- Provides a central point for managing multiple wireless LAN access points
- Power Over Ethernet radio ports are very easy to deploy
- Only works with high-end HP switches
Launched in September, the HP ProCurve Wireless Edge Services zl Module (WESM) can be fitted in the ProCurve Switch 5400zl series and the Switch 8212zl series. It provides a single point for configuring and managing multiple wireless LAN access points.
The WESM system is designed for organisations wishing to deploy multiple Wi-Fi access points. The idea is that IT managers will define Wi-Fi security settings and other configuration parameters in the WESM. These settings are then automatically distributed to up to 48 ProCurve Radio Port devices, which act as wireless access points and allow Wi-Fi-equipped PCs to connect to the LAN infrastructure. Clearly this approach is attractive to organisations with a large number of wireless access points, where the alternative of configuring access points individually is likely to be time-consuming and error-prone.
Our review system consisted of a base HP Switch 8212zl fitted with one WESM, plus two ProCurve Radio Port 230 (RP230) modules. The Radio Port 230 is a Power Over Ethernet (POE) device, so it need only be connected to the 8212zl switch by a single Ethernet cable in order to function. The RP230 is a dual-radio IEEE 802.11 device that supports simultaneous 802.11a and b/g connections. It contains two 802.11b/g (2.4GHz) omni-directional diversity antennas and two 802.11a (5.4GHz) omni-directional antennas. HP also sells a single-radio device, called the Radio Port 210.
Deployment of HP Radio Ports is normally as simple as fixing them to a wall or ceiling and connecting them to a suitable switch using standard CAT5 network cabling. Once connected, the radio port will perform some self tests and then retrieve its configuration parameters from the WESM. The radio ports can just as easily be deployed in a branch office, if a suitable POE injector is in place or the branch office is equipped with a suitable POE switch. Provided there's a working VPN link back to the datacentre, the radio port can then retrieve its configuration from a WESM in the datacentre. The only proviso is that in this case all Wi-Fi traffic would go via the VPN to the datacentre, so the VPN would need sufficient bandwidth to carry the Wi-Fi traffic. In any event, Radio Ports can generally be deployed by anyone who's able to fix the unit to a suitable surface and connect up a LAN cable.
We tested the system by connecting an RP230 to our 8212zl switch. Then we used a web browser to connect to the WESM’s Java-based management page and began configuring the system for normal operations. As this was the first time the WESM had been used, we were asked to set the country parameter in one of the WESM management pages. We quickly activated the RP230 by selecting the Network Setup menu item and its associated WLAN Setup page from the WESM management page, then double clicking on the first available WLAN that appeared in the list to launch its configuration dialogue box. We changed the SSID of this WLAN from its default setting and configured WEP security before closing the dialogue box and pressing a button to enable this WLAN.
With these simple steps completed, the RP230 retrieved the new configuration and began accepting connections from our Wi-Fi devices. Although this process was remarkably simple, we did overlook many of the more advanced functions, such as configuring several different WLANs, the built-in RADIUS server and the various DHCP handling options of which the WESM and RP230 combination are capable.
However, all of this complexity is neatly handled by the management pages, and network administrators should have little trouble finding and configuring the options they are interested in.
As you'd expect, the WESM stores its configuration in non-volatile memory so things return to normal automatically after a power failure. There’s also an option to export the WESM configuration files to an external FTP server, which could be useful as part of a disaster recovery plan.