Nomadix and Agere Systems announced last week an agreement to develop advanced access points (APs) for use in public areas. While this may not sound like much on the outside, it is important to note who the players are, and what their joint efforts are designed to produce.
Agere’s ORiNOCO line of WLAN products are amongst the best selling in the industry. They are sold directly using the ORiNOCO brand name and are also integrated into a number of OEM product solutions. Agere had over twenty percent of the worldwide enterprise market share for the year 2001, according to a recent study. That puts it second only to Cisco in that market sector.
Nomadix describes itself as a software solutions company that enables edge-infrastructure to deliver seamless, secure, Internet access to the mobile user. Nomadix has an illustrious history in that its founder, Dr. Leonard Kleinrock. Dr. Kleinrock is considered a father of the Internet, having laid down the basic principles of packet switching a decade before his Host computer at UCLA became the first node ever to connect to the (ARPANET) Internet in September 1969.
Greg Hayes, VP of Marketing and Market Development for Nomadix, told 802.11-Planet that the company’s goal is to provide transparent access to data in and across networking environments. Hayes explained that what the Nomadix/Agere news announced last week was really about was the fact that Nomadix had decided to license their Network Service Engine (NSE) for use on other vendor’s access points. The NSE, which is the core technology behind the Nomadix promise of ease of access, is the software underlying the company’s Universal Subscriber Gateway (USG) device, and formerly had only been available as an integral part of that device.
The NSE, whether separately or as part of the USG, addresses three main aspects of WLAN infrastructure: Access Control, Security, and Mobile Connectivity. It ensures that policy, security, billing, and authentication are managed by the network owner.
In terms of access control, the NSE blocks packets unless or until they have been authenticated in some manner. The authentication is browser-based, using SSL security routines currently in use. This selective access control can be used to create what is essentially a ‘walled garden,’ with only authenticated users gaining access privileges. The authentication includes RADIUS Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting, credit card, and Property Management Systems billing.
Network managers can selectively manage bandwidth allocation on a per device (MAC address/user) basis. This can even be done on an assymetric basis – with differing bit rates permissable on the upload/download side.
The NSE supports 802.1x security features and other authentication methods via SSL, using a Web-based Universal Access Method (UAM).
Mobile connectivity uses what Hayes referred to as ‘dynamic address translation,’ a patented technology that offers transparant connectivity as users roam from one subnet to another. This “allows the network to adapt to the user instead of the other way around,” said Hayes. This is seen by the company as the critical factor in creating the type of transparent connectivity and ease of use Nomadix is after. Users can get access regardless of current IP and browser configurations and the user’s machine is not changed so network admins don’t have to panic that employees are compromising corporate configurations in any way.
The USG version 4.0 is now in beta testing and the full release is expected this month. The NSE, which has now been stripped of any hardware dependencies, is now licensable to other vendors. Specifications for the USG and the NSE are available from the Nomadix Web site.
Nomadix’ Hayes also explained that whether a company chooses to use the USG or instead integrate the NSE into an AP depends on user requirements. In a multi-AP deployment, Hayes suggested that it is probably more cost effective to use a USG. In smaller deployments, on the other hand, it makes more sense to use an NSE-enabled AP. Hayes stated that the break-point is about seven APs. More than that and it usually makes sense to go with the USG.
The fruits of the Agere/Nomadix partnership should be available later this year, according to the companies.
Matthew Peretz is Managing Editor of 802.11-Planet.com