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Proxim Announces Switched WLAN Architecture

This week Sunnyvale, CA-based Proxim Corporation announced its upcoming entry into the centralized, switched wireless LAN arena.

Proxim's Maestro architecture is designed "to address broad scale deployment, to reduce cost and complexity, to get WLANs into existing networks," according to Georganne Benesch, vice president of product management at Proxim.

Maestro expands upon what the company learned from selling and support the Harmony AP Controller. Maestro will feature a Wireless Enabled Switch that will run a number of access points. The Maestro switch can be controlled using the Proxim Wireless Network Manager software running on a server or as a plug-in to HP OpenView.

While Maestro sounds similar to what Symbol Technologies is doing with the Mobius Wireless System, which uses a Axon Wireless Switch to control Mobius Access Ports (not points) that lack the smarts built into most access points today. Benesch stresses that the Symbol model is more like what the Harmony AP Controller does: It only works with Proxim's Harmony Access Points.

Maestro will be open to working with access points from third party vendors.

"You don't have to have just a central or distributed network," says Benesch. "You can have both and we're going to continue to have both. Rather than the notion of an intelligent access point or switch, we're talking about an intelligent infrastructure."

Benesch won't say specifically which third party access point products would work with Maestro, but says instead that "pretty much any third party access point will work. But at what level, we're not ready to specify."

Maestro will certainly work with existing Proxim products such as the AP-2000 and AP-2500, which Proxim recently announced would support 802.11g. Future products from Proxim will have Maestro support integrated, and since the switch will house the intelligence, expect some newer access points to ship soon with less functionality. The price should go down accordingly. (The AP-2000, for example, currently sells for $595 MSRP).

In addition to centralized management, Maestro will also bring easier installation of standard access points (as in turn it on and the switch sets it up), load balancing, granular access control based on application or user, 802.1X authentication, and "consistent persistent connectivity" by roaming over multiple subnets. The switch will supply Power over Ethernet (PoE) to access points that need it.

Maestro will be the backbone architecture Proxim is providing in its recently announced deal with Avaya and Motorola to facilitate voice over IP roaming in enterprise networks. Avaya will in turn provide the telephone system, Motorola will handle handsets that support both cellular and Wi-Fi voice traffic.

It's too early for Proxim to comment on Maestro's costs, but it will be "cost effective" according to Benesch. Price will depend upon the number of access points supported. Maestro should be available in the second half of 2003.