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It's Interop time

Wireless developments abound

Wireless Alert By Joanie Wexler, Network World
May 15, 2009 12:13 PM ET
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Industry analysis by expert Joanie Wexler, plus links to the day's wireless news headlines

It's that time of year when the networking industry's juiciest announcements tend to get made. The likes of Aerohive, Aruba Networks, Cisco and Meraki will show off new wireless products and programs at this week's Interop show in Las Vegas.

Here's a peek at some of what's going on.

Wireless LAN start-up Aerohive, following in the footsteps of competitor Ruckus Wireless, is addressing the fact that the 802.1x authentication framework is complex to deploy and maintain. 802.11i Wi-Fi security standards require 802.1x-based authentication for enterprise-class security. The reason is that the alternative version, Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2)-Personal, has all users sharing a single key. This approach makes their sessions vulnerable to eavesdropping and requires that the key be changed each time an employee leaves the company.

Aerohive says its Private Pre-Shared Key (PSK) alternative, however, assigns each user his own private key. The idea is to deliver greater security than WPA2-Personal but without the complexity of 802.1x-based WPA2-Enterprise. Ditto for Ruckus Wireless' Dynamic PSK, which the company announced in September 2008 when it entered the enterprise Wi-Fi market. Both companies claim to have patents pending on the technology.

Meanwhile, Aruba has sort of boarded the branch-office-in-a-box bandwagon, offering a set of LAN extension products for very small offices. In the way that the company's existing Remote Access Point (RAP) has extended the corporate VPN and user access rights to users in hotels and home offices, the company's new RAP-2 and RAP-5 do the same thing but without requiring central IT to configure the devices first. More on this in another newsletter: Aruba claims to be rivaling the Cisco branch-office Integrated Services Router with its Virtual Branch Network products, except that there is no routing supported in the devices.

At least as interesting for smaller sites is a network-based WLAN controller service from Meraki aimed at businesses with 50 to 5,000 employees. When users plug in their licensed Meraki 802.11n access points, the access points connect to the "cloud controller" and self-configure. This new approach offloads the WLAN controller function from being housed on the enterprise premise and renders it a hosted service instead.

Cisco's mobile collaboration-oriented announcement will be coming out Tuesday, so more on that in Wednesday's newsletter.

Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.

Joanie Wexler is an independent networking technology writer/editor in Silicon Valley.

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