Proxim Sounds Off on Switch

Proxim of Sunnyvale, Calif., is announcing a new WLAN switch.

The ORiNOCO Switching System is designed, according to Lynn Lucas, director of product marketing at Proxim, to support voice over IP (VoIP), or in this case specifically VoWLAN. This is also the first step in the solution promised by Proxim, Avaya , and Motorola in a corporate VoIP partnership formed early in 2003.

Lucas says the ORiNOCO switch is unique in its support of seamless voice mobility. While other switch vendors such as Meru Networks might argue, she stresses that the distinctiveness of the ORiNOCO springs directly from the collaboration with Avaya, which is making Internet Protocol-supporting PBX systems , and Motorola’s development of combination cellular/Wi-Fi handsets for use by corporate office workers.

The switch will incorporate seamless handoffs between subnets (and between cellular and Wi-Fi connections) and fast authentication and load balancing of users, and will integrate with Avaya’s IP-PBX for 911 services to prioritize emergency calls.

Lucas says mobile phone use by mobile pros — those that spend an inordinate amount of time out of the office — can still be a major cost for enterprises. Some CTOs have discovered that up to 30 percent of the minutes used on such phones are used while in the corporate building. That’s money that could be saved if the same phone was connecting to the WLAN.

The ORiNOCO switch will work not only with Motorola handsets, but also with other Wi-Fi phones, such as those from Spectralink . It will obviously carry standard WLAN data traffic, as well.

The switch will get its own access points that will connect via 802.3af/PoE, though Lucas would not call the hardware “dumb” or “thin” APs.

“Access points aren’t getting ‘dumb,'” she says, “they’re getting smarter as APs try to make Wi-Fi a core part of a production network.” She did say that if the LWAPP specification comes to pass, they would likely offer it as an upgrade if possible through software/firmware.

The ORiNOCO switch will incorporate as much pre-standard 802.11e/QoS support as is known before the ratification of the standard by the IEEE , which is expected this year. Lucas says Proxim has been working behind the scenes on the 802.11e Task Group in the IEEE, as well as on the study group looking at fast handoffs. Full WPA security is installed and 802.11i security will be available when that standard is ratified, as well.

Around this time last year Proxim announced another WLAN switch, the Maestro, that built on the company’s former Harmony AP Controller. Maestro failed to take the industry by storm and the WLAN switch market has been dominated mainly by start-ups such as Trapeze, Aruba, and Airespace.

Specifics and pricing on the ORiNOCO switch system are sketchy for now. Proxim won’t ship them until the end of the first half of the year.

Proxim does have specifics on its latest generation access point however. The $899 ORiNOCO AP-4000 is a dual-band 802.11a/b/g access point with two radios — one 5GHz for 802.11a and one 2.4GHz for 802.11b/g. It will use mixed mode when both types of 2.4GHz clients are available. Radio power has been boosted to 100mW to extend range. The AP-4000 runs Atheros chips in a plenum-rated case.

It will interface with any SNMP management system available, but Proxim specifically has partnered with WaveLink, saying the Wavelink Mobile Manager software is the preferred management interface for its products. This latest AP will also do on-the-fly rogue detection within its airspace.

The 4000 is smaller than its predecessors and Lucas says anyone investing in them now will be able to hook them up to the ORiNOCO Switch System later if they upgrade.

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