Colubris wires its future to network convergence

Colubris' new strategy focuses on integrating wired and wireless network infrastructure. It's hoping an increasing focus on network convergence will help it emerge as a competitive force in the Wi-Fi hardware market.

Wireless networking vendor Colubris Networks Inc. claims it's the first wireless LAN (WLAN) hardware vendor to unify wireless and wired networks in a single architecture.

However, with the market moving toward convergence, once researcher said it could be the edge that the startup needs to stay afloat.

The Waltham, Mass.-based firm's architecture, coined Unified Services Network (USN), sets up a two-stage plan for delivering a vision of next-generation networking. The architecture encompasses wired and wireless services handled on the same infrastructure, with centralized management and support of multiple services such as voice, video and data.

The first of two products at the foundation of this vision is the Multiservice Controller. The controller will incorporate the gateway's public access features and add centrally controlled capabilities, including radio frequency management, roaming, authentication and configuration of the Colubris intelligent access points (APs).

According to Carl Blume, director of product marketing at Colubris, the company plans to challenge other switches by embracing use of its intelligent, or "fat," access points at the edge of the network. Competitors' WLAN switches often connect users to the network by keeping the intelligence of the network centralized, with "dumb," or "thin," APs.

Blume said as WLANs get faster with new specifications, like the 108 Mbps 802.11n, fat APs at the edge will be vital. He added, "We believe very strongly that the edge of your network has to have embedded intelligence in order to deliver a rich array of services in high performance."

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Craig Mathias, principal with Ashland-Mass.-based wireless consultancy Farpoint Group, recently authored a white paper titled "The Switch Evolves: Unified Wireless LAN." Mathias said Colubris is emerging as a strong vendor in the market and agrees with the general direction the company is taking with this strategy.

In fact, Mathias said, wired and wireless convergence will be commonplace within the next two or three years.

Mathias said this announcement marks Colubris' thrust into the enterprise AP space and an upcoming market-wide move toward unifying wired and wireless products.

Ultimately, Blume said, Colubris' reliance on intelligence in APs will enable lower prices and better performance in the long run.

Colubris plans to release details of the new controller in May or June of 2005, and has availability scheduled in June or July.

Blume said the new controller will compete with centralized architectures from WLAN switch vendors, including Aruba Wireless Networks, and offerings from WLAN controller companies such as Bluesocket Inc. and Cranite Systems Inc.

The second of the two products is a unified edge switch for both wired and wireless networking. Beginning in the second half of 2006, businesses will be able to deploy this unified LAN/WLAN access switch, instead of standard Ethernet switches in wiring closets for instance, when upgrading LAN switches.

Blume said Colubris' goal is to create an access layer Ethernet switch that uses Colubris' WLAN software and switching silicon by vendors such as SiNett Corp. or Broadcom Corp. to process wired and wireless traffic.

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