Extreme switch to hook up IP phones

Extreme Networks Inc. recently launched a LAN edge switch designed to simplify deployments of wireless LAN access points and IP phones, using an emerging standard protocol for device discovery.

Extreme’s Summit 400-24 combines features such as centralized WLAN switch management and configuration, and Power over Ethernet (POE) and 802.1X technology to help streamline the deployment of secure WLAN and VoIP networks.

The switch also uses the emerging Link Layer Discovery Protocol (802.1AB), which can let the switch discover and configure endpoints such as IP (Internet protocol) phones and Wi-Fi access points on the fly.

Music instrument retailer Guitar Center is in the middle of a corporate-wide deployment of Extreme’s previously released 48-port version of the Summit 400.

The switches will support Extreme WLAN access points the company is putting into its stores, around two per store in 150 locations nationwide. “We depend a lot on wireless for inventory control,” said Robert Hill, IS director for Guitar Center.

He says the store uses bar-code reading guns from Symbol Technologies, which let data be uploaded to a central database via Wi-Fi.

The benefit of the Summit 400 series is its use of thin access points, Hill says. “This is where the industry is moving towards. I like the idea of having thin and switches all rolled up into a centrally managed console.” This lets IS staff distribute wireless and LAN security rules from its Thousand Oaks, Calif., headquarters without having to touch hardware in the stores.

Summit 400-24 key features:

  • centralized WLAN switch management and configuration
  • Power over Ethernet (POE)
  • 24 triple-speed Ethernet ports
  • Four Gigabit uplinks (fibre or copper)
  • 20Gbps of bandwidth between switches
  • 802.1X authentication for greater security for wired or wireless end users

In the near future, Hill says, Guitar Center also might move its network of 3Com Corp.’s NBX IP PBXs — which support voice for all stores — onto the Extreme Summit 400 switches. However, those systems now run on recently bought 3Com SuperStacks, which are “working fine,” he says.

The Summit 400-24 has 24 triple-speed Ethernet ports and four Gigabit uplinks (fibre or copper). Stacking ports on the back of the switch lets boxes be daisy-chained in a stack, with 20Gbps of bandwidth between switches. The switch supports 802.1X authentication, which forces end users to authenticate at the port level. This provides greater security for wired or wireless end users.

The Summit 400 also provides WLAN switching capabilities, such as support for thin access points, centralized access point management and fast-handoff support for roaming between access points on different subnets.

New to the Summit 400 box is the recently ratified IEEE 802.1AB standard. This technology is similar to Cisco Systems Inc.’s Discovery Protocol, widely used on all-Cisco-based LANs, where switches, routers and IP phones can discover each other over Ethernet.

Gear supporting the 802.1AB standard will be able to store this data, as well. This lets a switch or other piece of equipment be “aware” of its neighbour. Having gear that learns such information as QOS parameters, PoE power settings and other configuration data from other gear could help reduce the amount of footwork required for large IP telephony rollouts.

Extreme plans to roll out support for 802.1AB for the rest of its switch line in the spring. Extreme says that its IP telephony partner Avaya will introduce 802.1AB support on its IP phones, IP PBXs and gateways later this year.

The Summit 400 competes with switches that combine wired and WLAN switching capabilities, including gear from Airespace (now Cisco), Aruba Networks, Foundry and Trapeze.

It costs US$4,500.

Related articles:

Bank of Montreal joins the IP conga line

A bright future for IP telephony

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