Adtran is offering customers a way to build a multivendor, integrated wireless and wired network with a software update that turns its wireless LAN access points into gateways for the wired access layer of the network.
“You can set up an untrusted VLAN on an Ethernet switch and have users who come through that wired port go over to our access point on the wireless network,” said Chris Koeneman, vice president for sales for Adtran's Bluesocket business, which was acquired in August.
“Then through the access point we authenticate the user and bridge him from an untrusted VLAN to a trusted VLAN and turn him out to whatever rights he has,” he said. “We use the access point as an inline data device rather than just as a radio access device.”
Enterprises with an Adtran wireless LAN can build an integrated wireless and wired network with any vendor’s wired switches. Network administrators can also configure third-party wireless access points to forward traffic in the same manner, enabling more centralized management of access through legacy wireless infrastructure, Koeneman said.
Integrated wireless and wired: Operational efficiency and consistent network access
Integrated wired and wireless networks and unified network management of wired and wireless networks have become operational priorities for networking teams, as Wi-Fi has increasingly become a primary means of network access.
“When trying to track all access to their networks, enterprises prefer having one system instead of two,” said Mike Sapien, principal analyst with Ovum. “More and more companies are looking for integrated solutions for wireline and wireless. This fits into that trend of not having to keep your wireless and wireline resources in different domains.”
Bluesocket started developing the integrated wireless feature ahead of the
Adtran acquisition in response to a customer request from a large hotel chain that had strong wireless coverage for guests but needed to add wired access, especially for government employees traveling on business.
“Their PCs are so locked down they can’t fiddle with the wireless utility, so they have to connect to a wired network,” Koeneman said.
But the need for an integrated wireless and wired network extends far beyond hospitality. Almost every enterprise with a large wireless LAN network will still have countless wired ports accessible to end users.
“Let’s say you’re a consultant and you go into a client’s building and try to get on the wireless LAN and it doesn’t work. Then you plug into the wall jack, and boom, you’re connected to the company,” said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research.
Inconsistency between wired and wireless networks result from having to configure and manage each network separately, he said.
“You have to do every task twice, and if you have a multivendor network you wind up doing it more than twice,” Kerravala said. “What [Adtran] is looking to do is become that single management control plane for your wired and wireless network.”
The catch for administrators may be that they'll have to reconfigure all relevant switches to forward traffic to Adtran access points, and this could be a lot of work, said Kerravala.
“Whatever Adtran can do, such as creating some scripts at least for Cisco and HP switches, would be very helpful for customers to make that change quickly,” he said.
Integrated wireless and wired networks still a struggle for many vendors
Wireless LAN vendors vary in their ability to help customers build an integrated wireless and wired network. Market leader Cisco Systems, with a broad portfolio of wired and wireless networking products, has been developing its capabilities in this area. HP Networking and Enterasys Networks have also made strides with integrated wireless and wired networks.
Some wireless LAN vendors, such as Motorola, are building partnerships with their wired networking counterparts. The need for integrated wireless has also prompted some switching and routing vendors to acquire wireless LAN companies, such as Juniper’s purchase of Trapeze last year.
Wireless LAN specialist Aruba Networks tackled the problem of integrated wireless and wired networks this spring with the launch of its Mobile Virtual Enterprise (MOVE) architecture, which unifies network access management across wired and wireless media. Aruba introduced its first Ethernet switch, the stackable S3500 Mobility Access Switch, to enable an integrated wireless and wired access layer. The switch is managed by Aruba’s wireless LAN controllers much like its wireless access points.
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Director.