Wireless intelligence sent back to the edge

WLAN pioneer Trapeze Networks is reversing its move to centralisation of wireless network intelligence as it seeks to better support voice over wireless

One of the main vendors pushing the concept of centralised wireless networking has turned the technology on its head by decentralising a number of features.

Most suppliers of wireless networking equipment now centralise intelligence in so-called controllers, which improves network planning and security. Formerly all intelligence was held in the access points.

Trapeze Networks was one of three start-ups that pioneered the centralisation concept when it launched four years ago. Now it has performed an architectural U-turn by re-deploying some of that intelligence back into the access points.

Trapeze said it has changed its architecture for three reasons: to help businesses deploy voice traffic over their wireless LANs, to support campus networks and to reduce bandwidth demands on wireless networks.

The vendor's 620 access point model now performs authentication and simple routing, so if a user makes a voice call to another user within the same cell, the call is routed directly without traffic having to pass through the switch. Similarly, an access point can authenticate a user without the switch having to be involved, resulting in reduced traffic levels and latency.

But while many organisations are deploying converged voice and data networks, few are doing so over wireless. Trapeze can cite only one customer in the UK that is running voice over a wireless network.

"It's pretty niche, to be honest," said Dean Bubley, founder of Disruptive Analysis and an expert on wireless technologies. Bubley said businesses face a range of deployment challenges, including ensuring sufficient coverage, choosing the right handsets and integration with the PBX.

He also said the cost of a wireless voice deployment could be expensive, and that it might be four years before the market grows significantly.

Trapeze competes mainly against Aruba Wireless Networks and Cisco, which acquired its arch rival Airespace last year.

Both those companies offer a centralised infrastructure, but unlike Trapeze neither has tried to distribute network intelligence.

Customers wanting to deploy Trapeze's distributed intelligence must buy the 620 model of access point, or wait for a new software release due late this year.

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