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As the year comes to a close, companies are bringing out more and more updates to give WLAN administrators something to think about over the holiday break: improved defenses and better management for 2006.
Earlier this week, AirDefense announced a major upgrade to version 7.0 of its distributed Enterprise product. The company says it now supports up to 300,000 devices monitored by 10,000 sensors per server appliance.
David Thomas, the company's vice president of product management, says that AirDefense saw a major jump in wireless use from 2003 to 2004, and expects to see that again in the very near future -- thus the scalability well into the six-figure range. "It gives even our largest customer room for major cycles of growth... it should tide them over for a couple or three years," Thomas says.
The 7.0 version has a library of over 200 events in the realm of security and performance that it monitors, which the company says is twice that of its competition. The enterprise product also integrates with the AirDefense Personal software upgraded to version 3.0 that can run on individual laptop computers while out and about at hotspots (a "Lite" version is available for download). The software also has a litany of policy enforcement capabilities.
In addition to controlling more, it also stores more. Stats, that is, covering the historic performance of the network. This is done with a faster-than-usual method that eschews the usual SQL database. If needed, data can be offloaded to network attached storage.
The Massachusetts company Bluesocket has software updates for its BlueSecure Controllers (to version 5.1), the relatively new BlueView Management System (to version 2.2) and the BlueSecure Access Points/Sensors (version 3.0). The main thrust of the updates: better use of voice traffic on the WLAN. Specifically, securing voice.
"How do you secure voice on a network?" asks Mike Puglia, Bluesocket's director of product management. "The difficult thing is, SIP and H.323 are the most common protocols, and they're dynamic." He says that, by their nature, they have to allow use of different ports for different calls, adding, "In security, you generally don't want that."
Bluesocket solves this with a stateful monitoring of all voice traffic to see the call, decide whether to allow it, and tear down access to the ports used once the call is over. They're also the first to add a SIP proxy, so the VoIP phones learn not to care about what network subnet they're on, and vice versa.
The BlueSecure APs are getting a self-healing feature called Dynamic RF that will change power levels and channels as needed. The system as a whole will also manage client load-balancing. Dynamic RF will also do key caching so that as wireless users roam on a network, especially voice users, they won't have a break in calls as they do hand-off between APs while re-associating with the authentication server. The BlueSecure controllers hold the user credentials in place so authentication talks half as long, if not less.
"It makes life easier for clients," says Puglia. "It's better for voice traffic as a whole."
The company didn't forget security, either. They've improved their intrusion detection system (IDS) so APs can be used as sensors as well (they also work with third-party sensors from HighWall Technologies). The BlueView system incorporates floor plans to pinpoint locations for problems like rogue APs. It's also compliant with E911 standards, so you can quickly find people making emergency calls on the VoWi-Fi systems. BlueSecure Controllers also now support CheckPoint's Integrity Clientless Security for pushing security policy to laptops.
AirTight has already had a busy month, as it closed a deal with Colubris Networks to become the provider of their built-in security features. But AirTights vice president of marketing, Dennis Tsu, says there are many other OEMs out there they'd like to work with.
"We see in end user environments two types of customers," Tsu says. "One group is buying standalone overlay solutions like ours because they're very security-conscious... but there's a larger percentage of the market that are not quite that security-conscious, and they want the security from their infrastructure company." That's where the Colubris deal comes in, and where their new open application programming interface (API) comes in as well.
Version 4.0 of AirTight's SpectraGuard Enterprise has an API for the server, sensors and applications components. Implementing it means OEM customers like Colubris or Cisco (which integrated it into their Wireless LAN Solution Engine (WLSE) in September) can turn APs into sensors monitored by the SpectraGuard appliance or their own units with the server API.
"We've formalized our APIs so working with a Colubris or Cisco, we can create the bridge to plug their system into our at sensor, server and application level programs," says Tsu. The company plans to target the APIs directly to WLAN switch company OEMs, and even directly to enterprises with the IT expertise.
The company just got a second round of funding to the tune of $12 million (total is $22.25 million) so they'll be able to try it out for a while and see if anyone bites. Fully one third of their current customers are companies with a "no-Wi-Fi" policy, so they'll tend to go for the hardware direct from AirTight.