Aruba Advances Instant Enterprise WLAN

By Sean Michael Kerner

November 14, 2011

Aruba virtualizes controller into the access point to power an instant WLAN deployment.

Big enterprises typically deploy Wireless LAN (WLAN) with Access Points (APs) managed by a central controller. But not everyone needs the power and complexity of a controller-based WLAN, which is why Aruba Networks (NASDAQ:ARUN) has its Aruba Instant portfolio of products.

Aruba Instant is a controller-less architecture for WLAN, enabling enterprises both large and small to more rapidly deploy wireless networks. The system includes a virtual controller embedded into the access point, providing administrators with some of the same features that are available on physical hardware controllers.

"The virtual controller has features such as RF management, role-based access and all the intelligence that we have in the air," Salah Nassar, product manager for Aruba Instant told InternetNews.com.

Going beyond making the access point a "fat" access point, including controller technology, Nassar noted that Aruba has also removed the complexity that sits behind deploying WLAN.

"We've taken the cool nerd knobs -- that people who are well-versed in wireless technology are familiar with -- and we've automated them with Aruba Instant," Nassar said.

From a hardware perspective, Aruba is debuting a pair of new access points. The IAP-134 and IAP-135 APs both have 3x3 MIMO dual-band radios. On the software side there is a new version of the Linux-powered Aruba 6.1 operating system. Nassar explained that the new operating system release provides the IDS 2.0 security software. IDS 2.0 provides rogue access point containment capabilities.

Going a level deeper, Aruba Instant's operating system provides intelligence about what is going on in the air through a number of features. The system also has automated features for how it handles voice and video from both a prioritization and optimization perspective.

Mesh functionality is built-in to Aruba Instant enabling a deployment of multiple APs. Nassar explained that once powered up, the AP broadcasts an SSID, which the administrator then accesses to setup the WLAN. Once the first access point is setup, the process of setting up additional access points is simply a matter of powering up the new APs.

When the new APs come up they look for the first AP and pull the configuration information. When all the required APs are setup, the network can be locked down to prevent additional APs from joining.

"The beauty of the virtual controller is that it's a distributed architecture, meaning that the APs don't count on one access point as a master," Nassar said. "Each of the access points now has the configuration and they work in a distributed manner, so all the APs have the IP of the virtual controller."

That means when an administrator manages an Aruba Instant WLAN deployment, he or she needs to have only one IP to control the whole wireless network.

While the Aruba Instant virtual controller does not require a hardware controller, Nassar noted that there are still use cases where a hardware controller would be a preferred solution.

"Our hardware controller has the capability to do remote access points and VPN capabilities to other controllers, and it allows you to manage both the wired and wireless network," Nassar said. "Our controller is still a broader solution that controls the full access of a network."

In contrast, Nassar stressed that Aruba Instant is a WLAN solution. "Aruba Instant is a good fit for customers who don't require VPN and multi-site deployment," Nassar said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.



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