Symbol Offers Bigger Switch

By Eric Griffith

February 08, 2005

Symbol's new centralized wireless LAN controller adds capacity and new features, including virtual APs, but keeps full backwards compatibility.

Want a bigger WLAN? Symbol's new switch is all about being bigger.

Symbol Technologies started the WLAN switch craze three years ago, and is still the most successful at it compared to the startups that followed (some of which died, while others are being swallowed up). But the company hasn't wavered much in its position—fully centralized control with all the intelligence of the WLAN network at the switch, controlling thin or dumb "access ports" at the edge. Its latest switch announcement, the Symbol WS5100, doesn't change that. It only makes it bigger.

"We've stayed with the central switch model, unlike Airespace where they have more processing power at the edge than before," says Graham Melville, director of product marketing at Symbol. Airespace is in the process of being bought out by Symbol's (and everyone's) arch rival in the wireless enterprise networking space, Cisco Systems , for $450 million.

The company is calling the WS5100 "high-capacity" for enterprise or large campus settings. It's fully compatible with the original 5000 unit (originally called Mobius Axon), but has ten times more throughput capacity and 60 percent more coverage. It can handle support of 48 access ports (compared to only 30 on the 5000), and it works with all of the access ports Symbol has: the original 802.11b-based AP100, the dual-band 11a/b AP200, and the faster 11a/g AP300.

Because the Symbol products have centralized management, Melville says upgrades through software to support new technologies like Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and the 802.11i/WPA2 security specification are easy. One new item in the 5100 will be support for virtual APs, a multiple BSSID VLAN, which will enable what amounts to multiple wireless networks on a single infrastructure -- say, one SSID for voice, another for data, another for guest access, etc. Symbol is also the major seller in wireless VoIP, which Melville says is strongly supported by his company's switch line.

The WS5100 will sell for $2,179 with a base configuration of six ports. It won't replace the 5000; it just adds another SKU to the product family.

The company also offers a branch office switch, the WS2000, which sells for $1,099.



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