Airespace Switches On

By Eric Griffith

April 07, 2003

The company formerly known as Blackstorm unveils its WLAN switch architecture, and announces major customers (NEC) and deployments.

If you haven't caught on yet, the biggest trend in wireless LAN for the enterprise is "switched WLANs." Companies such as Proxim, Symbol, Vivato, Nortel, and many more to come are quickly announcing products (though none exactly agree on what actually constitutes a WLAN switch) to garner some of the market share. The latest is San Jose, CA-based Airespace, formerly known by the name Blackstorm Networks.

The Airespace Wireless Enterprise Platform has three major components: the Airespace 1200 Access Point, a lightweight access point with just the basic radio and antenna meant to feed traffic back to the Airespace 4000 Wireless Switch, which holds all the intelligent switching functions and enforces security policies. The Airespace Control System (ACS) is GUI software gives administrators control over the security, and provides some Quality of Services (QoS) and VLAN controls, even insight into radio frequency usage with minimal expertise.

"Instead of making autonomous nets, we want to make wireless enterprises," says Jeff Aaron, senior manager of product marketing at Airespace. "Wireless is just the tip of the iceberg now in what it can do."

Among some of the major features of the product according to Aaron are a mobile policy manager that lets users roam between network subnets while keeping the same policies in place; a Layer 1 to 3 security policy framework which allows termination of VPN tunnels right at the switch and that supports 802.1X; dynamic channel assignment and dynamic load balancing as users move about the network.

Airespace already has customers announcing deployments, including Duke University Medical Center (DUMC), using it to enable PDAs with secure wireless connections to get patient care information, and the University of California at Berkeley's school of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) is using it to migrate it's current 802.11b network to 802.11a (and eventually 11g) to get higher bandwidth. The HP Pavilion -- not the home computer, but the San Jose, CA, stadium where the AFL's SabreCats and NHL's Sharks play, not to mention a lot of musical concerts -- will be using Airespace products to "unwire" the executive suites.

Perhaps the company's biggest coup is landing NEC in a global OEM agreement. Paul Weismantel, the director of enterprise solutions at NEC, says the deal is "an extension of work we've been doing already in converged wired space." NEC will be rebranding the Airespace products with its name, pushing them for customers looking to converge voice and data. Weismantel says the NEC branded products will lag behind Airespace and come out in the summer.

NEC plans to expand on the line and build on the technology from Airespace.

"We partnered with Airespace after diligently hunting for partners who could deal with things we see as critical for a scalable and secure and highly mobile real- time platform," says Weismantel. "We'll start with some exclusive [developments] but desire to bring them out to the public forum for further extension," to share them with Airespace and thus benefiting other Airespace customers.



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