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AirTight unveils first 802.11ac access point with built-in WIPS

AirTight's latest 802.11ac access point delivers gigabit speeds to users, with wireless intrusion prevention services to IT.

AirTight Networks Inc. has unveiled its first 802.11ac access point to ship with built-in wireless intrusion prevention technology, giving enterprises gigabit throughput with native threats protection.

AirTight's expertise in wireless compliance reporting and threat mitigation differentiates its wireless LAN infrastructure products for security-focused enterprises, said Nolan Greene, research analyst of network infrastructure for Framingham, Mass.-based IDC .

"Because AirTight has migrated from being a security-only provider to [offering wireless LAN technology], users of the new technology can have equal visibility into both the 802.11ac side of the network, as well as .11n, on one access point, and fears about security when moving to a technology like .11ac will be allayed," Greene said.

New Airtight 802.11ac access point: Gigabit speed meets security

AirTight's C-65 access point is a dual-stream, backwards-compatible 802.11ac access point. Each one can monitor up to 200 devices and ships with wireless intrusion prevention services (WIPS) and analytics applications, said Pravin Bhagwat, CTO of Airtight Networks. The company announced its first 802.11ac access point -- the 3-stream C-75 -- at the beginning of the year, but unlike the new C-65, it did not have AirTight's WIPS features at the time.

Like all AirTight access points, the C-65 is managed and controlled via the company's cloud management system, the AirTight Cloud, removing the need for on-premises controllers. And AirTight gives enterprises the option of taking advantage of AirTight's opex model for the new technology, which would include the cost of the hardware in a pay-as-you-go model, according to the company. And because the technology doesn't require a controller, businesses will be able to scale their gigabit Wi-Fi environment quickly, without sacrificing security, Bhagwat said.

The new access point can also feed security-related information into the AirTight cloud so IT can see information about its wireless network from one interface. The C-65 access point can alert AirTight's cloud to unauthorized devices or users on the network to the cloud, which will then notify the network administrator or managed services provider. The access points are equipped with security intelligence that can be managed from the cloud, allowing each sensor to apply security policies to end users and devices, Bhagwat said.

"Unless you have a sensor that detects higher speed, 802.11ac transmissions, you are not protected against threats if there is an unauthorized device or user on the network," he said. "[AirTight's] controller function is hosted in the cloud, and the access points can be turned into full, dedicated security sensors -- they can scan all wireless channels to see what other devices and users are there, and what activity is taking place on each channel."

While other vendors offer WIPS integration with their wireless LAN products, most use third-party technology partnerships, IDC's Greene said. "There is inherently less integration however, because you're combining two separate [vendor] platforms," he said.

AirTight access points appeal to consumer-facing businesses

Frontera Consulting LLC, a McAllen, Texas-based IT and communications consulting firm, helps end users with AirTight integrations and management of Wi-Fi services, among other wireless vendor deployments, and is also an AirTight customer internally, said Drew Lentz, wireless network solutions engineer for Frontera.

While any business could take advantage of AirTight's latest wireless LAN technology, it will be most applicable to industries where security is critical, like healthcare facilities, he said. "It's about having a great user experience, and the peace of mind knowing that security, compliance and reporting are included in one package, too," he said. "Users can generate a full audit report any time because of the capabilities built into the access points. To me, that makes a big difference."

Businesses faced with regulatory compliance or strict security policies know they can't get that part wrong, IDC's Greene said. "Because a lot of things like credit card transactions are being processed over the wireless network, consumer-facing businesses are going to see a lot of potential going with a provider like AirTight," he said.

Smaller businesses -- like standalone healthcare organizations or retailers that need to meet PCI compliance -- could benefit from the pricing model that allows them to adopt new technology without a large upfront investment, but larger enterprises are interested in fulfilling two needs at the same time, too, Frontera's Lentz said. "Some enterprises think that if you deploy access points and have a great firewall, then you are protected, but that's not always the case -- it's protecting the overall network, but from a Wi-Fi perspective, it's not doing anything," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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