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SonicWall Locks Into WLAN

Security appliance vendor SonicWall Inc. (Nasdaq: SNWL) wants to elbow its way into the already overcrowded wireless LAN management market by combining its boxes with new 802.11 software and access points.

There are already a number of major networking incumbents and startups -- including 802.11 switch vendors like Airespace Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and WLAN gateway vendors such as Bluesocket Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) -- offering differing methods for centrally managing and securing enterprise WiFi networks.

But SonicWall -- which started shipping VPN and firewall appliances back in 1997 -- claims that it will offer businesses a less expensive method of implementing security and management policies across both wired and wireless networks.

Here's what SonicWall is offering:

Thin Access Points: The SonicPoint satellite access points (APs) are controlled via one of SonicWall's appliances. They support all three current 802.11 standards: a (54 Mbit/s over 5GHz), b (11 Mbit/s over 2.4GHz), and g (54 Mbit/s over 2.4GHz), as well as Power-Over-Ethernet (POE) with an optional $89 injector.

SonicWall is following the model established by the wireless LAN switch vendors by incorporating most of the network "intelligence" at its appliance, but John Gordineer, product line manager at SonicWall, says that the APs will still have some smarts. The SonicPoints will handle radio control and wireless protected access (WPA) encryption at the edge of the network.

SonicWall already offers a standalone AP -- called the Trusted Zone Wireless (TZW) -- that incorporates a firewall for branch office applications.

Appliances: SonicWall says that all its current firewall/VPN appliances will now manage wireless LAN networks. This ranges from the $500 TZ170 appliance, which can manage two APs, to the $12,000 Pro5060 that can handle up to 128 of the little blighters.

The appliances handle tasks like VPN termination, intrusion detection, rogue AP tracking, user list management, and scanning for anti-virus software on clients.

SonicWall also supplies IPSec client software for 802.11 devices and will restrict new users to "guest areas" on the network until they have the necessary software.

"Nobody without IPSec will be allowed to access private corporate resources," claims Gordineer.

Central Management Software: Adminstrators can control the whole kit 'n' caboodle via the firm's Global Management System [ed. note: catchy!] console software. Gordineer says that Rent-A-Center is already using the software to centrally manage 2,700 of its branch office TZW APs, which connect to wireless point-of-sale terminals in the stores.

Overall, Gordineer claims that wireless LAN could become a big market for SonicWall. The company shipped 40,000 of its appliances last quarter, and he says that it "seems like" 40 or 50 percent of its customers may be interested in wireless LAN.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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