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Network World - While it's usually desirable to have a completely homogeneous wireless LAN deployment, it is also perhaps unrealistic to assume this state of affairs can be maintained for an extended period of time. Advances in basic WLAN technologies often dictate going out to bid for an enterprise's second or third WLAN system, with no guarantee that the current vendor will once again prevail. Mergers and acquisitions can present network operations teams with facilities using yet another WLAN system. And an argument can be made that establishing a vendor-independent WLAN management framework from the beginning will ultimately reduce costs, lower training and other overhead expense, and provide a degree of administrative continuity.
But it's also fair to ask whether a single network management platform can address a multi-vendor scenario with sufficient features and flexibility to obviate the need for the vendor-specific management applications that today accompany all enterprise-class products (see story on WLAN management expectations).
To get a handle on this opportunity, we set up a small heterogeneous lab configuration and asked the only three vendor-independent WLAN management vendors – Adventnet, AirWave (recently purchased by Aruba Networks) and WaveLink – to participate. Only Aruba's AirWave division responded affirmatively, and submitted its AirWave Management Platform (AMP) release 6.0.9 software for testing. Adventnet did not respond to repeated requests, and Wavelink cited an upcoming software release that was outside of our timeframe for this project as its reason for not participating.
In plowing through the huge set of capabilities inherent in the product (plus a couple of optional features), we found that AMP is both easy to install and very good at monitoring WLAN equipment in a multi-vendor environment on an ongoing basis. They can easily serve as the primary management console once basic configuration of all functional WLAN units is performed. The current release of AMP essentially requires that access point and controllers be configured and operational before AMP's important capabilities can be used.
Our test configuration, while compact, allowed us to examine how well Airwave supports a multi-vendor environment. We used gear from AirWave's supported-products list. That gear included two HP ProCurve 530 APs, two Proxim 4000 APs, and an Aruba Networks MMC-3600 controller with two Aruba AP120s. We connected all units to an Ethernet switch, and used a notebook PC running a browser for our console.
We tested the appliance version of AMP, which comes packaged as a CentOS-based (Linux) dual-Xeon 1U server. We almost always recommend using a management appliance if one is available so as to minimize the opportunity for setup and configuration problems. We needed to download the latest version of the software for the appliance and burn a CD, but installation overall was no more complex than with a pure software product. Basic configuration of the management platform requires little more than setting an IP address and entering software license data; we were up and running in about 30 minutes from start of the installation.