Going with the AirFlow

By Eric Griffith

September 16, 2003

This new WLAN switch startup says that several patents it owns used in its new products erase the RF interference found between typical access points.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based WLAN infrastructure company AirFlow Networks this week announced its line of enterprise wireless products.

The line-up consists of the AirServer 500 ($7,500), a centralized wireless controller for the data center that connects to the existing network via Ethernet; the AirSwitch 1200 ($8,750), which is analogous to WLAN switches like those from Trapeze or Aruba (with the same features as AirServer, but adding 12 Ethernet ports providing 802.11af Power over Ethernet); and the AirHub 100 products (four for $1000) which provide the actual radio frequency (RF) interface.

According to Brian Jenkins, vice president of product marketing at AirFlow, what makes the products unique is that they "overcome the interference access points have when placed next to each other" even when they're all on the same channel.

Jenkins says the AirHubs provide redundancy instead of interference, so by placing them close to each other, the AirFlow solutions provides better coverage. Each 802.11b AirHub can do 11Mbps and only needs to be plugged into the central server/switch to be up and running.

"When you cover 'holes' in the network, you add capacity," says Jenkins. "Add four AirHubs and you add 44Mb capacity to the network overall."

This non-interference technology is enabled by treating the AirHubs as "plug-and-play packet antennas," for the AirServer or AirSwitch, which the company calls "scalable virtual access points."

The central products run WEP, WPA, and are ready for 802.11i when it becomes available. 802.1X authentication is supported, and the hardware inside is also accelerated for encrypting IPSec.

Each AirSwitch or AirServer can run 30 AirHubs with 50 users per AirHub -- that's 1500 users per system.

"We've heard from customers time and time again who got to a certain stage and see that putting in more access points was putting ripples in their network," says Jenkins. "By getting rid of RF expertise and channel management, we provide a solution that's plug-and-play. We want it to be as easy as Ethernet."

He says that the economic impact for an enterprise will seem minor in the purchase of equipment, but feels that savings will show up in the ongoing operational expenses for a company.

The units are meant for enterprises with an existing Ethernet infrastructure, which Jenkins estimates probably covers 98% of companies out there. He admits that for those just starting out or looking for a wireless-only infrastructure -- like those with Mesh backhaul provided by Strix or Tropos -- AirFlow might not be a fit.

But for a company that's already wired and looking to provide wireless, "We dramatically lower cost... in ongoing use," says Jenkins.

The AirFlow products are in production and shipping now.

Originally published on .

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