Startup gets dense with new APs and software

August 30, 2004

2 Min Read
Aruba Grids Up

Wireless LAN switch startup Aruba Wireless Networks is cranking out a major update to its enterprise offerings with a new access point and software intended to facilitate denser deployments of 802.11 technology.

Aruba is trying to move away from the model for most current corporate wireless deployments, which are based on an access point -- frequently installed in the ceiling -- serving 10 or more mobile users in an office. The cost of installing the wires and access point in the ceiling can quickly add up: According to Aruba, one such "drop" can run as much as $3,000 in New York City.

Instead, the firm is pushing the concept of a "grid" deployment, using smaller, less obtrusive APs -- controlled via new software on its switch -- that will offer more bandwidth for two or three users and help to enable new services using the improved location tracking offered by dense deployments of APs.

To further its aim, the firm is bringing out a new AP shaped like a small computer speaker that can be bolted to the wall and plugged into the existing Ethernet wiring at a cubicle. The firm is working with a new partner, Ortronics Inc., to shrink its AP technology even further and hopes to show the first "WiFi wall jack" later this year.New grid software due in September will control the APs, automatically cranking radio signals up and down or changing channels, to ensure that the nodes don't step on each other's toe in the much more tightly packed radio enviroment the firm envisages for such new deployments.The firm has also revamped its pricing model for the new AP (more details on this later today).

Unstrung wondered if this move to denser deployments loses sight of the major cost benefit of wireless LAN: the ability to connect multiple users without the expense of installing lots of Ethernet cabling.

Aruba's VP of product marketing, Keerti Melkote, says that having the ability to install the AP on -- or in -- the wall will allow firms to take advantage of existing cabling that couldn't be utilized by standard APs fixed in the ceiling.

There will still be "cost savings," he argues, because each AP will support a few users, where each wired user requires a dedicated connection and can't move around the office.

Craig Mathias, principal at analyst and consultancy firm the Farpoint Group agrees that users will be able to take advantage of existing wiring with this approach to WLAN networking.

"We've been talking about denser deployment methods for some time now," says Mathias.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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