Aruba Switch Gets a Director

Aruba Wireless Networks of San Jose, Calif., this week announced an RF management application called RF Director that will work with the company’s line of wireless LAN switches. The program will accept plug-ins, including some announced by the company as well as future plug-ins developed by third-parties.

“The motivation for this application is the fact that enterprises don’t have any view into the RF environment,” says Keerti Melkote, co-founder and vice president of product management and marketing at Aruba. “But RF is where the wireless LAN lives. It’s a throw back to the early wired network — you didn’t know if you had a problem on the PC or on the backend, so it was always the network to blame.”

He cites the lack of control over an RF environment as a reason for using the Director platform. The company says from the Director dashboard, with the right plug-ins for functionality, the network administrators can tackle everything from planning access point deployment without a site survey to monitoring the RF activity of the network to troubleshooting or gather traffic statistics. Gathered data can be analyzed in the software, and used in the process of calibrating the RF environment run by the Aruba switch.

Using the successful “Photoshop-approach,” RF Director will accept plug-ins. Aruba announced in conjunction with Director an RF Lock plug-in that handles security functions such as rogue access point detection, and uses some soon-to-be-patented algorithms that classify the rogue, and then, if necessary “destroy” it so it can’t get on the network.

“Everyone says they can detect rogues, but that’s just the beginning,” says Melkote. “Customers want the ability to shut them out.”

RF Lock will also handle “honeypot protection” so that clients only associate with valid access points and protects against any non-sanctioned access points from impersonating itself as a service of the enterprise WLAN. Same for client stations — no spoofing. RF Lock will come in bundles with Aruba switches and varying numbers of RF probes, the air monitoring hardware that tracks what’s happening in the RF environment.

Other announced plugs-ins will be RF Plan for quick site surveys and RF Analyze for real-time monitoring and packet capture that will detail stats about the whole network or drill down to a single client.

RF Director will also support third party plug-ins, and Aruba says the first to ship will likely be a version of WildPacket’s AiroPeek NX traffic analyzer.

The RF Director architecture is free and is integrated with the Aruba switches. Each individual module (RF Plan, RF Lock, and RF Analyze) will be priced at $10,000; RF Lock will also come in packages with an Aruba 5000 switch and 20 RF probes for $30,000, or with 5 probes for $15,000. The AiroPeek NX plug-in will be out in August and downloadable from WildPackets, but no price has been announced.

Aruba has shipped about 20 WLAN switch systems to customers since it’s inception — Melkote says they’re well out of the R&D phase of business — and last week announced a program called Wi-Fi It! where they will supply free wireless connectivity for users at tradeshows and conferences if the show meets Aruba’s requirements of multiple days and attendees.

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