"No one has given IT managers the tools they need to plan for wireless."George Prodan, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at start-up Trapeze Networks, is the voice behind this statement. His words sum up the rationale behind a big vendor push to equip wireless LANs (WLAN) with automated deployment and management tools that will give wireless networks the legitimacy they need in large IT departments.Trapeze is a Pleasanton, Calif., start-up that has now officially jumped on the so-called "wireless LAN switch" bandwagon. This week, the company shared details of its next-generation WLAN product set. The Trapeze Mobility System aims to automate a number of wireless LAN-related tasks, including one of the most onerous - the upfront site survey.Network implementers conduct site surveys to determine about how many access points (AP) to install and where to position them to fulfill their capacity and coverage requirements. The site survey takes place once you ascertain which applications your WLAN will support, how much bandwidth they require and how many users need mobility (and where they need it).Because it's hard to anticipate where walls, windows, objects and metal will interfere with wireless communication, a sneaker-clad individual armed with a wireless laptop and a hard-copy blueprint of the facilities layout usually walks around, installs APs, and tests how well they perform. If they don't perform well, he moves the APs around. The tweaking continues until the network works well. If you're outfitting a room or two with a few APs, this is all in a day's work. But what about companies with thousands of users spread across globally distributed sites? We're talking a lot of labor.The emergence of automated site survey tools from Trapeze (others are available or en route from Aruba Wireless Networks, Wireless Valley Communications and, likely, others) should slash the pain and time required for this process, finally freeing organizations to embrace the idea of ubiquitous WLAN coverage.The Trapeze RingMaster Tool Suite, for example, lets you import your floor plan into a Trapeze site survey application, says Dan Simone, vice president of product management at Trapeze. The application simulates your physical facilities, accounting for concrete walls, dry-wall, windows - whatever is present in your physical environment - and demonstrates how APs will perform based on a number of variables (the AP's 802.11 technology "flavor," number of users to be supported, application types and so forth)."[Using the simulation application] you can drag an AP to another location and see the impact on coverage and signal strength," explains Simone. "Once you find a general AP configuration you like, you can freeze that configuration and download it to all the APs. So there is no extra step between planning the network and configuring it."