Aruba's Modular Switch: Healing the Pain

By Eric Griffith

April 22, 2003

Aruba Networks, one of the first startup companies to make noise this year in the nascent WLAN switch market, has now announced its product line, including a modular approach to the switch itself, that it claims will solve management issues.

Aruba Networks was one of the first startup companies to make noise this year in the nascent WLAN switch market. Now the company has announced its product line, including a modular approach to the switch itself.

Keerti Melkote, Aruba's co-founder and vice president of product management, says "customers today are in a great deal of pain... those without a wireless LAN haven't seen the pain of managing "intelligent" access points. Those with a WLAN are suffering" due to management issues. That's where he says Aruba can help for a network in a building, a campus, or across the entire enterprise.

The switch is called the Aruba 5000 and the company says it's the only wireless switch solution with a modular approach for swapping out components for easy upgrades and reconfiguration. Each module is hot-swappable and the 5000 has three redundant power supplies to avoid down time. The unit has four slots; a typical line card for the slot has 24 100baseT ports that support Power over Ethernet (PoE) . The 5000 is going to be priced at $16,995 in its base configuration.

The 5000 comes with a site survey tool to let administrators determine the best locations for access points.

The company will follow the Aruba 5000 switch late in 2003 with the Aruba 800, a fixed, standalone 8-port (with 1 Gigabit uplink) unit designed for branch offices or hotspots.

Each switch will work with $795 Aruba 50 Access Points, dual-band 802.11a/b units that run off PoE back to the switch. An 802.11b only version will cost around $400. The units provide wireless connectivity for end users, but also monitor the air for rogue and intrusion detection and prevention.

Unlike companies like Trapeze Networks and Chantry Networks, Aruba is not putting the encryption security on the access point, but is leaving it on the switch.

"As encryption standards change, you don't have to change anything on the access point," says Melkote. Since it has no local configuration at all, he says if it got stolen, the person taking it doesn't get anything but an inert box -- the items most prone to change, such as the Media Access Control and Internet Protocol (IP) layer , are centralized on the switch. "We have a high speed programmable engine that can be upgraded over time."

Eventually, Aruba hopes to license out its access point software for use by other companies in their products.

Software is a key part of Aruba's line. The AirOS suite of software for network administrators comes in three tiers: a base set with 802.1X security and functions for LANs such as using Spanning Tree; a security suite which includes VPN and firewall functions; and the full deployment suite which brings in the rogue access point protection, radio frequency (RF) visibility, and more.

Aruba hopes to see its switch solution used for public access hotspots in the future. Melkote says, "you could deploy our switch in the service provider NOC , and then connect to the switch over an IP network, the hotspot only needs a couple of access points for coverage."

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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