If you are a user of 3Com 8250 or 8270 "fat" Wi-Fi access points, you can look forward to getting centralized radio-frequency management capabilities, in, oh, maybe a year or so.Don't hold me to that time frame, but that's a reasonable guesstimate, given the sketchy details of 3Com's recently announced partnership with wireless LAN switch maker Trapeze Networks.3Com sells enterprise-class access points and client cards with a heavy emphasis on educational accounts. Though 3Com has kept a fairly low profile as a Wi-Fi products maker, it has been gaining steam over the past year and actually edged out Proxim for third-place enterprise-class access point market share last quarter, according to Synergy Research.3Com has now partnered with Trapeze in a product and technology relationship that starts with 3Com simply OEM-ing Trapeze Mobility Exchange switches and well-respected RingMaster management software under the 3Com brand.Then, 3Com plans to twiddle with the software to enable its own access points to be manageable by the Trapeze system, according to Brent Nixon, 3Com director of product management. He notes that some management of 3Com access points today is possible with 3Com Network Supervisor and Network Director products, but not on the RF side.Again, don't quote me, but the Trapeze technology could eventually get folded into 3Com's own LAN switches and routers, including the 3Com 6200 security switch. And 3Com's voice-over-IP technology and products could help Trapeze WLANs become more voice-capable. "We don't build handsets, PBXs or softswitches, but it's good to partner with someone who does," said Dan Simone, vice president of product management at Trapeze.You may have deduced that the vendors haven't committed to exactly what they are doing yet, other than that 3Com will resell Trapeze's stuff (good for Trapeze, which needs more feet on the street) and that Trapeze's technology will get integrated into 3Com gear. We know that 3Com wants a way for its existing access points to be managed centrally and for its customers to cut down on site survey time and the walk-around analysis and diagnostics required by traditional WLAN architectures.Trapeze and 3Com say they will also co-develop products, some of which will be announced later this year. Nixon said it is unclear yet what, if any, role Trapeze lightweight access points will play in the 3Com channel.The 3Com-Trapeze deal is another case of an enterprise vendor partnering with an innovative WLAN switch start-up to short-circuit the development process to gain access to the RF management tools that enterprises require for decent-sized wireless networks, observes Mike Disabato, a vice president at The Burton Group consultancy."If you have mediocre RF management, you'll always have a mediocre product," he says. Start-ups such as Trapeze and primary competitors Airespace and Aruba Wireless Networks have put significant development time and resources into this very aspect of Wi-Fi. Traditional networking staffs often lack RF expertise but purchase from more traditional vendors, such as 3Com.Similarly, Airespace has partnered with traditional enterprise vendors Alcatel and Nortel in straight OEM relationships, while Aruba has partnered with HP in not only a resale but also in a full professional services and support relationship. Aruba also has NCR has a channel partner.