Trapeze grabs Wi-Fi market with both hands

Trapeze Networks Inc. has launched a major upgrade to its Wireless LAN mobility system and defended its prospects after recent tough times.

The new products include a low-end and a high-end switch, version 2.0 of its Mobility System software and version 2.0 of the Ringmaster planning software, which includes RF modeling in 3D. Recent shake-ups — losing a third of its staff and its launch CEO — are a routine part of a start-up’s life, says new CEO Jim Vogt.

“All the founders are still in place and we needed a change on the sales side as the market moved from an education phase, to serious use.”

Trapeze launched in Europe before other Wi-Fi switch vendors — and, arguably, before the market — but Vogt denied that this had been a problem. “Europe turned out to be a good idea,” he said. “Enterprises are adopting wireless sooner over here. In the early stages, fifty per cent of our revenue has come from Europe.”

“With a six-month lead, we hooked up great channel partners,” added marketing director Michelle Rae McLean. “You have to go through the channel in Europe.” One partner, Telindus (Group) has drummed up business including ITN, Tameside council in Manchester and Manchester Airport. “They’re doing a bang-up job,” said McLean.

The eight-port MX8 switch addresses criticism of Trapeze’s existing MX20 switch: that not everyone needs a 20 port Wi-Fi switch. It is suitable for remote offices — a key arena at the moment where rivals Symboland and others have launched branch-office products. At the high end, the MX 400, connects to the network over four Gigabit Ethernet ports and makes use of Trapeze’s recently acquired ability to control access points remotely across the network to manage up to 400 access points.

The new software works with any shape of network, and a mixture of Trapeze’s own access points and third-party products, although the company still believes its own architecture is best. “We’re still the only vendor with two powered Ethernet connections on an access point, so you can dual home them to two switches,” said McLean. For security, the Trapeze access points are designed not to work unless connected to the system and to hold no data about network configuration.

The 3D feature of Ringmaster allows the design program to take into account the effect of radios from the floors above and below, although it will only be as good as the data put in for the RF characteristics of the floor, admitted Vogt. “Your site tool is only as good as your data,” he said. He echoed Extreme Networks Inc.’s take that the site tool will be crucial to the use of 802.11a, pointing out that Ringmaster allows one site survey to handle both the 802.11b network and the 802.11a upgrade.

Many of these networks will be used for voice, said Vogt and McLean, claiming a 14 millisecond (ms) roaming time between access points. Though McLean conceded that such figures are hard to compare without hard definitions and tests, she said the 14ms would be the gap a user would see in a running application. “And this is real roaming,” she added. “Companies like Vernier Networks Inc. and Bluesocket Inc. solve the roaming problem by putting everyone on the same subnet, so you never actually roam.”

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