Nortel, Trapeze join on wireless LAN technology

Nortel Networks Corp. is teaming up with Trapeze Networks Inc. to start reselling the company's wireless LAN (WLAN) equipment by midyear and later co-develop products with embedded Trapeze technology, the companies announced Wednesday.

Nortel had been sourcing a line of WLAN equipment from Airespace Inc., which agreed in January to be acquired by Nortel rival Cisco Systems Inc. Nortel will continue to support the Airespace-based products, said Kyle Klassen, Nortel's director of WLAN product management.

The new Nortel WLAN 2300 Series, based on the MX series of WLAN switches from Trapeze, will begin shipping in May or June, according to Klassen. Nortel will fully test the products for interoperability with Nortel's network, voice and security gear, he said. Trapeze brings a broader line of products to Nortel than did Airespace, which means a better fit for customers ranging from small and medium-sized companies to large enterprises, Klassen said.

Beyond a product stopgap following the Airespace acquisition, the partnership will generate new innovation, both companies said. With Trapeze's technology, Nortel plans to help enterprises and service providers offer secure wired or wireless network access through a single authentication and security infrastructure, said Jim Vogt, president and chief executive officer of Trapeze.

The technology could also be extended to cellular and other types of networks and used in managed services offered by carriers, airports and building owners, he said. Trapeze, of Pleasanton, California, already offers this technology in its own WLAN gear, which allows enterprises to utilize an existing system, such as a RADIUS server, to handle user access to the network, Vogt said.

"You're translating all those dollars you've spent on the wired side to these new users who are wireless," he said.

The companies plan to embed Trapeze technology in Nortel switches that will have all the capabilities of both wired and wireless switches, according to both Vogt and Klassen. Those products probably will become available next year, Klassen said.

Cisco's acquisition of Airespace was a big boost for the switch-based approach to WLANs taken by startups such as Trapeze, Airespace and Aruba Wireless Networks Inc., said Forrester Research Inc. analyst Ellen Daley. Those startups take some intelligence out of wireless access points and put it in a specialized switch. Other vendors, including Cisco, originally based their strategies on standalone "fat" access points connected to a conventional wired LAN.

Enterprises need more sophisticated, switch-based WLAN systems as they adopt new wireless applications such as VOIP (voice over IP) calls that require higher quality of service, Daley said. They also want to eliminate duplicate systems used today for user authentication and security in wired and wireless networks, she said. Nortel's deal with Trapeze should push it along that path, Daley said. However, Trapeze is not the only game in town. Aruba, which has a partnership with Alcatel SA, also is strong in these areas, she said.

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