• United States
Director, Network World Test Alliance

Best Products: Wireless

Feb 27, 20064 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecurityNetwork Switches

Winning company: Aruba Networks

Winning product: A2400 and A800 switches and A61 access point

Our voice-over-wireless test conducted early last year showed that providing just a small amount of data traffic on the same wireless network as voice traffic could lead to seriously degraded audio quality and dropped calls, even with QoS features enabled. However, one set of wireless products proved capable of handling the mixed load: Aruba Wireless Networks’ A2400 and A800 switches and A61 access point. That is the reason we selected these products as the Best of the Tests winners in the Wireless category.

“While some products struggled mightily in our tests, Aruba’s A2400 and A800 switches and A61 access points were consistently strong performers,” wrote Network World Lab Alliance partner David Newman. “The Aruba products posted generally excellent numbers, regardless of how much voice or data traffic was thrown at them.”

Since our test, Aruba has made many enhancements to its VoWi-Fi feature set. In particular, Aruba introduced its Mobile Edge architecture, which creates an intelligent overlay system that spans a company’s LAN and WAN as well as the Internet. Users plugging an Aruba access point into any Internet connection can then use a mobile VoIP handset to connect to corporate voice resources securely. Other enhanced VoWi-Fi features include: voice flow classification (packet inspection and classification for advanced VoWi-Fi); advanced call admission control (monitors a call’s state and load balances voice-capable devices for network availability and performance assurance); QoS policing (raises or lowers priority based on user’s role and traffic type); voice-aware scanning (inhibits an access point from scanning other channels during active voice calls); and voice client security (allows access for less-secure voice devices without compromising overall wireless LAN [WLAN] security).

Wireless finalists  

In a major win, Microsoft selected Aruba gear for what’s being called the world’s largest next-generation WLAN. The WLAN will serve more than 25,000 simultaneous users who work in 277 buildings in 60 countries, Aruba says. The project – which uses Aruba’s mobility controllers, software and about 5,000 ultra-thin Aruba access points – gives Microsoft a single voice and data network.

Other deployments for Aruba include Dartmouth College, Medstar and University College London Hospital.

In addition, Aruba joined the MobileIGNITE Program for Mobile VoIP Interoperability, obtained SpectraLink Voice Interoperability for Enterprise Wireless certification and completed interoperability and compatibility validation with Vocera’s line of voice communication badges.

FUTURE TESTS: With all the advances being made in the VoWi-Fi arena, we anticipate another test with that focus this year. We also will continue to monitor wireless scanners and other tools that help enterprises support wireless networks. Advances in wide-area wireless technologies and support for mobile devices continue to intrigue us as well. Do the networks vary in download and upload speeds depending on device and what city you’re in? Stay tuned

PRODUCT MASTERMIND: director of technology

Pradeep Iyer,

Job duties: Creates and develops product feature sets.

Favorite feature: “Voice flow classification. As mobile devices evolve toward smartphones and PDAs, it’s critical to prioritize voice flows over data flows originating from the same device. The Aruba mobility controllers [can do so with algorithms that perform] stateful packet inspection and reserve bandwidth for these flows.”

USER TAKE: COO, Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass.

Brad Noblet,

Deployment: Noblet joined Harvard in January to build a converged wireless network for FAS’ 30,000 users. Based on the experience he gained building a similar, smaller network (800 users) at Dartmouth College over the last several years, he intends to use Aruba wireless switches and access points. He already has a few such switches at FAS. Favorite features: “The first is the ability to load balance traffic and the second is the ability to increase the density of access points” because of the intelligence provided with the switches.

Business benefits: “From the user perspective, the ability to provide ubiquitous communications across the campus, with a similar experience between wired and wireless. Whatever they want to do — watch TV, talk on the phone, [instant message] — they can. . . . And, with convergence over a wireless network, I can save a ton of money” in staffing and technology costs.

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