Foundry switch software secures WLANs

Foundry Networks Inc. is adding features for its wireless LAN switch software that the company says will help customers make WLANs more secure and easier to manage while allowing for increased wireless client roaming.

New features on its access points let the boxes detect unauthorized WLAN users and equipment inside a firm. New software features for Foundry’s WLAN-enabled Ethernet switches include the ability to detect and configure Foundry IronPort 200 access points, and support for Layer 3 roaming.

Foundry offers a software upgrade that adds WLAN switch features to its FastIron Edge switch products, such as access point management and detection. The latest software upgrade lets Foundry’s FastIron Edge Switches detect when a Foundry-based access point is plugged into a port on the switch, and configure security and access settings without requiring an IT staff member to access the switch’s management console.

The upgrade also lets FastIron Edge switches support Layer 3 wireless roaming on WLAN clients. This lets WLAN users with laptops, PDAs or Wi-Fi-enabled IP phones roam among WLAN-enabled Foundry switches, and across switches that are on different subnets. Previous Foundry WLAN gear supported Layer 2 roaming among switches on the same LAN segment.

Upgrading LAN gear to handle WLAN switch functions is an easier way to deploy a secure wireless infrastructure than with other products that introduce WLAN appliances or separate switches, says Michael Hong, a Foundry product marketing manager.

Hong says Foundry’s approach also differs from Cisco Systems Inc.’s Structured Wireless-Aware Network blueprint because the Cisco architecture requires a Catalyst 6500 switch with a special blade to handle WLAN security and access point management.

A new software upgrade for Foundry’s access points adds radio frequency monitoring to IronPoint 200 devices. This allows an access point to be deployed as a dedicated monitoring node for unauthorized WLAN radio traffic. Instead of connecting users, the access points can be configured to “sniff” the air for WLAN frequencies and network IDs that are not allowed on the WLAN. This could include detecting unauthorized media access control addresses on WLAN clients that are not part of an organizations network, or finding rogue access points.

Configuring WLAN access policies associated with the monitoring feature is performed through Foundry’s IronView Network Manager software, which runs on a separate management PC.

Last August, Foundry launched its IronPort line of WLAN products, as well as software that adds WLAN switch capabilities to its FastIron Edge switch product line. The launch counters Extreme Networks’ foray into WLAN earlier in 2003, and an attempt to lure Foundry switch customers who were installing other vendor’s WLAN gear.

Foundry’s WLAN gear also competes with products from 3Com Corp., Cisco and Nortel Networks Ltd. as well as WLAN-focused vendors such as Aruba Wireless Networks Inc., AirFlow Networks Inc. and Trapeze Networks Inc.

The IronPoint 200 access point costs US$800. The IronView Network Manager software is available for US$10,000 for the Advanced Edition, which manages all Foundry devices, or US$2,000 for the version that only manages IronPoint devices. A WLAN FastIron Edge Switch software package costs US$4,000 for a 24-port FastIron Edge switch; US$6,000 for a 48-port switch; and US$10,500 for a 96-port switch. Users already running WLAN-enabled FastIron switches can add the new auto-configuration and Layer 3 roaming features with a US$1,000 upgrade kit.

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