HP Blade Runs Wireless

HP says most enterprises looking at wireless don’t want to start from scratch with network equipment. “They extend wired with wireless,” says Darla Sommerville, Vice President and General Manager for the company’s ProCurve Americas division. That’s why HP’s new Wireless Edge Services Module, the ProCurve 5300xl, is a blade that plugs into its existing 5300 series wired switch.

“Our focus is on delivering wired and wireless infrastructure treated in a unified fashion,” says Sommerville.

The new module  —  which costs $4,999 for the first one and $3,499 for redundant blades  —  will work with ProCurve Radio Ports (thin APs) and the new ProCurve Access Point 530, all running off the ProCurve Manager software that controls the whole network via the ProCurve Adaptive EDGE Architecture.

“With appliances, you have a high failure point,” says ProCurve Product Manager Andre Kindness. “But in a chassis like the 5300, you have dual fans, dual power. You can have multiple blades for failover; you don’t need redundant physical links.”

The Radio Ports come in three variations: dual-band 802.11a/b/g either with integrated antennas or using external antennas ($500 for either), or as a single-radio 11b/g unit ($350).

The $759 “Intelligent Edge” AP 530 supports dual radios, and will run 11a and 11b/g connections simultaneously. It includes not only the radios and antennas, but also builds in a RADIUS server for local authentication of users if the centralized server goes off-line. Kindness says this is a better solution for small businesses or those with remote/branch offices. “It’s better to have a heavy access point until you get around five or more,” he says — at which point, an IT manager would want to look at a ProCurve switch, linking back to the 5300.

All the APs, thin or intelligent, have a lifetime warranty with next-day replacement, and support ProCurve’s Identity Driven Manager access control software.

HP is a little late to the WLAN switch party. In fact, market leader Cisco is specifically cited by Dell’Oro Group as fostering the growth of the enterprise WLAN market to $290 million in the first quarter of 2006. Sales of traditional APs were down 22 percent, but offset by the 54 percent increase in sales of switches/appliances and thin APs. For enterprise WLAN equipment, the growth is 48 percent better than the first quarter of last year.

Late doesn’t necessarily mean too late, however. Kindness believes what sets the ProCurve apart from wireless switches like those from Aruba, Trapeze and Cisco  — all early leaders in the WLAN switch market, along with Symbol —  is the unification with the wired side. “If you unplug from a wired point, we see where the user is at the wireless edge,” he says. “Unplug and go to a wireless conference room, the user will have exactly the same experience.”

The entire line of new HP ProCurve products should be available before the end of June.

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