Aruba strikes down wired, wireless silos

Extends wireless services to wired Ethernet; slashes physical port requirements

Many IT departments would like to provision, secure and manage wired Ethernet and wireless LANs together as one big network.

After all, WLANs are no longer just small, add-on networks of casual convenience. In fact, WLANs are starting to surpass Ethernet as the default access network in many large enterprises.

IN DEPTH: Wi-Fi 802.11n: Still evolving

Can IT budgets continue to support service silos across the two environments? Aruba Networks thinks not. So it's putting its money where its mouth is by extending its wireless services, security and management tools to wired Ethernet environments -- a reversal from the unification steps taken to date by some wired Ethernet switch vendors to extend some of their tools wirelessly.

Amid several supporting product announcements, Aruba today rolled out a context-aware networking architecture it calls Mobile Virtual Enterprise (MOVE). The company says MOVE -- enabled largely by the company's new S3500 Mobility Access Switch running ArubaOS Mobility Services -- unites wired and wireless services and policy-setting measures by being able to fingerprint the type of device, mobile operating system and application a user is running.

That information combined with the user ID means that "you can plug any device into any port and you're going to get user, device application and location awareness" with the ability to set and enforce policies to match, says Scott Calzia, Aruba senior manager of marketing.

MOVE focuses on "bringing the same services to any access type, wired or wireless," he adds, while reducing the number of physical ports enterprises must nail up to each user.

The architecture also eliminates having to set up VLANs for every type of device that might come into the environment, notes Ben Gibson, Aruba chief marketing officer.

ATB Financial in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, for example, is testing the S3500 switch and intends to roll it out midsummer for possible use across 165 branch locations. Pat Wren, managing director of operations, says that by moving away from physical port-based configurations, "We save about $200,000 for every new branch from a cabling point of view."

ATB lights up two to four new branches a year, he says, and the plan is to eventually install Aruba's new unified wired/wireless switch instead of Cisco Integrated Services Routers (ISRs).

Rather than programming Cisco Ethernet switches and Aruba wireless controllers separately, ATB says it can program policies in Aruba mobility controllers in the data center. The Aruba switches "inherit" the policies and enforce them locally in the wiring closet.

"Now, we're not restricted by port allocation," Wren says. "We can identify devices at the control level with more specific information so we can control what that device can do with more granular security."

Aruba also announced "Aruba Instant," which allows highly distributed sites to virtualize controller capabilities and move them out to local APs for faster performance and protection against WAN failures. And the company also announced a pair of dual-band 802.11n APs supporting three spatial streams, the AP-134 (external antennas) and AP-135 (internal antennas).

It closely followed HP in upping the number of spatial streams generally supported from two to three, which brings basic data connect rates to 900Mbps per dual-radio AP.

HP, when it recently announced its faster APs, also said it had integrated wired and wireless functions in its HP Intelligent Management Center (IMC) Enterprise Edition and ProCurve Manager (PCM) for mid-tier companies.

To date, Enterasys has been perhaps the most advanced at wired-wireless integration, allowing administrators to use a common policy engine to create and enforce policies across both wired and wireless domains. Enterasys also announced last month that it has virtualized its management platform, offering cloud- or premises-based WLAN management similar to virtualized offerings from the likes of Aruba, Aerohive, Meraki, Bluesocket and others.

Learn more about this topic

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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