Airing out wireless problems

Cisco Systems’ partners are getting new tools to help mid-size and larger organizations add wireless capability inside and outside buildings.

The company has announced a plug-in Wireless Service Module (WiSM) for its Catalyst 6500 series switches and a Wireless LAN Controller Module for its Integrate Services Route (ISR) family.

With wireless use increasing in organizations, IT managers are having trouble controlling wired and wireless networks, said Ben Gibson, Cisco’s director of wireless mobility marketing.

Plugging these devices into its hardware makes it a snap for companies to add many access points at once.

For example, a 6500 switch has room for five WiSM modules, each of which controls up to 300 access points. A module has a list price of US$4,500. Each US$2,500 module for the ISR can support up to six access points.

The advantage is both solutions tie into Cisco’s wireline products, allowing IT managers the ability to control wired and wireline security from a central architecture, said Gibson.

“Not only is this a new opportunity to be able to provide a much more unified approach to deploying wireless networking,” he said, “it’s also an opportunity (for partners) to work with customers who already have Cisco products deployed.

“If they want to add mobility these two products allow them a very easy way to do so.”

At the same time Cisco announced a mesh solution for creating outdoor WiFi networks as large as 12.9 sq. km.(5 sq. mi.) through its new Aironet 1500 Series outdoor access points.

The units uses what the vendor calls an Adaptive Wireless Path Protocol, which enables a remote access point to dynamically choose the best data path from all the access points in the mesh. As new access points are added, each one can adjust data routing for maximum efficiency.

The devices can be installed anywhere there is a power source, including rooftops, light posts and power poles. Each costs US$3,995.

“It takes WiFi beyond hot spots,” said Gibson.

Among potential customers are local governments who want to set up city-run WiFi networks, or who want to tie in their utility or emergency services data networks, he said.

Phil Marshall, a Yankee Group wireless analyst, said in an e-mail interview that Cisco has timed its entry into this market well because wireless mesh is only now establishing itself in the marketplace. The lion’s share of Cisco’s customers and potential customers do not require mesh capabilities. However, he said it will be well received for those that require the capability, such as municipalities and service providers.

“This is a new and great opportunity for our partners,” said Gibson, “particularly those in wireless and looking at outdoor broadband wireless to work with a variety of customers.”

The 1500 series is shipping now, although Gibson said partners will have to be trained on implementing mesh networks.

The WiSM and ISR modules will ship next month.

To encourage partners, Cisco will be offering sales incentive programs. However, at press time details were still being worked out.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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