Vendors tout 802.11n capabilities

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Two major Wi-Fi vendors today released 802.11n wireless LAN (WLAN) technology which they say could allow firms to replace their edge wired network infrastructure.

Meru Networks and Ruckus Wireless both claim their systems can replace wired networks without any degradation in quality of service while also enhancing firms' ability to serve a mobile workforce.

Ruckus Wireless has released its SmartMesh system, which it claims can deliver wired-LAN performance. It also released its ZoneDirector 3000 wireless controller, capable of supporting 250 wireless access points, which is targeted at the high-end WLAN market.

Ruckus's mesh technology will redefine WLAN economics, said David Callisch, communications director, Ruckus: "We're able to deliver a WLAN with three times the performance, in half the time and half the cost."

The SmartMesh system, which is offered as a software upgrade to its ZoneDirector 6.0 WLAN management console, allow firms to create a robust and reliable mesh system without having to wire up every access point to the network, said Callisch.

Mesh networks allow access points to form a single radio network, where data is transmitted entirely by wireless and is passed along a chain of mesh-configured until backhauled to the wireless controller through standard wired network infrastructure. Ruckus SmartMesh uses so-called 'beam steering' technology to optimise the data transmission across the mesh network.

Meanwhile, Meru Networks will start shipping its AP440 access point in the third quarter of 2008. The AP440 will overcome enterprise reluctance to rely on wireless networks, by providing the sort of performance associated with traditional fixed networks, said Rachna Ahlawat, Meru’s strategic marketing vice president. "What’s made WLAN systems exciting now is 802.11n, because this technology addresses enterprise objections about wireless throughput."

The AP440, a four-radio wireless access point (AP) which provides four 802.11n streams with a raw throughput of 300Mbit/s per stream giving a 1.2Gbit/s capacity. Meru claimed the four radios provide internal redundancy, load-balancing and security, allowing enterprises to cut the cost of deploying wireless networks through reducing the number of access points and security sensors needed.

Meru’s approach to deploying WLANs is to create a so-called ‘channel blanket’, where all the access points are set to a single channel and any additional channels are only added to provide extra capacity, security or redundancy. This ‘channel blanket’ approach reduces both co- and cross-channel interference and the necessity for extensive site surveys to check wireless access.

The AP440 uses two gigabit RJ45 ports and needs two IEEE 802.3af Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) feeds for full operation, although Ahlawat points out that newer IEEE 802.3at PoE standard switches, such as those produced by PowerDsine and Phihong, could also be used to provide power for the AP. However, like the 802.3at standard, the 802.11n standard has yet to be ratified.

The AP440 also has a USB port which allows other ceiling-installed but non-802.11 devices, such as video surveillance cameras or public address systems, to be incorporated into the WLAN.

Meru has also added a new 4Gbit/s Acceleration Module for its high-end MC5000 wireless controller, which when fully provisioned with five of the acceleration modules, gives a raw throughput of 20Gbit/s of encrypted traffic.

Meru’s AP440 access point has a US list price of US$2,995, with the MC5000 4Gbit/s Acceleration Module priced at US$15,000.
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