October 25, 2005, 9:19 AM — Aruba Networks has launched the "Mobile Edge" - a portable wireless LAN access point that will let business users plug in a bubble of corporate WLAN wherever they are.
"Cisco wants to sell an upgrade to the basic network, to support wireless, security and voice over IP," said Aruba's vice president of marketing Keerti Melkote. As a wireless LAN company, Aruba reckons this is unnecessary: "Mobility, security and VoIP are all at layers 4 to 7 of the network model, so they can be delivered as an overlay."
The Mobile Edge is an evolution of the grid-points Aruba began selling last year. Mobility controllers (Aruba's new name for wireless LAN switches) control access points across the network, and across the Internet, supporting WPA2 security and 802.1x authentication: "What we are adding is site-to-site VPNs," said Melkote.
Aruba has produced two new access points, the single radio AP-41 for the home office and the dual-radio AP-65 - a three-inch square box which can produce an "instant office" anywhere when plugged into the Internet, through an Ethernet socket. The remote worker can then use laptops, and Wi-Fi phones as if they were in the office, with an encrypted tunnel to the office LAN.
"Users can throw out their VPN servers," said Melkote. "They have already moved from traditional IPsec to SSL VPNs, but neither of these support voice." Other wireless LAN vendors can't follow Aruba's lead, he said, because they don't put encryption on the wireless LAN switch, he said: "Our Aruba 6000 controller can handle up to 7Gbit/s of encrypted traffic." Aruba refers to its encryption as the xSec protocol.
The solution is more manageable than a VPN because it includes an access point, according to analyst Craig Mathias, principal with the Farpoint Group: "It is, in effect, an enterprise-class product controlled by the enterprise switch."
This is a second new direction in just over a year for Aruba. Last year, Grid Points were meant to get everyone to take access points down from the ceiling, install them densely and let them handle their own radio survey. So far, the idea has not taken off: although Melkote reckons ninety percent of Aruba's new customers are using Grid Points, he doesn't think many of them have brought their access points down from the ceiling.
In the US, the products will cost US$496 for the AP 65, and $195 for the AP 41. Both are due to ship in November.
In future, Melkote expects to take the obvious next step of giving the access point the ability to use wireless for the backhaul to the corporate LAN, so it could be used for secure access using just a wireless hotspot, instead of requiring Ethernet access.
Additional reporting by Ephraim Schwartz, InfoWorld