Proxim brings on wireless switch substitute

Proxim Corp. has started selling a software suite to knit access points together and contend with purpose-built wireless switches from other vendors. The suite is made up of a range of software from third parties.

The wireless network company also launched a new enterprise access point which includes Atheros Communications Inc.’s super mode and a new version of its access point software which allows existing access points to operate faster and more securely.

“Essentially this is a substitute for wireless switches,” said Ben Gibson, vice president of marketing at Proxim. “These features are talked about as needing a wireless switch architecture, but we don’t feel that deploying new hardware is the most optimal or market viable way to meet these needs.” The software is run on a dedicated server, he said. Unkind observers might wonder if the third-party software option was necessitated by the company’s recent big cash settlement with rival Symbol Technologies Inc.

The Orinoco Smart Wireless Suite includes Mobile Manager and Avalanche from Wavelink, which manage wireless access points and distribute software to them, as well as the Ekahau site survey software. The suite handles RF management, so access points can select Wi-Fi channels to operate on, and handle rogue detection and wireless intrusion detection.

Proxim, of course, does have a switch system in its portfolio, developed with Avaya Inc. and Motorola Inc., and aimed at the voice on Wi-Fi market: “We are neutral,” said Gibson. “There are different customers with different preferences, but the majority deploys wireless LANs with functions in the access point.”

The new access point, the AP-700, is up to snuff on security (WPA2) and quality of service (complying with the draft IEEE 802.11e spec). It also operates faster by using the Super mode of the Atheros chipset in Proxim APs, to give a real throughput of 30Mbit/s. It supports 802.11 a b and g , and as a security measure also scans both 2.4 GHz and 5GHz for wireless activity.

The single-radio access point can’t scan and handle data simultaneously, so scans cause an occasional one second delay in transmission, admitted Gibson, but the AP can be configured so this causes the minimum of trouble, he said: “The network manager can configure an acceptable frequency of polling.”

Although it has been argued that a site survey is an unnecessary expense, out of proportion with the cost of cheap access points, Gibson says the site survey software deal has been demanded by Proxim’s channels. “Many VARs see this as a value-added service,” he said. “Site surveying isn’t necessary for every customer, but we wanted to offer what we felt was a best-in-class product.”

The switchless approach is not necessarily a low-end phenomenon, he said: “I don’t believe large scale enterprises have moved towards wireless aware switches: leading vendors like Cisco and Proxim, have put more functionality and intelligence in the access point.” T

he software suite is available as separate components, with Mobile Manager costing

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