Aruba Networks unveiled a line of 802.11 a/b/g remote access points that can be upgraded to 802.11n functionality via downloadable software.

Michael Tennefoss, who heads Aruba's strategic marketing efforts, said the AP-124ABG and AP-125ABG access points are ideal for public safety agencies that might understand the benefits of 802.11n technology but don't have the budgets for a forklift migration. “They still want to make a future-proof buying decision, and that's what these products do,” he said.

All a user needs to do is purchase a software key from Aruba, which is loaded onto the vendor's controller and then downloaded to the access points. “It's very simple,” Tennefoss said.

Once the software is unlocked, the access point provides full 802.11 functionality and operates using legacy 802.3af power over Ethernet (POE). The latter capability is a key advantage, according to Tennefoss, who said one competitor was forced to upgrade to the much higher-current POE+ because of the amount of power their access points draw. “That means you have to replace your entire POE infrastructure,” when migrating to 802.11n, he said.

Tennefoss added that another competitor requires users to deploy two 802.3af power sources. “That means you're going to end up spending an additional $150 to $300 per access point just to upgrade the POE,” he said.

Indeed, the power issue initially caused Aruba to delay the launch of its 802.11n access points. “Even though it was ready back in June, we didn't announce it until November because the first-generation 802.11n chipsets consumed too much power,” Tennefoss said. “So we were waiting for the second-generation chipsets to be released, but they kept getting delayed.”

In addition to leveraging the second-generation chipset, Aruba also engineered into its 802.11n access points an intelligent power management function that minimizes current consumption.

“Let's say, for example, an integrator made a mistake and instead of installing 100 meters of Cat 5 cable — which is the maximum — he installed 300 meters,” Tennefoss said. “So now you have a resistance drop along the cable and you're getting much less current than you thought.

“Instead of just shutting down altogether, what the access point will do is go from 3×3 [multiple input/multiple output] operation to 2×3 MIMO operation. So we'll cut out one of the streams as a way of conserving power while maintaining functionality in the unit.”

Aruba also announced its Mobile Remote Access Point software, a VPN replacement designed to deliver the “enterprise experience to mobile workers,” Tennefoss said. “You have the same network resources and the same level of security when you're on the road as you have at your desk in your office.”

Once installed in any standard Aruba remote access point, the software establishes a remote IP sec tunnel to the enterprise's data center. It then activates a full policy-based firewall within the access point that enforces the same security policies in place at the corporate office. “Whatever you can do locally, you now can do remotely,” he said.

While primarily an enterprise solution, Tennefoss said the software was designed with public safety in mind, as it provides 3G cellular modem support. Users can plug a USB cellular modem into the corresponding port on the access point to create a wide-area network connection.

“So, instead of pulling down a satellite link, [first responders] can now use cellular as the backhaul to the … disaster-recovery center,” Tennefoss said. “This is a much more flexible solution because you might not always have [satellite] line of sight … especially in an urban area.”

WLAN systems and equipment vendors

Aruba Networks ▪ BelAir Networks ▪ COM/RAD ▪ ERF Wireless ▪ Firetide ▪ Fortress Technologies ▪ Motorola ▪ Proxim Wireless ▪ Rajant ▪ SkyPilot ▪ Strix Systems ▪ WFI Deployment ▪ Winncom Technologies ▪ For complete listings of location and tracking-system vendors, visit the MRT 2008 Resource Guide at www.mrtmag.com.

RELATED READING

Enhancing mesh networks

February 2008
MRT
By Jay M. Jacobsmeyer, P.E.

A leap of faith

December 2007
MRT
By Lynnette Luna

A ray of light

November 2007
MRT
By Mary Rose Roberts