Meru's Education Program Takes Flight

By Eric Griffith

June 22, 2004

The WLAN switch vendor is offering packages for colleges and universities looking to try out wireless sooner rather than later.

The State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook on Long Island put a Meru Networks system to the test earlier this month, as part of the school's Conference on Instructional Technologies (CIT) 2004. The conference had more than 100 simultaneous wireless users in a single area, all supported by Meru equipment deployed in less than a day. That was proof enough for Stony Brook. The school now plans to expand its Meru-based wireless LAN from a single building to the entire 1,100 acre campus serving 22,000 students and 13,000 staff and faculty.

This announcement of this big customer win coincides with Meru's official unveiling of its FirstFlight Program for educational institutions. The company will make available to schools a limited amount of equipment -- basically a central controller, embedded software suite, and a number of access points that could vary by institution -- which the institution can try out before making a final commitment to purchasing.

"This is getting our unique value proposition to [schools]," says Joel Vincent, senior product marketing manager at Meru. "Easy deployment, scalability, and handling everything from classrooms to convention areas."

Meru's equipment supports virtual access points (VAP), the ability to offer multiple service set identifiers (SSID) via one access point, providing up to 64 virtual WLANs simultaneously, but with only one set of infrastructure equipment. The company is also making noise about its Layer 3 hand-off ability, which it says delivers seamless roaming because users aren't required to re-authenticate when moving.

"The APs are across various subnets on a campus," says Vincent, "they may not be attached to the same subnet, but work with the controller to make an overlay network. As clients go from AP to AP, each on a different subnet, the client moves across without a problem."

Since its launch, Meru has touted its ability to handle more than the average number of users per access point, abilities with voice over WLAN, and the zero hand-off ability. Reiterating the latter now is a response to competitors like Chantry Networks, which says its own Layer 3 routing abilities and virtual APs also provide seamless movement from AP to AP for VoWLAN handset users.

Meru's system has been deployed already at schools like the University of the Pacific and College of New Jersey.

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