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Symbol switch simplifies remote Wi-Fi networks

Symbol Technologies is trying to ease remote WLAN management with its latest product, an all-in-one switch, router and firewall. But now the wireless vendor faces tough competition from the likes of Cisco.

Today at the Demo 2004 Executive Forum in Scottsdale, Ariz., Symbol Technologies Inc. announced the availability of a new wireless LAN switch designed to ease the burdens of managing Wi-Fi networks in remote offices.

The new switch, the WS2000, enables multiple remote offices to be managed from a single location. It combines a router, firewall and wireless switch in one box. The appliance supports power over Ethernet, includes a slot for flash memory, and provides management functions using Simple Network Management Protocol.

Simplifying Wi-Fi

With power over Ethernet, a company needs only to run a single wire to the access points. All the management and security functionality is in the appliance, making access points easier to install and cheaper to manage, said Graham Melville, director of product marketing for the Holtsville, N.Y.-based wireless LAN vendor.

Symbol had the firewall certified by an outside organization to ensure that it is up to snuff, Melville said.

While the WS2000 can be useful for remote offices that might deploy a handful of access points, it is not for everyone. For larger deployments, business should look elsewhere, said Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile computing with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.

Likewise, if a company's wireless network uses access points from multiple vendors, the organization would be better off working with another vendor, such as Vernier Networks Inc. or Bluesocket Inc., because those companies' offerings can be more effective in multi-vendor environments, he said.

Symbol was the first company to introduce a wireless LAN switch, an approach that has become increasingly common among Wi-Fi vendors. Cisco Systems Inc. and others have been moving intelligence away from the access points and into the network as a means of making wireless network management easier.

Indeed, one of the reasons Symbol's switched architecture approach has been attractive to companies is that it's cost-effective, Dulaney said. With dumb access points and centralized intelligence, large deployments become less expensive.

Challenging the establishment

But Symbol's strategy also requires networking expertise, something the company has not been known for. With this product, Symbol is stepping gingerly into a world dominated by a number of successful vendors, Dulaney said.

"As a wireless LAN vendor, Symbol is fighting an uphill battle," Dulaney said.

With wired and wireless Ethernet networks converging, he said, it is easy to think that conventional network vendors, such as Cisco and Extreme Networks Inc., would have the advantage. However, he said, it is largely a marketing battle because Symbol's products are high quality.


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