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Senior Editor

Cisco marries WLANs to the network core

May 06, 20043 mins
Cisco SystemsNetworking

Cisco unveiled the next key phase of its plan to add wireless LAN capabilities to its line of network switches and routers.

With the new products, say Cisco executives, users can deploy a Cisco WLAN without having to set up virtual LANs, or make any changes to their existing wired infrastructure.

The company announced Wednesday:

* The Wireless LAN Services Module, a blade that slots into the widely deployed Catalyst 6500 switch.

* An updated version of CiscoWorks Wireless LAN Solutions Engine, with improvements for managing radio frequency.

* Aironet 1300, an indoor-outdoor access point that can also run as a point-to-point WLAN bridge.

Aironet access points can tunnel to the new Catalyst blade using a software upgrade for the Multipoint GRE protocol. The access point will continue to handle client authorization, via 802.1x and username-passwords to create digital certificates, while blocking access to the tunnel until that process ends.

The new blade (see Cisco’s data sheet) handles a variety of the mobility functions needed by mobile clients connecting via a radio signal: tracking users, IP addressing, and Layer 3 fast roaming over subnets. Cisco says the module was designed to hand off a client session or voice-over-WLAN phone call between access points at under 50 milliseconds.

The new module also lets administrators create what Cisco calls “mobility groups” or classes of users with different network access privileges. A group called “guests” can have only Internet access during regular business offices while “employees” have round the clock access to the corporate intranet, for example.

But it’s the switch’s existing custom ASICs that handle all the WLAN data traffic. According to Cisco, a 6500 switch with just a single forwarding engine can handle 10 million packets a second.

If the 6500 is fitted with other modules, for VPN encryption, firewalls, access control lists, and intrusion detection, for example, these same services can be applied to WLAN clients.

The new Catalyst blade is licensed for up to 150 Aironet access points, and is priced at $18,000. Users can expand that to 300 access points with the Advanced Feature Set for Cisco’s IOS, for $8,000 if they don’t already have AFS. The 6500 must also have the Supervisor Engine 720 blade, which is $28,000. All prices are U.S. list prices.

The new 2.7 version of the Wireless LAN Solutions Engine (WLSE) can now disable the switch port used by any rogue access point or client that the software detects. Also, it can now run selected or dedicated Aironet access points as radio frequency scanners, which sift the airwaves to detect unauthorized users trying to connect to the WLAN.

For new customers, the WLSE server with version 2.7 software lists unchanged at $8,495, available now.

According to Cisco executives, the WLSE remains the principal product for managing a network of Aironet access points. The Catalyst WLAN blade supports lower-level capabilities such as the Layer 3 roaming.

The new Aironet 1300 is in a toughened case to stand up outdoors. In bridge mode, the 802.11g radio can reach four to 15 miles.

Available now, the Aironet 1300 lists at $1,299.

Senior Editor

I cover wireless networking and mobile computing, especially for the enterprise; topics include (and these are specific to wireless/mobile): security, network management, mobile device management, smartphones and tablets, mobile operating systems (iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry 10), BYOD (bring your own device), Wi-Fi and wireless LANs (WLANs), mobile carrier services for enterprise/business customers, mobile applications including software development and HTML 5, mobile browsers, etc; primary beat companies are Apple, Microsoft for Windows Phone and tablet/mobile Windows 8, and RIM. Preferred contact mode: email.

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