May 04, 2011, 11:41 AM — Meru announced on Wednesday high-performance Wi-Fi access points and software designed to let enterprise IT groups replace wired Ethernet switches at the network edge.
Dubbed Teton, the new 802.11n platform includes software to optimize usage by increasingly diverse Wi-Fi clients, including iPads and other tablets as well as smartphones. Teton introduces what Meru calls the "WLAN 500 mode," which is a network-wide service with features that let one access point deal with up to 500 Wi-Fi clients in a 500-square foot area.
ANALYSIS: "Major Wi-Fi changes ahead"
(Earlier this week, in separate announcement addressing big wireless networks, Motorola Solutions said it was jacking up its WiFi controller tenfold to handle up to 10,000 access points.)
As for Meru, its Teton-based AP400 indoor and outdoor models will have three 802.11n radios, with an option for a fourth via USB port, with each radio supporting three data streams. For three radios, the total throughput per access point is 450Mbps (compared to the prior two-radio, two-stream Meru models of 300Mbps). Adding the optional fourth radio, boosts this 1.8Gbps.
Meru is not yet announcing prices for the new hardware, due out later this year. The company's pitch is that the new product line will enable enterprises to phase out Ethernet edge switches, which are increasingly left idle as laptops and other clients connect via Wi-Fi. But even idle, there are support contracts, electricity, operational costs and traditional switch replacement cycles for which enterprises are paying. It seems likely there will be some premium for the powerful new radios and the software features, but Meru's pricing calculations may take into account the capital and operational costs of edge switches to spur adoption.
The idea of eliminating wired Ethernet as the primary network access has been controversial for the past two or three years. But even in 2009, a range of enterprises (many of them colleges and universities) were discovering that a majority of their wired Ethernet ports (90% at one university) were completely idle, because users were relying on Wi-Fi.