Extreme Platform Extends Wireless Abilities

Last year Extreme Networks unveiled a strategy called “Unified Access” (UA) geared toward making network configurations easier even when adding new technologies. For example, instead of introducing voice or wireless as an overlay to the existing wired infrastructure, they plan it as an adaptable part of the network.

To that end the company is launching the UA verion 1.2 platform with new software modules, including one for doing site survey/planning, and hardware features such as detachable antennas for use with the expanded Summit 300 Wi-Fi switch and the Altitude access points (APs).

The company is also introducing a modular switch, called Alpine, with powered Ethernet ports for running 802.3af Power over Ethernet (PoE) to hardware on the network edge, such as the Altitude APs.

Scott Lucas, Extreme’s director of product marketing, says the goal is to let customers introduce PoE at their own pace with the Alpine. “Most require you to upgrade the power on the chassis to use PoE. But we have enough power in the Alpine so 8 ports can be used right away with PoE.”

When it becomes necessary on all ports, Extreme has an external power supply option that is rack mountable. The Alpine also supports up to eight Quality of Service (QoS) queues per port, which Lucas says is important for future convergence of voice and data at APs. The Alpine 3800 will ship in April for $2,995.

The name of the Extreme site survey tool is RF Manager. Lucas says it’s suitable for IT people, VARs or system integrators to use for virtual site surveys and network planning. The software can read in floor plans from CAD/CAM software or even use scanned pictures of a floor layout to figure optimal placement of access points running off the Extreme switch.

“You might just want seamless coverage but with as few APs as possible. You might want 54Mbps coverage precisely, needing dense AP coverage. Or you might want AP configuration that actually minimizes the RF leakage outside. Once the floor plan is in, you tell [RF Manager] the goal and it’ll take that into account,” says Lucas. He claims that customers testing it have saved up to 90 percent on site survey costs.

The software also works in three dimensions unlike most other site survey packages, so you can see coverage APs provide on multiple floors in a building.

RF Manager will have two editions: the basic version for $4,995; and an advanced version that lets you do an unlimited number of models and incorporates signal level data you acquire using a laptop or PDA, which goes for $13,995.

Lucas says the new detachable antenna they’re announcing is unique because the small, directional unit supports both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands (802.11g/b and 802.11a, respectively) with full diversity.

The company has also expanded the security on its platform to include MAC address filtering. This allows units that can’t use regular log in procedures for 802.1X authentication, such as bar code scanners, to access the network. The MAC address list is maintained in a RADIUS server like all the other log-in names of users.

The Altitude APs support both 802.11a and 11g/b, which were recently certified as interoperable with other WLAN equipment by the Wi-Fi Alliance, plus received certification for using Wi-Fi Protected Access for security. The units have AES chips inside, so they’re ready for the upgrade to 802.11i when that security standard is ratified by the IEEE .

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