433i, AP433e, OAP433e, AP433is and AP433es access points, which will be available in the second half of the year, cover indoor and outdoor uses and include various AP400 platform features. According to Meru, previous APs like the AP300 and AP1000 are also Teton-compatible for integration with new APs.

"They don't orphan our existing products," said Vincent, although he noted that all of Meru's new access points will use the Teton platform in the future.

John Jabbusch, founder and chief engineer at Carolina Advanced Digital, a Cary, N.C.-based solution provider, said he has every confidence in Meru's new platform.

"To me, it's really a question of client density and high throughput," Jabbusch said. "They really are, in our experience, unmatched for that. Teton is an acceleration of that process, and if they can deliver what it looks like they're going to deliver, it may be the next incremental step toward a wireless edge."

NEXT: Meru Positions Itself For Channel Expansion

Meru has a modest, but intensely devoted network of channel partners. One thing AP400 provides, said Vincent, is a migration path for customers: how to drive more wireless networking as customers begin to phase out their aging wired networking equipment over the next several years.

It should prove an advantage as Meru looks to up its channel profile.

"We have no desire to be overdistributed," said Cindy Cole Sauvignon, who became Meru's vice president, worldwide channels a year ago. That said, however, more than 50 percent of Meru's top partners are new to the company within the past year, and Meru is looking at ways to leverage app developers and larger ISVs, as well as VARs that specialize in vertical markets beyond Meru's shored-up bases in education and health care.

Count Carolina Advanced Digital (CAD) among Meru partners that have seen their appeal.

"Our first loyalty is to the customer, and the mission the customer has put before us, not to the manufacturer," said Jabbusch. "It is to Meru's advantage, because as people are demanding more and more bandwidth, in combination with client density, they seem to have the solution to answer that. From a channel and a marketing perspective, they're an excellent fit with an engineering-focused company like ours."

CAD signed on with Meru in December 2009 and has done about $1.5 million in Meru sales since then.

"They're a smaller company, and we're used to dealing with the larger global IT manufacturers, so frankly, it's refreshing to talk to a company where you're not some nameless entity," said Susan Jabbusch, CAD's president. "Wireless vendors are coming out of the woodwork right now, so it's good that people hear Meru's name and realize they're a player. That helps us be more successful."