Meru Readies 11n for Enterprise

Most enterprise equipment vendors wouldn’t jump on the 802.11n bandwagon too early, but with the Wi-Fi Alliance prepared to certify pre-ratification 11n product for interoperability, companies like Meru Networks are ready to take advantage.

“We are excited by 11n,” says Steve Troyer, vice president of product marketing for the company. “We see it as an inflection point in the industry… it’s a very big step forward to what we have a vision of: an all-wireless enterprise.”

With that in mind, the company announced today its plans for a suite of 802.11n products — specifically, a new access point (model AP300) supporting 802.11a/b/g/n, the MC5000 modular controller, and a software upgrade option to the Meru System Director called 3-Tier Traffic Distribution System (3TDS) that keeps data traffic and control traffic separate.

The MC5000 will run up to 1,000 APs per unit — each unit can support five blades, each with either 2- or 4-Gigabit ports.

It’s the 3TDS that Troyer believes will set Meru’s 11n plans apart. “In talking to customers and analysts and getting feedback on product direction, we zeroed in on the fact that as you massively increase bandwidth, you have to handle that at the controller level, but it’s also now a burden on the wired, switched infrastructure,” he says, adding that 3TDS will allow scaling to get full 11n performance without major wired upgrades.

Troyer says that the optional bonding of channels in 11n means there are fewer channels left — combine two 20MHz non-overlapping channels in 2.4GHz 802.11b/g to get one 40MHz channel, and that only leaves one channel for legacy clients. It’s only slightly better in 5GHz 802.11a, with three channels to use when they go to 40MHz. “This means you’re building a conventional microcell, multi-channel WLAN and you’re limited to a single channel capacity,” says Troyer. “Our architecture is the only choice if customers want 2.4GHz to have 40MHz channels,” with the ability to scale up.

3TDS will actually work on any Meru controller, not just the MC5000. Meru plans to show off the system and the 11n products at Interop in May. They should be available by the third quarter of 2007, and Troyer says Meru will have them certified for interoperability by the Alliance. Pricing has not been announced, but he guesses the AP300 will go for $1,500, and the basic MC5000 controller for $65,000. The 3TDS option pricing is not yet set. It will also be out later this year.

Meru isn’t quite the first company to announce 11n plans. Extreme Networks did so last week, but that company has no plans to have its 11n APs out until 2008.

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