Trapeze Networks put a new, hybrid face on wireless LANs (WLANs) when it launched a major upgrade to its wireless platform. Called Smart Mobile, the system is driven by intelligent switching, which combines centralized and distributed forwarding for optimized traffic flow.
The combination play stands out in a wireless era in which organizations are thought to have already committed to a wireless architecture. Companies tend to either side with a thick access point (AP) architecture, in which all of the network's processing occurs at the switch, or else they believe in the thin AP approach, in which the APs themselves perform various processing tasks.
"The biggest myth out there is that there would be this mass migration from thick to thin and everything would be done one way, but the reality is that technology keeps evolving," said Greg Murphy, COO at Airwave Wireless Inc., a vendor-agnostic wireless management software provider in San Mateo, Calif.
According to a recent survey by AirWave in which a variety of questions were posed to IT managers and network administrators, 44% of wireless user respondents said that in the next two years they expect to be using multiple wireless architectures.
"We are seeing this notion that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for WLANs. Network managers want to eliminate having to go from one management console to another to get a view into the entire network," said Murphy.
AirWave's survey respondents also reported the following: 64% of respondents have wireless networks with 100 or more access points with plans to expand; 11% have more than 1,000 APs in place; 78% have autonomous thick access points; 36% use a centralized thin AP architecture; and 20% use both thick and thin APs simultaneously. Also, within two years, 66% expect to use thin APs and 44% expect to operate "multi-architecture" wireless networks.
According to Trapeze, its highly scalable voice over WLAN (VoWLAN) Smart Mobile overcomes limitations of current-generation WLANs. With Smart Mobile, organizations can deploy massively scalable wireless networks geared toward demanding data and voice applications, while providing far-reaching reception indoors and outdoors.
At the core of Smart Mobile is a new WLAN architecture that combines the benefits of centralized control and management with the performance efficiencies of intelligent switching.
In a centralized environment, switching is restricted to the central controllers and requires all data traffic to pass through the controller. That results in high levels of latency and jitter.
In contrast, Smart Mobile enables organizations to optimize traffic by centralizing or distributing data-forwarding based on the requirements of the underlying application. For applications that require low latency such as VoWLAN, Smart Mobile distributes switching functionality to the access points throughout the network, enabling them to communicate directly in a peer-to-peer fashion without requiring round trips to the central controller. This allows enterprises, for example, to distribute the switching of all their voice traffic but to centrally forward all data traffic, which dramatically enhances the performance of wireless network applications.
"There's been a lot of talk about VoWLAN being a small market because of the centralized architecture. We're now setting up peer-to-peer calls so organizations can get much higher quality calls. This gives you the best of distributed thin and fat architecture," said Dan Simone, VP and chief technology officer at Trapeze Networks.
In his report Trapeze Unveils Smart Mobile, Current Analysis Inc. senior analyst Steve Schuchart said, "Smart Mobile encompasses Trapeze's 6.0 software release and allows customers to perform WLAN processing on either the access point or in the central switch or a combination. This gives customers the flexibility to deploy their WLAN in a manner that makes the most sense in a given deployment, with some APs performing local processing and some APs processing on the central controller. Current Trapeze customers will be able to take advantage of this new functionality with a software upgrade."