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Cisco updates WLAN management engine

Updates to Cisco's Wireless LAN Solutions Engine are intended to help create coverage maps, detect rogue access points and, eventually, enable wireless LANs to be managed as extensions of wired networks.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Cisco Systems Inc. on Wednesday announced the availability of an updated version of its CiscoWorks Wireless LAN Solutions Engine, and the company elaborated on its plans for enabling more sophisticated wireless LAN management and easier deployment.

The 2.5 version of the Wireless LAN Solutions Engine (WLSE) allows users to detect rogue access points and create coverage maps to help with deploying new access points. It also aids with interference detection.

The WLSE allows for the centralized management of wireless LANs and represents the first stage in Cisco's plan to make its wired networks wireless-aware, said Larry Birenbaum, senior vice president of Cisco's Ethernet access technology group, during a press briefing. The WLSE can manage networks with up to 2,500 access points.

Cisco's vision for wireless LAN management, however, goes far beyond a simple device on the network. Beginning in 2004, Cisco will build wireless LAN management capability into the network itself, Birenbaum said.

The initiative, called the Structured Wireless-Aware Network (SWAN), will roll out over a number of years. Next year, Cisco will make software upgrades available that act as an overlay for its routers. Network administrators will then be able to use the same command line interface to manage both wired and wireless networks.

The goal is to make the wireless network truly an extension of the wired network, said Shripati Acharya, a product line manager with Cisco's wireless networking business unit. With wireless LAN management in the network, Wi-Fi networks will better support roaming.

More products will be released during the next two years to further integrate wireless LANs with wired networks.

In addition, Cisco plans to use wireless network devices to help manage wireless LANs. Its Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX) technology, which the company licenses for free to chip manufacturers and OEMs, is now present in products from nearly all the major wireless vendors.

That technology enables Cisco's WLSE to use those devices to monitor the radio frequency environment, giving IT administrators a more accurate view of the wireless network than they would have by using access points, Birenbaum said.

For the near future, this advanced management functionality will only be available on end-to-end Cisco systems. Since Cisco provides both the wireless and wired infrastructure, the company is in a unique position to benefit, Birenbaum said.


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