802.11n vendors strive for 802.11n migration

* Aruba Networks is latest to beef up WLAN gear

Perhaps the loudest buzz around 802.11 these days comes from vendors trying to prepare customers for the “all-wireless enterprise,” which they maintain will be made possible with high-speed 802.11n networks.

The latest to outline its 802.11n migration strategy is Aruba Networks. The company this week announced 802.11n access points  (AP) and controller modules that help companies scale existing environments up to 802.11n’s 100Mbps-and-up speeds.

Aruba competitors have criticized Aruba’s current data center-centric controller architecture, which they fingered as particularly bottleneck-prone because of all traffic traveling back to one spot. Aruba has always countered that additional controllers could be deployed in clusters or in a hierarchical fashion to alleviate congestion. The new Aruba system, to ship immediately, however, supports four concurrent forwarding architectures to allow a mix of distributed, centralized, split tunneling and mesh traffic-forwarding decisions based on application and traffic type.

Among the highlights of the system, which includes an 8021.11n-aware upgrade to the ArubaOS operating system and software-definable AP services:

* A Multiservice Mobility Module (M3) that plugs into the company’s existing MMC-5000 or MMC-6000 controllers or can be ordered as a stand-alone new controller. Backplane throughput scales to 80Gbps, and the system supports more than 32,000 users. The company is also shipping an 802.11n-aware controller for smaller enterprises that supports up to 2048 users and has an 8Gbps backplane.

* Dual-radio 802.11n APs that the company says use so little power they can support 3-by-3 dual radios using existing 802.3af power-over-Ethernet (PoE) connections. They reportedly support wireless access, intrusion detection, traffic analysis, enterprise mesh and remote AP applications.

In many newly emerging architectures, a question remains about how distributed forwarding - which uses AP-to-AP bridging to bypass a central controller to alleviate back-end bottlenecks and reduce latency - enforce security, which is often handled by a centralized Layer 3 firewall in a data center. Aruba has always offered a Layer 3 firewall in its APs, though, for distributed security.

In a similar vein, Motorola’s forthcoming 802.11n-capable gear is likely to include a Layer 3 stateful firewall in its 11n-aware APs, according to Sujai Hajela, VP and GM of Motorola’s Enterprise Mobility business. The products are due to ship in 2008. Since Motorola is currently suing Aruba for patent infringement, we might expect their distributed security solutions to look very similar to Aruba’s.

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