Trapeze To Manage Cisco APs

By Eric Griffith

April 18, 2005

Certain Aironet access points from Cisco can now be used with a Trapeze switch, in a move using open standards that probably won't make Cisco very happy.

Last month, Trapeze Networks announced its Open Access Point Initiative (OAPI) that would let any vendor turn their access point into a "thin AP" that could be controlled by the Trapeze switch architecture. Despite a big-name company that is doing so (D-Link), it's probably fair to say that no one expected this to happen with products from Cisco Systems .

Cisco, after all, just absorbed Airespace, a competing wireless LAN switching startup.

But as of today, Trapeze does. The company's Mobility System Software will control Aironets in the 350, 1100 and 1200 series. All the end user has to do is run a simple command on the APs to make them part of a Trapeze Mobility Domain. The Aironets can be linked to the Mobility Exchange switch either physically or logically -- either way works.

Trapeze is up front in saying it did not work cooperatively with Cisco to deliver this, like it has been doing with D-Link. In fact, no changes are made at all to the Cisco IOS software on the Aironet products. It's more of a routing trick. "Rather than send the RADIUS client to the Cisco ACS server, it goes to our MX Switch," says Bruce Van Nice, vice president of worldwide marketing at Trapeze. "We can then provision resources in our switch like it was a Trapeze [thin] AP."

In setting things up this way, Trapeze doesn't require any changes to the Aironet APs, and doesn't require any proprietary software.

"RADIUS is a standard; request and response are standardized," says Van Nice. "We're not violating any intellectual properties. We're telling the Cisco AP to use the Trapeze switches as a RADIUS server." They can then proxy to the enterprise's actual RADIUS server for authentication. "Systematically, it's the same," he says.

This solution targets customers who might be interested in a switch, but already have an existing infrastructure of Cisco APs. They can be used alone or in combination with the Trapeze Mobility Point thin APs.

Cisco didn't respond at press time to questions about its position on what Trapeze is doing. If the company wants to put a stop to it, Van Nice says, any approach would likely put the onus on customers for implementation, such as a firmware upgrade. "They're going to have to do configuration changes to prevent this," he says. "Since it's not proprietary, they have limited wiggle room."

Trapeze is also providing its switch to 3Com and Nortel as OEMs—they are rebranding and reselling Trapeze switches as their own. As such, they will also inherit this ability to work with the Cisco APs. It will be part of the overall Trapeze Mobility system, which will get a free upgrade in May, including better integration of these third-party APs with Trapeze's RingMaster central control and site survey console.

If it works with Cisco's APs, what's to stop it from working with other non-partner third parties like Proxim, Symbol, and others? Nothing, says Van Nice. "With standards-based protocols, it's a minimum amount of work," he says.



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