Strix: No Wires — Not Even to the APs

Strix Systems of Westlake
, Calif.
, is, in the words
of chairman and CEO Bruce Brown, "really trying to get rid of the wires."

The company, which was founded in 2000 but is just now announcing
its first products, seems to mean it, taking the term "wireless network"
literally enough that they don’t think even access points should have wires
(except for the AC power). So Strix has announced the latest entry into the
switched WLAN wars, the Access/One Network.

Access/One uses a mesh network topology, creating a self-healing, automatically
configuring wireless coverage area. Each access point communicates with it’s
neighbors and finds the fastest path through the network, reconfiguring every
few seconds as needed.

Each "access point" is actually a set of stackable hardware units
using a "consumer-like design," according to Robert Jordan, vice president
of marketing at Strix. "We learned it playing with Legos."

Jordan says
the downfall of the first generation of WLAN equipment from the likes of Cisco,
Linksys, Netgear, etc. was being tethered back to the Ethernet network, plus
a lack of scalability; the second generation, the WLAN switch vendors, still
have to be tied back to the network by Ethernet.

"That’s fine as far as it goes. But some customers have wires in some
buildings, not others. Some have wires now, but it’s expensive to add more –
sometimes $1500 per drop. So we set out to set up something with all the same
features, but with true wireless deployment.

The Access/One units will only go together one way in a stack, so they can’t
be plugged in incorrectly. A base module plugs into the AC power — options
for the base module include a singl Ethernet jack to serve as the connection
to the wired LAN, 4-port module to connect desktops, and support for Power over
Ethernet if needed. On top of that first module is stacked a Network Connect
Module which uses 802.11a as the uplink between nodes. Above that goes a module
for a Client Connection via 802.11a/b/g and/or Bluetooth. The final module is
the dual-band antenna piece. The units provide support for WEP ,
WPA , and even Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

Jordan says
"You can also put on a high gain antenna… and there’s a network server
module of the same size, but it has the capability of distributed processing
— it’s the management control point." Only one is needed to run the network,
but adding multiple server modules provides redundancy in case the first is
compromised. Because the system is SNMP-based , it will work with
management systems such as HP OpenView. Jordan
says the system was designed to work with existing equipment in a typical enterprise
network, especially those running Microsoft servers and Cisco switches and routers.

In the future the company expects to role out Architect/One, a tool for VARs
and system integrators that uses a map of a location to generate a site survey
that shows where and how to deploy the Access/One modules.

Pricing for modules is ala carte, with each node between $850 to $1300 depending
on the mix of modules needed. Jordan says this is well below the pricing of the switch vendors. Access/One is currently
in trials — it’s been deployed by market research firm Lieberman Research Worldwide
and connectivity solutions provider Pacific Coast Cabling — and should be available
by the end of July.

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