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Extreme launches PoE switch

The upstart device vendor gets a leg up on Cisco with a power over Ethernet wireless switch that helped one hospital expand its network without worrying about power outlets.

Extreme Networks Inc. has announced the availability of a switch that incorporates power over Ethernet, making it easier for businesses to deploy wireless access points, Internet protocol phones and other edge devices.

The new Summit 300-24 PoE/Wireless Switch from the Santa Clara, Calif.-based networking company incorporates support for wireless access points, RADUIS-based user authentication and PoE with 15.4 watts per port. PoE allows electrical current to be carried by the data cables rather than by power cords.

The device also supports the dominant but proprietary SpectraLink Voice Priority (SVP) protocol, which is designed to provide the quality of service necessary for voice over wireless LAN (VoWLAN).

Extreme is targeting branch offices and medium-sized businesses with the $3,495 switch.

It also helps extend Extreme's unified access strategy, which involves moving more intelligence to the edge of the network, said Scott Lucas, director of product management for Extreme's unified access division.

Extreme's strategy is in many ways the opposite of the direction taken by market leader Cisco Systems Inc. While Cisco is moving more intelligence to the core of the network, Extreme is moving more complicated functions such as security and WLAN management closer to devices at the network edge, said Abner Germanow, enterprise networking research manager at Framingham, Mass-based research firm International Data Corp.

Extreme believes that its strategy of pushing intelligence to the network edge is the best way to manage the growing number and type of devices that will be connecting to enterprise networks, Germanow said.

Prior to the release, Brookwood Medical Center Inc., in Birmingham, Ala., beta tested the switch, in part because of the potential for easier device deployment.

Shane Wade, network coordinator at the hospital, said because of the switch's standardized PoE, it is easier to deploy wireless access points, printers and other devices since they do not need to be near a power outlet.

"I can put an access point up in a new area and not have to worry about power," Wade said.

For more information

Read our exclusive: With WLAN updates, Extreme looks to go mainstream.

Check out the Extreme Summit 300-48, one of our 2003 Products of the Year.

Submit an entry for our 2004 Products of the Year awards.

Using the switch, Brookwood deployed access points in its emergency room. Now emergency patients can be admitted at their bedsides by nurses using tablet PCs, helping the hospital streamline its admitting process.

While the switch is designed to also accommodate VoWLAN, the hospital still has a traditional voice system. Plans for VoIP, wired or otherwise, are still a ways off, Wade said.

Like Brookwood, most businesses are not deploying voice over Wi-Fi today, Germanow said. Despite that, it is an important feature to include in any new wireless system.

"If enterprises are heading toward VoIP, it stands to reason that they will want to have that function [VoWLAN] available to them," Germanow said.

While Extreme's market share is much smaller than Cisco's, the company may not be hoping to steal customers with this product, Germanow said. He expects Cisco to launch a similar product later this year or early next year. But for now, this switch may help Extreme to simply shore up its existing customer base and extend its unified access strategy.

"A lot of the smaller companies are looking for ways to make sure that their existing customer base is well satisfied," Germanow said.

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