May 11, 2003, 8:18 PM — Last fall, Symbol Technologies announced a wireless LAN product that was very different from any seen before. Symbol's Mobius Wireless System turned out to be the start of a major trend not seen in WLANs before - a real paradigm shift if there ever was one. What Symbol did was to redefine wireless-LAN infrastructure away from a sea of "fat" access points and into a centralized architecture. Thus the "switched wireless LAN" was born. Now, you'll see arguments in the press as to what exactly is being switched, and whether a particular implementation is in fact "switched".
I don't think such arguments matter much. In fact, I've started using the term "centralized" in place of "switched". And that's because what these systems really do is take the brains out of the access point (AP) and put them into a centralized, rack-mounted package that fits nicely with all of that other stuff already in network racks. The real beauty of this approach is that network managers can now operate a potentially very large WLAN system from a single point of control, security, and management. And given that the "thin" APs used are much less expensive than traditional APs, costs to acquire can be lower as well, meaning that total cost of ownership (TCO) can be greatly reduced using a switched, I mean, um, centralized, approach.
Well, needless to say, whatever you call them, they have taken the market by storm. Here's a list of switched systems so far:
AireSpace, Inc. (formerly BlackStorm)
Aruba Wireless Networks
Chantry Networks, Inc.
Legra Systems, Inc.
Nortel Networks Limited
As you review the above you'll notice real differences among the products - and we're still at the beginning of the switched era. After all, Cisco, the WLAN leader, has yet to announce their switched product. I expect major developments in this space all year long - stay tuned.
Copyright 2003 by Farpoint Group. All rights reserved.