• United States

Will existing APs work with new switches?

Jul 21, 20032 mins
Network SecurityWi-Fi

Q: Can I use my existing access points with next-generation wireless switches and appliances?

Can I use my existing access points with next-generation wireless switches and appliances?

 – Stuart, Ithaca

This is a very popular question, given the fact that many companies have already made considerable investment in access points and do not want to throw them away when deploying a new WLAN infrastructure. Additionally, many IT managers prefer to have a variety of choices when choosing vendors without being locked down to a specific one. So what can be done?

Today, most existing wireless switches can use the SNMP to perform rudimentary management of third-party access points. This includes things like device configuration, alarm collection, and mobility management across multiple access points. Other vendors offer features such as transmit power control, load balancing, quality of service, security, dynamic channel assignment and other functions.

It is clear that a specific protocol is required to bring this functionality to multi-vendor environments, ensuring interoperability between different vendors’ WLAN equipment. At this point in time, the Lightweight Access Point Protocol (LWAPP) appears to be the best answer. Given some of the traction it has received recently, it looks promising that this will become the de facto standard moving forward.

The LWAPP specification works to address the issues associated with multi-vendor interoperability by defining the following types of activities, which must take place for an access point to communicate with a wireless switch or appliance:

  • Access point device discovery, information exchange, and configuration.

  • Access point certification and software control.

  • Packet encapsulation, fragmentation, and formatting.

  • Communications control and management between access point and wireless system devices.

With LWAPP, enterprise customers will be able to interoperate access points with different wireless system devices. As a result, deployment decisions can be based not on whether pieces of gear work together, but on the functionalities they provide. In addition, industry acceptance of LWAPP will decrease any single vendor’s ability to lock-in a customer to a single WLAN solution. Finally, with LWAPP, third-party vendors have a common architecture for application development, ensuring the backwards-compatibility of future WLAN products.

So while you can use your existing access points with new wireless switches and appliances today, the full functionality of those WLAN devices will only be realized with the introduction of a standard protocol, such as LWAPP.