Bye-Bye Gateway, Hello Switch Ecosystem

By Eric Griffith

December 01, 2003

One of the tried and true security gateway vendors has seen the future of Wi-Fi, and decided that it means becoming a switch vendor, while still working with third-party access points.

SAN JOSE, CALIF. -- Long time wireless LAN security/mobility gateway vendor ReefEdge Networks of Fort Lee, N.J., today announced a major shift in company strategy. The company's vice president of strategy, Mark Juliano, put it best: "We are getting completely into the WLAN switching business."

The privately-owned company, bolstered by a new round of venture funding, is announcing a series of products under the umbrella of the ReefEdge WLAN EcoSystem. It will consist of boxes called ReefSwitches -- including a branch office and network operations center (NOC) unit -- which will run the company's Wireless Services Operating System (WiSe OS), plus a ReefAccess family of probes, client software, and hardware adapters for legacy equipment.

ReefEdge will be showcasing the WLAN EcoSystem this week at the Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expo in San Jose, Calif.

"Overall, we're targeting multi-site enterprises," says Juliano. "[That is] companies that are geographically distributed -- not just big campuses or buildings. Mobility here isn't just across subnets, it's across locations."

Building on their history in the secure/mobile gateway space for WLANs, the new ReefEdge switches will add several new features needed for multi-site management and facets considered necessary by today's WLAN switch standards: zero-configuration, intrusion detection, central configuration of access points, dynamic WLAN environment control, and, of course, a central management console.

A key feature for the ReefSwitches will be working with third-party access points. While the units will work with any SNMP capable access point "to different degrees" according to Juliano, the company has struck relationships with vendors Cisco (and by extension Linksys), Proxim, Symbol, and even Netgear (which only recently has begun to offer enterprise-class access points) to make sure that access points from those vendors work seamlessly with the WLAN EcoSystem.

"We can deal with 70 percent of the [current] market," Juliano says when the subject of third-party access points comes up.

The three ReefSwitches announced include the $1,390 ReefSwitch 25, which integrates the access point and radio frequency (RF) probe, and the ReefSwitch 300, which is the full-sized switch with 12 Ethernet ports that runs the entire multi-site enterprise from corporate headquarters by connecting to third-party access points; it's likely to be used in conjunction with existing wired systems. The ReefSwitch 300 starts at $12,900. Both can be centrally managed by the $9,900 ReefEdge 200A Appliance that sits in the NOC. It doesn't connect to the switches directly, but over a WAN.

Current ReefEdge gateway customers will be able to upgrade hardware to use the WiSe OS. Likewise, new customers can get the same security gateway functions in the ReefEdge EcoSystem products by buying the right software.

"We'll continue to support our gateways for some time, but starting next year, the switch family will be 90 percent of our sales," says Juliano. "Guys doing pure security will stay in gateways, but those going enterprise wide will be switch vendors."

Wi-Fi Planet Conference Take a look at the ReefEdge EcoSystem for yourself! Join us at the Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expo, December 2 - 5, 2003 at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, CA. The company is one of the hundred that will be on the expo show floor all from Wednesday to Friday this week.

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