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Microsoft embarks on internal wireless service initiative

Mar 24, 20042 mins
Cellular NetworksMicrosoftNetwork Security

* Security, performance boosts are on Microsoft's WLAN agenda

Wireless network engineer Don Berry, who oversees the Microsoft’s internal wireless strategy and implementation, has kicked off a Wireless Service Improvement Initiative.  He says his program will boost his company’s wireless infrastructure from the status of an “adjunct” network to a primary service with service-level agreements.

Among the components of the initiative:

* The company is rolling out a group policy that prevents users from changing certain configuration parameters on their PCs. Previously, users made changes that invalidated their client certificates, which they need to authenticate to the network, Berry says. “We were having half a million authentication failures per month,” Berry says.

* Microsoft recently purchased two Cisco Wireless LAN Solution Engines (WLSE). Cisco WLSE is a data center management appliance for mass configuration and control of a Cisco wireless AP infrastructure. The latest release of WLSE (Version 2.5) detects, locates and mitigates RF interference and unauthorized (rogue) access points.

However, Microsoft purchased the WLSE 2.5  – capable of controlling 2,500 APs – primarily as an efficient way to update the VxWorks operating system that runs in the Cisco 340 and 350 Series APs that comprise Microsoft’s four-year-old WLAN.  Microsoft needed to quickly update VxWorks globally to fix bugs that were degrading performance, Berry explains.

* For rogue AP detection, the software giant is poised to deploy Aruba Wireless Networks’ air monitors and RF Director software. To date, Microsoft has been using “sneakernet” for finding unauthorized APs, says Berry, who acknowledges, “We haven’t been doing a very good job.” To reduce interference, he has reserved one wireless channel for rogues “so they can interfere with each other all they want.”

* Microsoft is pushing out to its wireless clients a new wireless driver package for the Windows XP operating system. Among other improvements, the wireless update rollup package for XP primarily boosts performance as a client associates to an 802.11-based infrastructure.