Aruba APs Making Mesh
May 07, 2007
A new software module means Aruba access points can extend a network without Ethernet backhaul.
The dirty secret of wireless networking is no secret to anyone: wireless requires a lot of wires. Enterprise Wi-Fi, for example, may mean seamless roaming, but each of those many access points (APs) has to connect back to a controller via a wire. Until now. Aruba Networks
is building mesh capabilities into its APs so they can extend a corporate or campus networks well beyond the length of the Ethernet cabling.
Our mesh leverages all the benefits of centralized management, policy enforcement and security, says Mike Tennefoss, head of strategic marketing at Aruba. Better yet, the mesh capability will be available for almost all of the Aruba APs (the exception being the early Aruba model 52, which dates back to 2003).
Tennefoss says an existing network installation using Aruba equipment can just drop in the APs as needed if a data cable isnt available. At least one AP will have to connect directly to the controller to act as the mesh clusters gateway.
Tennefoss is quick to point out that this is not a mesh suitable for metropolitan/municipal deployments. Arubas focus is on the enterprise, be it carpeted, warehouse, or a vertical like healthcare. "As a consequence, we have higher requirements," he says. "Theres no 50 hops for a signal on our network -- its typically six hops, maximum."
SEM is also designed to fully support Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards, the rules governing retailers' use of wireless to send credit card data. Unlike other systems with encryption keys distributed across all the APs, making the network vulnerable if just one AP is compromised, Tennefoss says, We do client-to-controller encryption: theres no keys in the APs themselves.
The SEM software is in beta now, with an expected release date in July. The upgrade wont be free -- its $795 per AP to turn it into a mesh point.
The key is, they dont need a separate mesh controller or hardware, says Tennefoss. Its all the same Aruba management tools theyre using. From a logistical and maintenance perspective, its as easy as you can get.