LWAPP Pushed Through

The contested decision of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to use the lightweight access point protocol (LWAPP) as the foundation of its specification for the control and provisioning of WiFi networks means that there will finally be a standard way of centrally controlling enterprise access points. But will users buy into it?

Ramon Perez, network manager at Fordham University, runs a mixture of Airespace, Aruba Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: ARUN), and Enterasys Networks Inc. access points on campus, and says he currently uses LWAPP (on the Airespace APs only) in certain areas for secure staff access.

At this point, Perez has no plans to integrate these with the more open campus networks.

The acension of LWAPP seemed assured after the standards body initially recommended that it be used back in October. (See The LWAPP Comeback.) But there was plenty of debate behind the scenes as LWAPP was put to a vote.

LWAPP is going to be the baseline protocol for the IETF's Control And Provisioning of Wireless Access Points (CAPWAP) working group. [Ed. note: Confused yet?] Though the IETF's work on CRAPWRAP has been less talked about than the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 's 802.11 specifications, the new specification could be equally important for enterprise users. For CAPWAP is intended to define a standard methodology for managing wireless LAN access points via a wired or wireless switch or a controller. Vendors currently provide several different protocols for managing APs via a switch, making it difficult to mix and match products from different vendors.

The IETF's negotiations over which protocol to use have been just as heated as any IEEE standards spat. On an IETF email discussion, the working group chairs write that a poll reached a "rough" consensus on using the protocol: 49 respondents were in favor of using the protocol and 19 voted against it.

Essentially, the IETF has recommmended that LWAPP be used as a baseline protocol while the group makes changes and additions that will eventually result in the final CAPWAP specification.

"The working group chairs recognize that this consensus is very rough," according to an email on the IETF thread. "However, the chairs judge that we would not be able to reach a more universal consensus and be able to complete our work within a reasonable amount of time."

The resolution is particularly good news for Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which has been backing LWAPP since it acquired Airespace, the startup that originally pushed the protocol and has incorporated the standard in its products.

Cisco is the number one supplier of enterprise wireless access points, and the adoption of LWAPP makes it easier to ensure that all WLAN controllers will fully support its range of products.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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