Trapeze makes secure Wi-Fi roaming tool

Trapeze hopes to allay business fears about Wi-Fi with a range of products that major on security and roaming

Trapeze Networks, whose wireless LAN products launch on 14 April, joins a crowd of established network vendors and start-ups pitching for the business-grade Wi-Fi market.

Many companies have been reluctant to adopt wireless LANs thanks to security fears, and Trapeze aims to allay those concerns with secure roaming.

"We make tools not toys," said Jim Flach, chief executive of Trapeze. The WLAN Mobility System lets users log in once and carry their privileges as they move between wireless cells. "There's been a conflict between security and mobility," said Flach. "We want to do both at the same time."

The product is based, like most wireless LANs designed for business use from companies such as Symbol and Nortel, on a wired switch that handles wireless traffic when it hits the wired network and integrates with that network. The logic and access control is centralised, in a so-called Mobility Exchange switch, while the wireless base stations are reduced to Mobility Points containing the radio and some other features.

The slim base stations are a clue that, unlike Nortel, Trapeze is not hedging its bets by making a product that could sit in a one-node coffee shop hotspot. "Enterprise networks are the biggest opportunity right now," said Flach. "The hot-spot market is not there yet. This technology will cycle from the home to the office to the service provider."

A design and management package called RingMaster is included, which can be used to position base stations based on an office plan from standard drawing formats. The IT manager has to input the attenuation of different objects on the plan -- based on libraries for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. RingMaster then provides a work order that shows where the equipment should be placed. "It is different from a site survey because it plans for capacity, not just coverage," said Mike Banic, director of marketing.

The WLAN Mobility System also monitors wireless devices, checking on performance and sniffing out so-called "rogue" access points, which are unauthorised WLANs brought in by users. The mobility points all include two Ethernet connections so they can be given a redundant connection to the network -- and draw their power from the Mobility Exchange, via Power over Ethernet. The mobility points come with either a single or dual radio that supports 802.11a and 802.11b.

Trapeze believes its mobility solution is better than others -- although the 802.11i standard promises to allow any vendor to offer secure roaming. "Other vendors use VPN and Mobile IP," said Banic. "Ours plugs into existing Radius servers." The mobility exchange assists in 802.1x verification, offloading encryption and other tasks from the authentication servers on the network

The system, which ships in June, starts at £6,650 for a starter kit that includes a Mobility Exchange (with 20 ports), two dual mode Mobility Points and the software.

Trapeze itself was set up a year ago with venture fund money, headed by serial entrepreneurs, including Flach (ex-Xerox, Intel Agile and Terraspring), chief technology officer Ward Harrison formerly of Redback, and others from Extreme Networks.

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