Mobility Moves on WLANs

By Eric Griffith

May 22, 2007

Cisco, Aruba and others talk about how their users will get moving.

At Interop 2007 in Las Vegas, enterprise WLAN infrastructure companies are not standing still when it comes to mobility.

Aruba Networks will soon have new software for its Mobility Point APs called Mobile Access Point (MAP).  Vice president of marketing Mike Tennefoss says it “makes our Aruba AP into a remote AP, including a stateful firewall and NAT -- converting a 'thin' AP into a firewall with split tunneling, sending info to the center of the network, or printers, or wherever it is needed, without going to the Aruba controller. More than that, it creates a 'follow-me' security function, where users are recognized wherever they go, with the MAP firewall echoing policies of the controller.”

“The remote AP has a lot of the features of the controller built into it,” says Tennefoss. “Now I really can create a bubble around the user to protect them wherever they are going.”

Also new is HotelConnect, which registers with captive portals in hotels so traveling employees can still log in as if at the office, again using split tunneling so Internet traffic stays on the hotel network while corporate access traffic goes to the controller.

A Mobile Voice Continuity software module brings fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC) of VoWi-Fi and cellular to the enterprise, so dual-mode phones registered with the local SIP server and IP-PBX can roam back and forth from Wi-Fi to cellular and back as they come and go from the office. “It works on a cellular network, but that network doesn’t know -- this doesn’t require carrier participation,” says Tennefoss.

What he’s describing sounds like what Divitas Networks has been hoping to do for a while: providing F/MC services to enterprises that sidestep the cellular carriers (who control F/MC completely when it comes to things like UMA, the technology behind T-Mobile’s planned Hotspot@Home service for consumers). Divitas is demonstrating its “mobile-to-mobile convergence” solution at the show with another infrastructure company, Xirrus, at Interop.

Cisco unveiled a lot of new capabilities for its unified wireless networking product line, including a new wireless location solution, just one of a few things it uses to offer increased mobility for enterprise employees.

“Mobility can be thought of in many ways,” says Ben Gibson, director of mobility solutions marketing at Cisco. “We look at how you provide mobile access applications connecting people to people, and people to other things altogether.” He says mobility means more than just cell phones; it also includes technology like RFID.

For retailers, Cisco is providing In-Store Mobility Solutions for WLAN-based phones, provided in conjunction with CDW’s Berbee PushToTalk application on Cisco’s 7921G Wi-Fi phone. “It’s a ready-made solution to let sales associates have efficient push-to-talk communication,” says Gibson. Less for employees than customers, the In-Store Mobile Personal Shopper will put MediaCart video displays with wireless RFID sensors on shopping carts, bringing up on-screen specials customers can pursue as they peruse the aisles. 

“We’re launching a host of new mobility solutions, and wireless LAN is integral to them, but I want to say we’re seeing in the market that it’s not about deploying wireless for wireless' sake,” says Gibson. “It’s part of a broader solution solving business needs.” In a study the company conducted called Cisco Mobility Quotient, they found that 60% of businesses that responded still don’t have a long term mobile IT strategy ready. Only 65% have a WLAN at all; less than half use any kind of IP telephony.

NextHop Technologies today announced plans for integrating what it calls CompleteMobility into its software for OEMs making Wi-Fi infrastructure products. Among NextHop's customers are Nortel, 3Com, Enterasys and Juniper.

CompleteMobility will be a a software-only set of wireless controls sharing stateful information across controllers, so multiple controllers “behave as one,” according to Paul Ahrens, director of product marketing at NextHop. He says the software is the equivalent of “Aruba on a CD” that anyone could load on a Linux server to run the network.

“The concept people get fooled by is that with wireless LANs, it has to ride on a switch,” says Ahrens. With this software, he claims, “you only need memory on a host, and away you go.” 

CompleteMobility should be ready for NextHop customers by the end of July.

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