HP plans own-brand Wi-Fi

Hewlett-Packard could be launching its own wireless LAN products in summer, in a move towards policing the boundary of corporate networks better

Hewlett-Packard could be preparing to launch its own Wi-Fi access points in the summer.

Hewlett-Packard, which currently resells Proxim Orinoco wireless access points, mooted the idea at an event in Barcelona on Tuesday. "We are looking at architecture designs and potential directions," said John McHugh, vice president and general manager of HP's networking division. "We could make a formal announcement in summer."

The Orinoco Wi-Fi product is a flexible system with dual radios, which is aimed at the centre of the market, but enterprises will want a more structured solution, he explained: "We have picked up the [Orinoco] 520 but we are looking for more focused products."

Both HP and Compaq have historically resold the Orinoco product, so the merged HP had no difficulty carrying on the relationship, but the system was previously sold by the PC divisions of the companies as an accessory. Wi-Fi has now been moved into the networking division, and the company is likely to differentiate its products from other Orinoco resellers.

The change will be towards central management of wireless access points, including those from other vendors, perhaps moving some intelligence from the access point to the switch. "Switches should have the option of becoming local controllers of wireless network nodes," said McHugh. "They won't be dumb nodes, but integrated nodes."

The new products will not replace Orinoco, however. "What Proxim represents is a very solid base, with a deep feature set," said McHugh. "It's a wireless solution that they are good at."

The possible new products would fit well with HP's "Edge" architecture, which moves intelligence to the edge of the network and assumes that users will apply 802.1x authentication to all ports on the network -- both wireless and wired -- to deal with the fact that the boundary of the corporate network is becoming too complex to police any other way.

"Your private network will become a public network," said McHugh. Users logging on to any network port will be authenticated and only given the privileges they are entitled to. The same will apply to rogue wireless access points.

The 802.1x-enabled network will also allow visitor networks (wireless or wired) where a visitor is given a certificate which puts them on a virtual LAN which only allows access to the public Internet, and keeps them away from corporate applications.

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