Chantry: The Routed WLAN

By Eric Griffith

April 21, 2003

Switches are all the rage for enterprise WLAN products, but Chantry Networks says its Beacon infrastructure products goes a step above them all by being the first 'routed' WLAN network tool, letting the central intelligence sit anywhere on an IP network.

Boston-based startup Chantry Networks today took the wraps off what it calls the wireless LAN industry's "first routed WLAN solution."

Dubbed BeaconWorks, the product line works on any Internet Protocol (IP) architecture, letting the central intelligence of the network (the BeaconMaster) sit anywhere, yet stay in contact with as many as a "tens of hundreds" of access points (BeaconPoints).

Peter Vicars, president and CEO of Chantry Networks, says the company's discussions with potential customers told them not to disrupt the current wired infrastructure that administrators have in place.

"They want seamless integration of the wireless world they anticipate," says Vicars. "It's driven by manageability." Mobility and integration of future wireless voice services were also key according to Chantry's for customers.

To get the scalability needed for a full Layer 3 solution, Vicars says Chantry had to go beyond the switch to the router. Connecting the products on an IP network brings "true scalability," with features like dynamic configuration around failed nodes and no distance limitations from the central intelligence to the network edge where the access points sit. Plus, he says, routers provide strong demarcation points between networks.

Chantry's products consist of the BeaconMaster controller, which controls the entire WLAN and is the gateway for all mobile users that connect via the BeaconPoints. These access points talk to the BeaconMaster directly with a special tunneled protocol (which eventually Chantry would like to license to other vendors of access points). No special client software or hardware has to be installed on laptops or PDAs, but connection sessions will stay up as users roam subnets.

The BeaconPoints are dual-band and multimode, support 802.11a/b (and are software upgradeable to 802.11g when it's ratified); they connect to the network via Power over Ethernet (PoE) . Chantry co-founder and CTO Bob Myers calls them "essentially plug-and-play; when you plug them in, they find the BeaconMaster on the network." Security support is on the BeaconPoint itself, with WPA and AES for 802.11i in the product. They are plenum rated and support external antennas.

BeaconWorks products will use Chantry's Virtual Network Services (VNSWorks) to create virtual networks (VLANs) that are distinct from the wired LAN. BeaconMasters support SNMP and management by other existing tools, or through browser and command line interfaces. Myers says they'll initially come in two flavors: one with multiple 100baseT Ethernet ports, and other with full Gigabit ports.

BeaconWorks will also work for hotspot service providers since the central intelligence can be so far from the BeaconPoints; the units can link into AAA and billing services.

Vicars says the BeaconPoints will follow the trend of prices going down on access points, and will likely be in the $500 range; the BeaconMasters will be priced like a large network router so between $25,000 and $35,000 dollars -- but he says exact pricing is difficult since the system is configurable for customers. All the products should be available by the end of June.

802.11 Planet Conference Just what is a wireless network switch anyway? Join us at the 802.11 Planet Conference & Expo, June 25 - 27, 2003 at the World Trade Center Boston in Boston, MA. One of our sessions will answer that question as vendors go to head-to-head to 'discuss' what they think constitutes a "WLAN switch."

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