Airespace Announces Appliance

By Eric Griffith

June 23, 2003

After only a few months on the market, Airespace adds to its wireless switching portfolio, offering an appliance for companies looking to control the wireless side while not disturbing the Ethernet-wired backbone already deployed.

Airespace, formerly Blackstorm Networks, headquartered in San Jose, Calif., was among the early startups to announce a wireless switch platform this year. The company's architecture includes the Airespace 1200 "lite" access points, coupled with Airespace 4000 Wireless Switch and a control system interface for administrators.

Jeff Aaron, the company's senior manager of product marketing, says the original solution was "great for those without an existing wired or wireless structure." But now the company is introducing the concept of an appliance to its product line because most companies "have an existing Ethernet backbone," says Aaron. "They need a new platform to take all the software for operational issues in their current environment.

The Airespace 4100 WLAN Appliance -- on display this week at the 802.11 Planet Conference & Expo in Boston, Mass. -- will connect to an existing Ethernet switch, creating a radio frequency (RF) overlay network on top of the Ethernet network. It will contain the same intelligent RF software as the original 4000 Wireless Switch.

"One of the key benefits that what's always been on the 4000 switch is with the 4100 appliance," says Aaron. "The hardware is just the bread to deliver the meat."

Switches, as defined by companies like Airespace (along with Chantry Networks and Trapeze Networks, among others) is that access points plug into the switch, which holds all the intelligence for controlling the wireless side of the network. However, the switch in this case is redundant with whatever a company might already have for the Ethernet-side of the network. The appliance will plug into the existing switch instead of replace it.

The 4100 appliance with run the AireWave Director software, which provides the intelligence, such as detecting channel interference, down access points, controls signal power, all in real time over the RF environment. The 4100 will work with the Airespace 1200 Access Points, as well as third party access points that support the Lightweight Access Point Protocol (LWAPP), a protocol still in draft status with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) that will define how switches and router control access points. The protocol is backed by Airespace, Cisco, and NTT Docomo. The latter company's United States arm, Docomo USA, is already using the Airespace 4100 at one of its research and development locations.

In fact, Aaron says the appliance is being release due to direct customer feedback Airespace received. Another of those customers, Frostburg State University (FSU) in the University System Maryland, has already installed the appliance to run on top of its existing Ethernet backbone.

"The messaging we're positioning at the [802.11 Planet] show is that customer feedback says 'it's about the software, not always about the switching,'" says Aaron. "An appliance is needed for those already with an Ethernet backbone."

802.11 Planet Conference Not sure what really constitutes a wireless switch? Join us this week at the 802.11 Planet Conference & Expo, June 25 - 27, 2003 at the World Trade Center Boston in Boston, MA. Various companies will including Trapeze, Vivato, Symbol will arge that point in a panel called New Architectures: Switched WLANs.



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