Aruba Wireless Networks will introduce a programme later this week allowing enterprises to consolidate legacy Wi-Fi access points under a centralised switching system, using open source software. The plan is to be officially announced on Thursday.
The programme is designed to help Aruba compete with enterprise wireless vendors such as Cisco, and will allow enterprises to centralise the management and security of both Aruba and third-party access points (APs) — the catch is that companies must use an Aruba switching system.
Aruba will make boot code for its access points available on SourceForge.net under an open source licence, and is also launching a certification programme ensuring that the code operates correctly on third-party APs. Once the software is running on an AP, the hardware becomes, for all practical purposes, an Aruba AP.
"The boot code runs on an AP, and tells the AP to look for our switch," said David Callisch, Aruba's communications director. "Once it does that, the switch uploads a software image to the APs. It turns them into Aruba APs."
The programme takes interoperability beyond the ability to exchange data and allows the switch to control functions such as power transmit levels, channel assignments and RF management, Callisch said. It adds functionality such as RF monitoring, adaptive radio management and wireless IDS.
Aruba is not doing any of the code porting itself. If a vendor chooses to port the boot code itself — as Netgear is currently doing — the hardware can be officially certified under the new "Aruba Certified" scheme. But any developer can modify the code to work on any Power PC-based AP with an Atheros radio, Callisch said, although these projects won't get Aruba's official certification.
For example, Aruba isn't actively targeting Airespace or Trapeze APs but says there are "no technical barriers" preventing the open source community from running Aruba code on this hardware. "We wanted to be much more aggressive than we're being, but there's a certain decorum needed in the market to do it correctly," said Callisch. "That's why we open sourced it. We could have said, 'Hey, we're going to sell code that runs on Airespace APs,' but we would have been in lawsuit heaven."
Power PC-based 802.11a+b/g APs developed by Accton and resold by companies such as Foundry, Extreme, and Nortel have already been certified, Aruba said. The source code will be made available on SourceForge.net on 14 March.
The end result for enterprises should be the ability to move from stand-alone, "fat" APs to a centralised system using "thin" APs without having to junk existing hardware, said Aruba. For AP vendors such as Netgear, participation in the certification programme allows them to reach an enterprise market, Callisch said. Netgear doesn't currently sell enterprise-grade equipment such as switches.