Foundry: Future Proof?

With a comprehensive series of updates due to start shipping next month, Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) hopes to light a fire under its enterprise wireless LAN offerings. Distinguishing its products in this increasingly crowded marketplace, Foundry claims, is the ability to "future-proof" the new gear so it will be able to handle applications such as high-speed 802.11n WiFi and VOIP applications when they arrive.

The company says it has updated its IronView network management software and is offering new IronPoint Mobility controllers and access points. The controllers are available in 24- and 48-port versions.

Michael Hong, senior product marketing manager for wireless LAN products at Foundry, says it will be important that switches offer 1-Gbit/s power-over-Ethernet connections and optional 10-Gbit/s uplinks when 802.11n hits the mainstream enterprise, although that doesn't seem likely until 2007, at the earliest.

"Current access points cannot be updated to support 802.11n," he says. "They'll need new antennas and faster CPUs."

What users can do is ensure that there is enough horsepower in the network to support 802.11n access points as and when they arrive. Hence the need for gigabit speeds.

Hong says Foundry is working on its own split-MAC 802.11n access point, although he didn't name a release date. To date Bluesocket Inc. is the only enterprise vendor that has taken the plunge with high-speed MIMO WiFi (See Bluesocket's Performance Play.)

The company is also talking up VOIP with some proprietary quality-of-service updates intended to improve voice-over-WLAN performance. These include voice priority and cueing updates, Hong says. The system has been tested and certified with SpectraLink Corp. and Vocera Communications Inc. as well as a number of SIP clients.

"We're client-agnostic," Hong claims.

Hong says the new gear will help its WiFi sales. The firm could certainly do with the bump: Synergy Research Group Inc. says Foundry's enterprise wireless LAN sales fell 43 percent in the first quarter of 2006 from their high point of $1.4 million in the fourth quarter of last year.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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