Better Ways to Make a Mesh

By Eric Griffith

November 08, 2004

Two mesh makers have updates out today, one adding non-interfering 5GHz for backhaul, and the other with firmware that includes better video/audio trafficking and multiple virtual access points.

Self-configuring mesh networks may seem like the hot new thing in some areas, but the companies making the equipment behind mesh have been around long enough to be at the 2.0 stage of development. Two such vendors, Strix Systems and FireTide, have announcements about their latest versions today.

FireTide has introduced two new hardware products to create the HotPoint 1500 Wireless Router series for use both indoors and out. Unlike previous HotPoints, which used 2.4GHz 802.11b to create a mesh backhaul (and connected to a third-party access point to make the client connection), the 1500s will use 5GHz 802.11a.

Sunil Dhar, director of product management at FireTide, says the move is a response to customer requests after some found "spectral noise" and interference to be an issue with the original HotPoint 1000s. However, he says the 1500 isn't always the perfect solution and thus won't replace the 1000s. "There are design issues and trade-offs the customer has to make in deciding which family to use," Dhar says. "That's something we work with the costumer on."

The outdoor unit has a range of up to two miles, and works with PoE to get power to the NEMA enclosed unit. The indoor unit features up to three Ethernet ports and uses 200mW of power to get extended range -- which, the company says, is up 300 meters.

The 1500s will also get a new ability to monitor radio frequency information like signal and power levels, something the 802.11b-based originals can't.

The outdoor unit price is the same for both the 1500 and the 1000: $1,999. The indoor 1500 hardware will be slightly more than the 1000, at $899. The hardware should ship by the end of November.

Strix Systems doesn't have new hardware -- though swapping new products into its modular design, where different modules handle different indoor jobs such as backhaul or client connection, would be simple enough. Strix, instead, has simply upgraded its Access/One network software to version 2.0 and added new capabilities for security, quality of service (QoS), and management.

VirtualStrix is what the company calls its support for multiple SSIDs from a single unit. While others support such virtual APs, Strix's Doug Huemme says VirtualStrix stands out by giving each virtual AP its own media access control (MAC) address. Some systems, he says, track things back to the MAC and can see that there's only one actual wireless system, whereas Strix can look like as many as 16 wireless networks from one node. Since each node literally has 16 MAC addresses available, that number can go up as needed.

"This implementation was done with carriers in mind," says Huemme, "but it can be used in various deployments."

Strix has supported voice prioritization through Spectralink's SVP protocol in the past, but now is building in its own QoS for video and audio. Called Priority/One, the QoS can be defined by the network administrator, giving higher capacity to voice traffic over video, for example.

In security, the company has new privacy features to keep wireless users from stumbling across each other when connected to the main network, and has improved scanning across all RF spectrum to seek out rogues.

Access/One 2.0 is a free upgrade for all Strix hardware owners, and is available now.



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