Orinoco floats WLAN management tool

Orinoco will this summer launch a WLAN management product that manages Compaq and ELSA kit, but it won't work with Cisco, Intel and 3Com. Is it time for the IEEE to draw up a WLAN management standard?

Wireless LAN specialist Orinoco has launched a management product at Microsoft Tech Ed in Barcelona. It's the first software-only product from the company, whose sale to rival Proxim has been agreed by current owner Agere, and illustrates a need for multi-vendor WLAN management efforts from groups such as IEEE and WECA.

The product, which will be available this summer, will plug into NT or HP OpenView, and will cost $999 for up to 50 base stations, and $1,995 for more than 50. It discovers the wired part of the WLAN, and maps any changes, monitors connections on each node, and gives alerts for overloads and malfunctions. It also distributes updates of software across the network, "which is very good if you have hundreds of nodes," said Mario Maas, senior business manager at Orinoco.

Wireless LANs so far do not have multi-vendor management and, although this product can manage Orinoco kit with other badges on, such as Compaq or ELSA, it cannot manage Cisco, Intel or 3Com access points. Maas did not expect a multi-vendor version any time soon, but said he hoped that the IEEE would begin work on a multi-vendor WLAN management interface, possibly with input from the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance.

The merger with Proxim is intended to solve channel conflict; Agere is the maker of one of the open-market 802.11b chipsets, as well as owning Orinoco, which sells to end users in competition with its other customers. "This is a good fit," said Maas. Proxim has not done well with 802.11b networks while Orinoco is the market leader. Orinoco sells to business, while Proxim has done better with home WLANs. And while Orinoco is strong in Europe and Asia, Proxim has been weak outside the US.

Other products coming from Orinoco include one that Maas actually advises European users not to buy. This is an upgrade kit for users who want 802.11a, the high capacity version which operates at 5GHz. Confusion over licensing for 802.11a is likely to continue at least till next year, he said. The product is there to keep up with competitors such as Intel, and make sure that Orinoco is not excluded from any contracts with corporations who want to move to 802.11a in future. As the product is already sold in the US, it has not cost anything to launch in Europe.

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