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New Aruba products blend Wi-Fi, wired access at network edge

John Cox, Network World | March 15, 2011
The company that helped pioneer the controller-based enterprise wireless LAN is now selling wired Ethernet switches -- with a twist.

The company that helped pioneer the controller-based enterprise wireless LAN is now selling wired Ethernet switches -- with a twist.

According to Aruba Networks, the WLAN is changing the face of network access, and the corporate access layer has to adapt to that new reality. The company is introducing an array of hardware and software-based services to reshape network access, including a line of wired Ethernet switches that can handle not only the burgeoning array of Wi-Fi clients but also wired clients.

The company this week announces the S3500 series of 24- and 48-port Ethernet switches aimed at the wiring closet. The main difference compared to standard switches: The S3500 automatically seeks out an Aruba Mobility Controller, which handles Aruba's Wi-Fi access points and downloads a set of client policies for configuration, security and management. The switch can apply those policies to Wi-Fi-based laptops, tablets and other mobile clients as well as to desktop PCs or docked laptops.

The line of Aruba controllers is being updated with a new release of the ArubaOS firmware. One change is that the firmware now supports IPv6. Another is Mobile Device Admission Control (MDAC) for Apple iOS. The controller now can identify a device setting up a Wi-Fi connection as an iPhone or iPad, and automatically provision it with certificates, and with security and access policies tailored to these devices. Aruba labels this capability "device fingerprinting."

A related product is Amigopod, based on software that Aruba picked up with the January acquisition of the company bearing the same name. The software creates an easy-to-use, self-service Web portal that lets employees register their own mobile devices and then get network credentials and access policies tailored to that class of device.

Finally, Aruba is unveiling three new access points. First, there are two high-performance 802.11n access points, the AP-134 and -135, both of which have two radios using three data streams, known as 3x3 MIMO, for a maximum data rate of 450 Mbps per radio. The model 134 is outfitted for external directional antennas.

Second is the new Aruba Instant access point family: In a remote site, with a group of these access points deployed, one runs a subset of Aruba's controller software, acting as a controller to the rest of the WLAN. Aruba says the Instant access point can be up and running after a three-minute installation process, and they cluster automatically to receive configurations and updates from their "virtual controller."


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