Cisco's Wireless World

Cisco&'s Unified Wireless Network Architecture consists of a Wireless Service Module for the Catalyst 6500 series of switches and the Cisco Wireless LAN Controller Module for Cisco&'s Integrated Services Router family, said Alex Thurber, director of wireless and security for worldwide channels at Cisco, San Jose, Calif. As reported earlier by CRN, Cisco will also be introducing an outdoor mesh networking offering 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.”

The new products are based on technology acquired when Cisco purchased Airespace earlier this year.

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The Wireless Service Module is a network card that plugs into a 6500 switch. Each module provides control more than 300 access points, and each switch can control and manage up to 1,500 access points per chassis, said Thurber. “This enables us to take the high-end enterprise-class performance of the 6500 and extend that to the wireless network,” he said.

Designed for use with Cisco&'s Integrated Services Router, 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 Integrated Services Router units in use today have open wireless ports that can house these modules.

Both modules are designed to reduce the time and effort needed to deploy and operate a wireless network, which is good news for VARs, said Thurber. “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.”

Cisco&'s partners will also be able to counteract a misconception among some business decision-makers that wireless networking is easy so there&'s no need for a VAR&'s services, Thurber said, adding that a white paper on why it makes sense to work with a wireless partner is being developed. “That&'s a tool that we can leave behind with our customers,” he said.

Cisco&'s mesh plans took off a few months ago when the company began training a group of about 30 partners in the installation and support of the Aironet 1500 mesh access point, on which the mesh network is based. “The fact that our mesh solution uses the common centralized architecture makes it possible to manage indoor and outdoor access points from the same controller,” said Thurber.

The Aironet 1500 has begun shipping at $3,999. Pricing for the WLAN modules was not available. The modules are expected to be available next month.