Cisco wireless network exec sort of speaks out

Galloway coy about 802.11n, touts WLAN integration and VoIP progress

We reached out and touched Cisco's Brett Galloway on his cell phone this week while he was commuting to work. A founder of wireless LAN switch pioneer Airespace, he's now the vice president and general manager of Cisco's Wireless Networking Business Unit... considerably enriched as a result of Cisco's US$450 million acquisition of Airespace in 2005.

With about 20 minutes to spare, he talked, and didn't talk, about Cisco's wireless plans and priorities.

So, how about some hint, even in general terms, of your news scheduled for Interop Las Vegas [May 20-25]?

We don't pre-announce products. Watch this space.

Are you using any wireless technology right now?

I'm using Bluetooth on my cell phone [to connect to a headset].

Cisco promised to integrate wireless LAN with wired network infrastructure in the enterprise. Where are you with that?

The first phase was physical integration. We've taken the WLAN controller functions and put them in various form factors for convenient deployment: our appliances, but also a blade for the Catalyst 6500, a module for our Integrated Services Router and so on. That has been quite successful.

The Catalyst 6500 in particular is a nice form factor for very large-scale wireless deployments: you can put a lot of wireless LAN ports into that backplane.

That first phase was about physical integration. The second phase [starting in 2006]...is more about logical integration. It's in line with Cisco's strategy about the Services Oriented Network: to drive capabilities into the network that support and promote a richer set of capabilities for a broader set of business applications that are using the network.

The core [wireless] service today is laptop data access. We've optimized this application, making it easier to deploy, troubleshoot, manage and secure. On top of that we've identified what we call advanced mobility services: guest access, voice services, security, location services.

WLAN vendors have been talking about VOIP over WLAN as the next big thing for over two years. Where is it?

There are two models for wireless VOIP. First is our traditional market, with the 7920 series of WLAN phones. These are cordless IP phones, mainly in vertical applications [within the enterprise]. It's a good business: the uptake is strong and growing.

We've done a lot of work in wireless VOIP in terms of technology, for example, our Cisco Compatibility Extensions [CCX, which is code used by third-party chips and handheld devices to work smoothly with the Cisco WLAN infrastructure]. Our CCX Version 4 driver is about using pre-standard features or other technologies to make sure VOIP works.

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John Cox

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