Aruba announces beta trials of centralised 802.11i network

Aruba kicks off trials of a secure, centrally managed 802.11i Wi-Fi installation

Wireless network specialist Aruba is conducting field trials of what it claims is the first centralised installation of a secure wireless network based on the recently ratified 802.11i standard.

The 802.11i standard is designed to give wireless networking a boost as previous security measures, such as Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), were easily broken by hackers, leaving many security-conscious IT managers wary about wireless networking. The most significant feature of the 802.11i standard is Advanced Encryption Standard, a strong encryption standard supporting 128-bit, 192-bit and 256-bit keys.

Aruba has chosen to centralise the network's encryption process in a dedicated "encryption engine" rather than in individual access points -- as is the usual method. This means the company's customers will have more freedom in using existing access points.

Merwyn Andrade, chief technology officer at Aruba and a contributor to the IEEE 802.11i specification, said that like other wireless vendors Aruba uses "off-the-shelf" radio components, which means it is easier and faster to deliver complicated services from a dedicated centralised box rather than waiting for component manufacturers to begin shipping equipment and drivers that support the new technology.

"We implement these functions in a central programmable controller and switching system that provides services to multiple access points. This provides investment protection to our customers as well as giving us a time-to-market advantage with new features such as 802.11i -- since we don't need to wait for our radio suppliers to release new drivers," said Andrade.

CNET's Richard Shim contributed to this report.