INTEROP - Vendors spotlight 11n WLANs for the enterprise

Enterprise access points based on IEEE 802.11n will offer 100Mbps to 200Mbps throughput

The ZoneFlex 7942 11n access point will be released in August or September. Initially, it will have one 2.4 GHz radio, that can support 11bg and 11n. Ruckus will eventually support a 5-GHz radio, for 11a and 11n. The Ruckus 11n radios will be able to switch between 11bg data traffic with clients, and 11n for a meshed wireless backhaul connection. A new mesh routing protocol will let the access points coordinate backhaul links to optimize throughput, according to Lo.

When any of these access points are powered up, they automatically search for ZoneDirector controller. Ruckus has created a set of Web-based wizard programs that let any computer user click on a few configurations to have the controller automatically apply the relevant WLAN and security settings to all attached access points. The process takes about five minutes, according to Lo.

Another new ZoneDirector program, called Dynamic PSK (for Pre-Shared Key), lets a first-time wireless user start the initial log-in via a Web screen. ZoneDirector downloads a unique encryption key with the wireless settings for that user's device. The key allows the user to connect securely to the wireless and remains in force until it's invalidated. An administrator can set a key expiration date for guests, for example, or delete keys through the controller if an employee leaves the company.

ZoneDirector has an internal authentication database but can also work with existing RADIUS or other authentication servers. It has a set of Web screens to show access point signal coverage and health, and a program to detect rouge access points.

The new ZoneFlex 2942 11g access point, and ZoneDirector will be available in June. The 2942 is priced at US$349. The controller comes in three models, for 6, 12, and 25 access points, at US$1,200, US$2,000 and US$3,500 respectively. The 7942 11n access point will be available in Q-3. The price has not been finalized.

Trapeze Networks is introducing its Mobility Ppoint(MP)-432 11n draft 2 access point. It, too, uses the Atheros dual-band MIMO chipset, in a 3x3 antenna configuration for each band. The two radios, one for 11bgn one for 11an, will be able to run at the same time. Two Gigabit Ethernet ports are the network uplinks.

"Our customers are not saying to us, 'we don't want to see your 11n products until the IEEE wraps a bow around the [11n] standard,'" says David Cohen, the company's director of product marketing.

When using the optional 40 MHz channels, which are double the typical WLAN channel, each radio will support a 300Mbps data rate, one in the 2.4-GHz band, and one in the 5-GHz band, or 600Mbps total for the access point. The TCP/IP throughput will be about 200Mbps per band, according to Cohen.

The new 432 models, modeled after a smoke detector, will work with the existing Trapeze controllers. As does Colubris, Trapeze can switch data traffic at the access points, instead of funneling all it back to the controller.

One unexpected issue facing enterprise users is that the 11n access points require more power to run than is supported by the existing Power-over-Ethernet 802.3AF standard, according to Cohen. To support most 11n access points, he says, users will have to upgrade their current 3AF infrastructure.

But Trapeze has designed the 432 so it can make use that infrastructure, though with some limitations. The internal electronics can take the existing power and use it to drive the full 300Mpbs data rate on one of the two radio bands. That may seem like half a loaf, but "that's better than just not working," says Cohen.

Another option possible with the 432 is to draw a second PoE 3AF line through one of the access point's two gigabit Ethernet ports. This second power connection would be enough to make the 432 run at full-bore 11n on both bands, according to Cohen. The 432 is designed to work unchanged with higher-powered PoE injectors, he says.

Trapeze will start beta testing of the MP-432 soon, with shipment due near year-end. Pricing is not final. The current 802.11abg access point is US$595. Cohen would only say the 11n product will be "less than US$1,500." "It's certainly a premium, but I think it's warranted when you're going from 54Mbps to 600Mbps," he says.

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