• United States

Are self-managing WLANs coming?

Jun 25, 20032 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecurityWi-Fi

* Approaches to easing WLAN configuration

Buried in the laundry list of wireless LAN management players and capabilities in the last newsletter, I mentioned an emerging capability that could eventually eliminate the site-survey process altogether.

First, by way of background, a number of companies have been working to take the time, drudgery and cost out of manual site surveys – the process for determining where to place your access points (AP) for optimal capacity and coverage.  For example, AP/WLAN switch start-ups such as Aruba Networks and Trapeze Networks, as well as established specialist Wireless Valley, enable you to import a floor plan of a location and use a simulator to electronically configure your site.

Traditional players, too, are starting to support these capabilities. Cisco, for one, says it plans to offer site-survey tools in the fourth quarter.

All this is well and good. However, a little piece of code from a company called Propagate Networks could make the site-survey issue moot. The company makes a software control system that, when embedded in APs, clients, and chips, reportedly enables an 802.11 network to basically manage itself, explains Paul Callahan, vice president of marketing and business development at Propagate Networks.

Propagate calls its AutoCell technology a “channel management solution” in that it enables a network of 802.11a/b/g devices to self-configure and dynamically adjust to network conditions. By enabling devices to become self-adjusting to their wireless environment, the code should theoretically make the need for site surveys go away.

“For example, an AutoCell-capable device would likely shift to another channel and power down in the face of a blasting, older AP [transmitting at full power],” Callahan explains.

WLAN chipmaker Atheros and WLAN system maker NetGear have committed to adopting the technology. NetGear’s reported interest is in finding an inexpensive way to move up-market into the enterprise-class 802.11 system space.

Callahan says he expects AutoCell to start showing up in commercial WLAN products this fall.