Legra Says Boring Switches Will Sell

By Eric Griffith

April 25, 2003

The latest startup in the WLAN switch market says the extras aren't what will make these architecture's successful -- they plan to get ahead by making the setup as close to a boring ol' wired LAN as possible.

Next week Legra Systems of Burlington, Mass. will be announcing their wireless switch platform, the latest in the glut of WLAN switches announced in the last few weeks from startups like Airespace and Trapeze Networks and established players like Extreme Networks and Nortel.

Legra isn't talking product specifics yet, but while giving a basic introduction to it's architecture, the company said it hopes to set itself apart by making WLAN switches "boring."

That's the word from Paul DeBeasi, Legra's vice president of marketing and product management. After doing market research with over 250 potential customers, they came to the conclusion that the WLAN switch "debate is around the wrong issues. Smart access points versus switches, aggregation versus switches, the frequency spectrum, the security issues -- based on our feedback, that's not what customers care about. Customers say 'WLANs should be boring.' Just like a wired network."

To answer that, Legra is building a traditional Layer 2/3 switch, with wireless controls built in. The switch will control Legra Radios, a series of light access points that the company calls "intelligent antennas."

The switch will run Legra's extensible Wireless Operating System (WOS). This Linux-based OS is embedded in the switch and will allow for fast upgrades to facets of WLANs that are changing rapidly, such as security standards. It can be controlled using the Legra Manager system or through a secure Web browser connection. They expect to be able to add third-party software functions to the switch, citing solutions from companies like Newbury Networks (location enabling) or Funk Software (802.1X authentication) as potential examples.

"Our architecture lets the customer leave their existing switches and radios with no changes," says DeBeasi. "We'll allow them to introduce our switches and radios anywhere on the network. Our radio can go to the switch, or their existing switch. It'll communicate with the existing switch. That degree of freedom means the existing network and its switches and radios, aren't impacted. When you introduce the Legra solution you can put them on any switch you want." The Legra switch uses a tech they call Radio Remote so it can sit anywhere on the IP network to control the "tens of radios and hundreds of users" per switch.

The company will include a "radio planning application," a site survey tool that will looks at the Legra Radios and other access points on the network, even interference sources, to provide an indication of where they should be placed.

The company is not worried about being another start-up in this realm -- their research claims that customers will buy from anyone providing what they want.

"Security and performance are the primary purchasing criteria for customers," says DeBeasi. "But when you strip away all the geek-speak, they're really looking for a solution that plugs in, is boring, and just works."

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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