Foundry unveils wireless plans

The wireless networking space is becoming a more hotly contested space by the month. Recent entrants to the market have included Extreme Networks and Nortel Networks. Hot on their heels is, Foundry Networks.

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By  Paul Barthram Published  September 29, 2003

Wireless plans|~||~||~|The wireless networking space is becoming a more hotly contested space by the month. Recent entrants to the market have included Extreme Networks and Nortel Networks. Hot on their heels is, Foundry Networks. The vendor cites a number of reasons for what could be considered a late entry into the market, including customer feedback, developing standards and a general immaturity of the existing feature set and security levels.

“We started looking at the [wireless] market place probably a good year ago… From a standards perspective what we found was a little disturbing and it caused us to take a more cautious approach to the market. Wireless is very immature for the enterprise [space] right now and the standards debates won’t be finalised for a while,” says Philip Kwan, director of enterprise applications, Foundry Networks.

Furthermore, the vendor took the wireless scenario to its customer base, which demonstrated a reluctance to deploy the technology until security issues were ironed out. “When we asked our customers if they would buy large quantities for enterprise deployment in early 2003, they simply said no — either budgets were too tight or they had security concerns. They didn’t give us confidence that if we were too produce something we would be selling 100s and 1000s [of products],” explains Kwan.

Foundry used this apathy as an opportunity to spend more time developing its wireless strategy and products. As a result, the vendor’s initial rollout will deliver the IronPoint 200 802.11 a/b/g access point (AP), while subsequent phases scheduled for introduction at the end of this year and the end of Q1 2004 will see management and feature upgrades.

With its AP, Foundry cites security, authentication, standards and management capabilities as key factors in its development. The vendor has also looked to provide a platform that is suitable for both small enterprises and large organisations through the provision of both centralised and stand alone management capabilities. To facilitate this goal, the vendor has modified its IronView Network Manager (INM) solution to provide wireless management functionality.

“The first product is a full featured AP with strong security and centralised, or single unit, management. So the product could be used as a stand alone unit for a very small application, like a coffee house supplying wireless,” says Kwan.

“But for companies that are purchasing a dozen, two dozen, 50 or 100 of these APs and want to simplify their management headaches and shorten the maintenance time, we provide a centralised management piece of software with the INM,” he continues.

The second phase of its wireless strategy will see Foundry moving closer towards its goal of providing seamless wired and wireless networking infrastructures with minimal disruption to existing services, users or applications. The vendor will be Wi-Fi enabling its FastIron Edge switches, which it claims will enable users to run wireless networks, with the benefits Layer 2 and 3 functionalities that are more commonly associated only with wired networks.

The vendor also claims this approach gives it an advantage over its wireless rivals.
“Instead of following what some of our competitors have done and create a dedicated wireless LAN switch, we took the reverse approach and took the FastIron Edge switch with all of its current features and added some software to it to Wi-Fi enable it,” explains Kwan.

“Users upgrade the switch with the Wi-Fi code and then it will ask them which ports they want to Wi-Fi enable. It might be ports 1, 5, 10 and 11 and only those ports will get the Wi-Fi enabled features. The others completely retain the existing Layer 2-3 feature set,” he adds.

Taking its wireless strategy even further next year, Foundry will look to make wireless deployments more scalable and cost effective for large enterprises. Furthermore, the vendor will introduce wireless awareness and capabilities into its JetCore chassis products, enabling users to manage multiple access points as one centralised switch.

“This sends the message to our large customers that have already spent money on our chassis products — it says you don’t have to buy a wireless LAN switch if you want to go wireless. A small fee for an upgrade will allow you to turn any port into a wireless LAN switch capable product set,” comments Kwan.||**||

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