Meru Networks this week unveiled its virtual-cell architecture, which gives every client device accessing the wireless LAN its own unique identifier that stays with it wherever it moves within the network, said Joe Epstein, senior director of technology at the company.

The virtual, software-based operating system—or port—is installed inside access points. Epstein said it was developed to support consistency in a network by partitioning resources. This is done by allocating service to individual client devices, such as laptops, phones or PDAs. In other words, each client device on the WLAN is assigned a unique virtual port that is customized to its specific capabilities and protected from disruption by other users' network demands. In addition, the system meets IEEE 802.11 standards, so each individual device operates with its own virtual, but private, wireless LAN.

“The client believes that it only sees two devices in the network, itself and the nearest access point,” Epstein said. “Each application is a part of the larger network, but it believes it is its own virtual machine.”

Predictability in networks is needed to control traffic and ensure reliability, Epstein said. With the aid of the port, each device is bounded by the amount of resources in the network it is capable of accessing. Previously, if one device became chatty or uploaded data links at fast rates, it would consume much of the network’s resources, Epstein said. It also could consume much of the airtime needed for emergency communications. Now, the port lets carriers and the technicians tasked with maintaining networks control each device.

The ability to clear out network resources at the time of emergencies is one of the critical attributes of the system, Epstein said. Specifically, it can be set up for priority traffic, where first-responder communications bump other communications cluttering the network.

“In other words, we are able to control the client device’s behavior and bound that behavior, so if a client is chatty, we can stop it,” he said. “And if first responders need access, their communications will be given priority.”

The software is available as a free download from the company, Epstein said.