Cisco extends wireless features to manufacturers

As part of its Compatible Extension Programme, Cisco Systems is delivering a range of enhanced 802.11 features to silicon manufacturers, such as Intel.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  April 23, 2003

Although wireless local area networks (WLANs) have been gaining significant momentum over the last two years, security fears have troubled the technology. However, Cisco is planning to address these security issues, as well as enhancing other 802.11 standard features, as part of its Cisco Compatible Extension programme (CCX).

Under CCX the networking giant will provide these extended Version 1 features to silicon manufacturers, such as Intel, Atheros, Texas Instruments and Agere Systems, free of charge and enable them to incorporate Version 1 into the wireless devices they produce.

“What enterprises are really demanding is… more security, better management capabilities and better interoperability, plus they want all that embedded in a PDA or a laptop when they buy it. So we came up with the Cisco Compatible Extension Programme, which is basically 22 special features that are over and above the 802.11 standards that Cisco embeds into its clients and infrastructure,” says Ian Philips, product marketing manager, Aironet solutions, Cisco Systems.

“We offer this as a free of charge license to the silicon manufacturers that produce wireless devices, and they in turn supply either third party manufacturers or OEMs with wireless devices,” he adds.

However, the networking giant does concede that there has been some confusion created by its CCX initiative and, as such, Cisco is keen to stress that the programme is not promoting proprietary technology or looking to rival current standards bodies, such as the IEEE, which is responsible for developing 802.11 standards. Instead the vendor argues CCX that it is merely adding functionality to existing standards.

“It’s not standards, it’s features — we don’t want it to be positioned as an alternative to what the standards bodies are doing,” says Philips.

“Technology as a whole tends to have basic level standards and 802.11 is a classic example. But what organisations like Cisco have always done is added value to those standards, and that is all we have done here, except that we have made it available to other people and they can implement Cisco technology in their client devices,” he continues.

Countering the proprietary criticism, Philips merely adds that users are not forced to buy the products or even use Cisco Compatible branded products with its own wireless infrastructure. However, should they choose to do so they will benefit from the enhanced features. “What we are doing is adding it [CCX Version 1] to our partners’ products so it can compliment a Cisco infrastructure if a customer decides that they want to use our advanced features,” he says.

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