Bluesocket to secure branch WLANs

Bluesocket Inc. next week is scheduled to uncrate a wireless gateway and a Web-based management application that lets network administrators remotely authenticate, secure and manage wireless LAN users in hundreds of branch offices.

The new gateway, the WG-400, works with any brand of WLAN access point and supports up to 50 users in a site. Users simply plug in the power cord, connect the access points and plug the gateway into the office WAN connection, such as a router or DSL modem. Then a network administrator at a corporate data center can configure the gateway, and set access and authentication policies, traffic priorities and bandwidth limitations.

The results, says one beta tester, is a highly reliable, simple-to-use security gateway that works with any mix of access points and clients. “I can plug this into any network and enhance it without having to buy all new access points and (WLAN) switches. I can just use what a customer already has,” says Ron Howell, senior architect with AT&T Corp.’s Managed Solutions Group, the network integrator for AT&T’s business clients.

Howell’s team has used a Bluesocket gateway for years. “I’ve yet to have one come back” because of a failure, he says. Bluesocket’s authentication has always been strong, according to Howell. Like the other models, the WG-400 supports a range of authentication methods (including media access control addresses, digital certificates, 802.1X/Wi-Fi Protected Access, RADIUS and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) and encryption schemes.

Support for virtual LANs and Bluesocket’s QoS features let Howell segment traffic, give priority to certain applications and regulate bandwidth use. The WG-400 has four 10/100 Ethernet ports for four directly attached access points. Or one port can connect to a local hub or switch into which can be plugged up to five additional access points. A fifth Ethernet port links the gateway to the office’s WAN connection. The gateway has a maximum throughput of 50M bit/sec for unencrypted traffic; that drops to 20M bit/sec when encrypted.

Bluesocket competes with similar gateway vendors such as Vernier and Fortress, and with WLAN switch vendors such as Airespace, Aruba Wireless Networks and Trapeze Networks. The latter group markets boxes to centralize WLAN management and security, but typically these devices are paired with companion thin access points from the same vendor.

The gateway costs US$2,250 and is scheduled to ship in mid-December. The new Blueview Management System, still in development, will be a software application pre-loaded on a rack-mounted, Linux-based server. The current management software in the gateways requires one device to be designated a master, which can oversee about 50 other gateways. Blueview is being designed to manage hundreds of gateways. The new software will be able to detect new gateways, create a system of alerts as it monitors them, and schedule provisioning jobs such as software updates or changes in security policies.

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