Security Trumps Voice

Wireless LAN security and management startup Bluesocket Inc. has been pushing the upgraded voice-over-WiFi capabilities it now offers as part of a slew of software upgrades announced Thursday, but its core customers are far more keen on the new security features included.

The firm is updating its Blue Secure wireless LAN management software with support for SIP and H323 VOIP protocols, and plans to add support for ’s SCCP protocol -- commonly known as “skinny” -- early next year.

And the firm is following the path first trod by rival startup Aruba Wireless Networks by adding “stateful firewall” capabilities to its system.

Bluesocket says that this will allow it to detect what protocols are being used when a device connects to the network and to open and close ports at the beginning and end of each session.

“You need to know it is not a hacker masquerading as a SIP call,” says Dave Danielson, marketing VP at Bluesocket.

But despite Bluesocket’s emphasis on the voice capabilities of its new kit, its core users in the education market seem to be more smitten with the new security features that the firm is offering.

Users like Randall Williams, a network systems technician at Southeast Community College in Nebraska, have been using Bluesocket’s beta code to authenticate users trying to log on to the open wireless access areas on campus. “I’m basically using it to regulate open wireless access in the dormitories,” says Williams, who has been evaluating the firm’s beta upgrades for a few months now.

Williams is finding the firm’s latest version of its WG2100 WLAN controller most useful because it has a built-in Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) server that scans machines as soon as they access the wireless network. Previously, using the Check Point software required an extra standalone server.

”It won’t let you go anywhere on the network until you’ve been scanned,” says Williams. If the machine doesn’t pass muster once it’s been scanned, it is either sent to a spyware cleaning area on the server or to get anti-virus downloads or Windows updates.

User must then rinse and repeat until the software is satisfied that the machine is clean.

Williams also likes the fact that Bluesocket’s latest wireless access points can act as connectivity hubs or scanners that can detect and jam other unauthorized APs that students bring into the dorms. The 1,000-student campus is only partially unwired at the moment. Williams has eight access points in place and expects to add another 20 over time.

He also evaluated wireless LAN network management software from startup Roving Planet Inc. for the campus but says that -- at least in the older version he saw -- it didn’t offer the same security features.

Williams hasn’t even looked at the voice-over-WLAN capabilities of the Bluesocket product. “We don’t use it,” he explains.

But despite this, you can expect Bluesocket to keep banging the (ear)drum about its voice capabilities. The firm has a long established history in the education market but wants more of a slice of the corporate market than it currently possesses.

Bluesocket’s Danielson particularly stresses the firm’s evolution from a firm that merely provided wireless LAN controllers into a “complete wireless LAN systems provider” that is ready to compete with the major players in the enterprise market.

”We’re confident in going toe-to-toe with the leaders in the market, including Cisco, Aruba, and Symbol,” says Danielson.

And Bluesocket isn’t the only one gearing up for a big push on WiFi voice capabilities. Expect more news on this front next week. — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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