Extending the AP Architecture

By Eric Griffith

January 20, 2004

Colubris says its new wireless Extension Architecture makes WLANs easier and cheaper than switches.

As the enterprises wireless LAN (WLAN) market continues to heat up in 2004, expect innovations from the crowd that hasn't gone the Wi-Fi switch route.

Case in point: Colubris Networks of Waltham, Mass. Known as a provider of WLAN equipment for businesses and hotspots, the company hopes to hold its position by introducing new products for both those markets and adding a new WLAN architecture it hopes will compete nicely with products from startup switch vendors including Aruba, Legra, and Trapeze, to name but a few.

The company's director of product marketing, Carl Blume, says the new Colubris Extension Architecture "leverages the intelligence of the access point, enforces strong security, provides plug-and-play operation, and coordinates radio frequency management."

This is in opposition to the "overlay architecture" he says is used by WLAN switches, which duplicates a lot of the existing infrastructure companies have, such as VLANs. This, he says, leads to increased costs and proprietary technology to manage.

A fascinating new technology they're introducing is called Virtual AP, which delivers multiple services from one piece of hardware. The unit can make the network think there are as many as 16 service set identifiers (SSIDs) available. By using VLAN tags, different users can be shunted to only the services they need (e.g., guests only get Internet access). Each SSID has its own MAC address and can be set to broadcast or not broadcast as needed.

This feature and others are now run by the company's new control console, managed by the new Colubris Networks Management System (CNMS). This software consolidates all the management of Colubris hardware across the network, and forces security policies upon the access points as well.

Blume says the company's new architecture can "give you a lot more scalability to leverage what the customer already has installed."

In case customers don't have anything installed, however, Colubris still has the goods to get them up and running. The latest hardware is fully dual-band, supporting 802.11a/b/g for full coverage -- or you can select which you want to use.

New products for hotspots include the CN3200 (a hotspot in a box with both access point and controller in one for $799) and CN320 ($499) for satellite locations.

For enterprises, Colubris offers the CN1250 ($899) and CN1220 ($649). They are identical except the 1250 includes an embedded virtual private network (VPN) server to let remote clients get access. Blume says it will work with as many as 12 different VPN software clients currently available.

All the products come plenum rated, use Power over Ethernet , and support Wi-Fi Protected Access, upgradeable to 802.11i security when it's finished.

Colubris will also continue to sell its previous products, some with prices reduced.

CNMS software uses a standard browser interface for access to a graphical user interface to monitor and analyze actions across the network. It works with HP OpenView as well. The starting price on CNMS is $3,500.

Colubris products are used by companies such as Juniper, Wayport, STSN, and the Connexion by Boeing service being installed in airplanes for in-flight Wi-Fi.

Originally published on .

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