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Aruba Shops for Retailers

In time for the National Retail Federation Big Show in New York City this week, Aruba Networks of Sunnyvale, California has embraced retail in a big way. While the company is no stranger to distributed network support, it has built new features into its Mobile Edge Architecture specifically to help retailers who need mobility to take advantage of new requirements.

Foremost among these requirements is the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard, version 1.1, which went into effect on January 1, 2007. It includes specific requirements for wireless use. PCI spells out that wireless retail networks must have NAT-capable access points, must be able to classify and mitigate use of APs that use 802.11n, Draft-N, MIMO, or any combination thereof, and must also have some sort of advance rogue AP detection, such as a wireless analyzer in every store location. Aruba has all that built in.

"The challenge is to add a system that can analyze the airwaves and provide info -- but more importantly, provide it to a central site," says Manav Khurana, retail industry marketing lead for Aruba. He says the central IT folks can then tell the difference between a rogue AP, a neighboring store with an AP, and a new hotspot.

"PCI considers wireless a new entry point for vulnerability," says Khurana. "It's important to segment wired and wireless with a firewall." The Aruba infrastructure equipment also supports WPA/WPA2 encryption, another PCI requirement.

Aruba is also going to partner with Wavelink to integrate their management capabilities. While Aruba's system goes far, it doesn't extend to the clients on the network. Wavelink's Avalanche Mobility Center does.

"Wavelink provides end-to-end mobility management for retail," says Khurana. "They can support devices like handhelds that come with a Wavelink Agent. They can do the management -- we fill in the network component." He says the Aruba infrastructure remains device-agnostic to support anything the retailer might have, from phones to computers to wearable printers. Aruba has validated 40+ devices with its equipment, and plans to list them all on its Web site soon. They include handheld or wearable computers and more from Symbol, Intermec and Teklogix.

The Aruba network will also support location/Wi-Fi-based RFID from the likes of Ekahau or Aeroscout, and Voice over Wi-Fi.

"A large store, a Wal-Mart or Target, compared to a 7-Eleven, has a different network infrastructure," Khurana says. "They're days and nights apart, with the large store far more sophisticated. Our Mobility Controller won't go in a small store that has no rack and can't handle it. Thus we have the Remote AP. It connects to the Internet with a VPN to the corporate headquarters. That's our one-AP solution. PCI level security extends to that. In the second quarter, we'll enhance it with WAN resilience, so it can still run local applications if the connection goes down."

Aruba reports vulnerabilities which could impact retailers to the Wireless Vulnerabilities and Exploits (WVE) database, which it co-sponsors along with WVE founder Network Chemistry. Aruba has also joined the Retail Broadband Alliance.

Khurana says the last time retailers dove into mobility was the early 2000s, when Wi-Fi was still in its infancy. "A heavy premium went into mobile applications and devices working reliably," he says. "That required hooking devices into the infrastructure. Symbol said, 'Buy our device and use our infrastructure to get better features.' Cisco did the same with Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX) program.... but standards have evolved. There's more capability included now in standards."