Extreme Unveils Wi-Fi Switch 'Little Brother'

By Ed Sutherland

October 19, 2004

Tailoring device size to capacity needs, the switch vendor offers its customers big cost savings—and also introduces software support for enterprise VoIP.

Noting the need for smaller Wi-Fi switches destined for remote and branch offices, Extreme Networks this week unveiled its Summit 300-24, "the little [24-port] brother to the 48-port version" of its Power-over-Ethernet wireless product.

Created "in direct response to customer demand," the new switch targets remote offices where the 48-port version can't be justified or in instances where versatility is important, such as enterprises' wiring closets, says Scott Lucas, Director of Product Management for Extreme Networks.

The ExtremeWare operating system is also receiving an upgrade to include support for Voice-over-WLAN applications.

Along with the software upgrade, the 24 port Summit 300 "is positioned to support the emerging Voice over Wireless LAN (VoWLAN) market with the SpectraLink Voice Priority (SVP) and the Inter-Access Point Protocol," according to a prepared statement.

The smaller number of ports is just the right size of small offices, according to Lucas.

"24 ports is the perfect size for wireless offices of five to 12 people," says the Extreme Networks executive. Also, Lucas says "it is difficult to justify a 48-port switch in smaller offices."

The Summit 300-24 PoE/WLAN switch is $3,495. The Summit 300-24 EW Advanced Edge upgrade is $995, according to the company.

Extreme has found that "remote offices are often the most mobile," says Lucas.

Along with providing small and medium size companies an alternative to the larger WLAN switches designed for larger enterprises, the new Extreme Networks product is in response to the growing use of voice over the Internet or network.

The Summit-300 "is a necessary component for supporting voice," says Lucas. Extreme points out the switch maker is "uniquely positioned because of our relationship with Avaya."

Avaya is a partner with Extreme Networks, using its switches in installations of VoIP in enterprises.

"It is of key importance that Extreme be able to support Avaya's wireless voice partner technologies (SpectraLink and Vocera)," says Joel Conover, analyst with Current Analysis.

Conover says support for voice could give Extreme the ability to compete effectively with Proxim, which also provides Avaya VoWLAN technology.

Extreme is in a position "where it can deliver an end-to-end WLAN solution that supports voice—eliminating Avaya's dependence on Proxim for WLAN," according to Conover.

"Business customers are increasingly looking at VoWLAN as an important piece of their voice infrastructure," says Sam Lucero, analyst with In-Stat/MDR.

Although the Summit 300-24 is what is termed an "edge switch" residing on the border of a company's network, wireless is becoming a core component of many firms, says the analyst.

"Medium and large enterprise customers are increasingly deploying WLAN as a central part of their network infrastructure," says Lucero. No longer are wireless networks limited to providing guest access or limited employee mobility.

Alabama's Brookwood Medical Center was a beta-test site for the 24 port Summit switch. Staff used wireless tablet PCs and laptops to access hospital data.

"We gain added flexibility from the compact device supporting a highly available wireless LAN which allows our personnel to carry tablet PCs or laptops with them and access transcription information from any area of the facility," said Shane Wade, Network Coordinator at Brookwood.

"I think the overall trends for adoption of switch technology that centralizes and simplifies management of business WLAN infrastructure—such as the Summit 300-24—are positive," says Lucero.

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