Airespace Previews Branch Office WLAN Controller

Continuing a trend of moving Wi-Fi beyond the enterprise campus and into remote or branch offices, WLAN switch startup Airespace today announced a new WLAN controller.

The Airespace 3500 controller allows the company “to take advantage of new market opportunities that require full WLAN capabilities to be delivered in locations with small WLAN footprints,” according to the San Jose, California-based company.

With its big brothers the Airespace 4000 and 4100, “we are now the first vendor to offer a complete, end-to-end enterprise WLAN system, addressing all deployment scenarios for wireless enterprises,” claims Alan Cohen, vice president of marketing and product management.

While the 12, 24, or 36-port controllers are available for larger enterprises, the Airespace 3500 can support a maximum of six lightweight access points covering up to 60,000 square feet.

The new controller is seen as an adjunct to an existing wired network. The Airespace box can be “deployed as an RF overlay on top of existing LAN infrastructures,” according to the company. The wireless and wired networks link through four 10/100 Ethernet PHY interfaces.

Integrated services and reduced management concerns could make the controller right for branch offices with little access to tech support.

“Integrated DHCP services, plug and play access point configuration, and zero-touch management make the 3500 ideal for environments with limited onsite IT staff, such as enterprise branch offices,” according to the company.

Following the trend of devices supporting Voice-over-Wi-Fi, the new Airespace box includes ‘over the air’ Quality of Service and bandwidth management, says Jeff Aaron, Airespace’s senior marketing manager. The feature “enables real-time applications, such as voice, to be deployed in conjunction with other business critical services,” according to a prepared statement.

The new controller includes bandwidth controls, over-the-air Quality of Service, and intrusion-protection monitoring. Aaron characterizes this last feature as “security with teeth.”

Along with other wireless security outfits, Airespace is underlining its ability to actively protect the network, not just detect problems.

WLAN security is “only half useful if you just alarm,” says Aaron. The intrusion-prevention feature also includes the ability to read attack ‘signatures,’ such as those from Netstumbler, says Aaron.

The Airespace 3500 WLAN intrusion protection doesn’t mean normal data traffic is interrupted. The controller is able to “monitor the air for security threats while simultaneously delivering traffic—no extra monitoring devices and software are required,” according to the company.

Airespace also touts the added security of the 3500’s WFA-certified 802.11i support.

Also high on the list of features for the new controller is real-time RF management. Using the company’s AireWave Director software, companies can dynamically detect and avoid interference, locate coverage holes, and balance the loads of available access points.

“Airespace is the only WLAN system to perform this in real time—no site survey tools or manual ‘pushes’ are required,” according to the company.

“Things like RF management, mobility, and security cannot be sacrificed when deploying a WLAN in smaller enterprise facilities,” said William Terrill, senior analyst at The Burton Group.

Already available in limited distribution, the Airespace 3500 WLAN controller will be generally available in November starting at $2,000.

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