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Early WLAN switch tests provide insight

Oct 13, 20032 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecurityWi-Fi

* WLAN switch makers' respective strengths

Now that the industry has some early wireless LAN switch test results under its belt, you can start getting a feel for the respective strengths of individual “thin-access point” vendors.

First, Network World’s own Global Test Alliance last month released 802.11b thin-AP system test results of products from Airespace, Aruba Wireless Networks, Symbol Technologies and Trapeze Networks.  Also, The Tolly Group has just completed testing its first WLAN switch product set – Airespace gear – in the context of the vendor’s support for voice over IP (VoIP) over WLANs.

Links to full reports of these results are provided under “Related Links.” Meanwhile, I’ll hit a few highlights here.

Network World’s results seem to confirm that, while the vendors compete loudly on a long laundry list of point features, each vendor shines in one or two particular areas. Which vendor is the “best,” then, depends on which characteristics you value the most.

For example, in the Network World tests, Airespace’s biggest strength was throughput (it beat out all others on forwarding rates), with maximum rates of 7.625M bit/sec in a single-AP 802.11b network with large (1,464-byte) frames. By comparison, the next fastest system was Aruba’s, at 6.772M bit/sec.

Aruba was deemed the security leader, with Airespace a close second. Aruba and Airespace shone in this category because they can block clients’ ability to detect and associate with unauthorized (“rogue”) APs.

Aruba edged ahead in part because it can distinguish between rogues inside and outside an enterprise. Also, the company offers a stateful firewall in its switch and a VPN client.  (Word on the street is that Aruba will also soon announce intrusion detection features in its AirOS switch software.)

Finally, Trapeze took top honors for its automated site survey tools, competing only with Aruba on this score, as these capabilities aren’t offered by Airespace and Symbol.

In The Tolly Group testing of Airespace gear for VoIP-over-WLANs, the equipment was shown to support 14 simultaneous conversations over an 802.11b network with 3-milliseconds latency between switch and AP and about 31 milliseconds of latency during inter-subnet roaming.

More on these results next time.