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10/25/2007
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Dave Molta
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The 802.11n Vendor Landscape

Some WLAN sellers are hot for 11n, while some are not. See where your partners stand.

Some enterprise WLAN vendors have better 802.11n stories to tell than others.

Aruba Networks
Aruba has not made any product announcements but is assuring customers that its controllers will have the horsepower to support 11n. Aruba's 802.11n white paper, released in May, provides valuable insights into the issues involved with migration Still, we're puzzled by its claims that its controllers will support as many 11n access points as 11a/g APs.

Cisco Systems
Cisco introduced the Aironet 1250 802.11n AP in September; it's the first enterprise-class AP to receive Wi-Fi Alliance certification. The company also increased performance of its Catalyst 6500 WiSM wireless controller module. Its modular radio architecture affords investment protection in the event the final spec changes, while also providing deployment flexibility. Some were surprised that Cisco jumped into the 11n market before final standard ratification; we see these aggressive moves partly as a response to customers pushing for an 11n offering, partly as a hedge against competitors stealing market share if it waited.

Colubris Networks
Colubris was one of the first enterprise WLAN vendors to announce an 11n offering, and it leads the industry in hype. The Colubris Intelligent Mobility Solution has always been more distributed than its competitors, a design the company hopes to leverage with its 11n offerings. While Colubris' architecture may enhance scalability under certain traffic profiles, its marketing claims--that 11n is faster than 100-Mbps Ethernet and that customers can reduce their backbone traffic by up to 98% using its system--are misleading at best.

Meru Networks
\Meru has moved aggressively to introduce an 802.11n product and is heavily promoting the 11n implementa- tion plans of New York's Morrisville State College. While most enterprise WLAN vendors are aiming their 11n offerings at 5-GHz operation, with 2.4 GHz reserved for legacy 11g clients, Meru's architecture provides greater flexibility for running both 11g and 11n at 2.4 GHz. Its three-tier controller architecture has potential for increased scalability, but it may also add unwelcome complexity.

Motorola/Symbol Technologies
Motorola has been relatively quiet about 802.11n plans, in part because it's still in the process of digesting its acquisition of Symbol Technologies, which brought it significant assets in the WLAN arena. While we expect the company to make some future moves into the 11n space, it has made no formal announcements of products.

Trapeze Networks
Trapeze announced an 802.11n AP in September, and a spokesperson speculated that 11n APs could make up 15% of total AP sales by year's end. The company has been pushing its Smart Mobile architecture, which off-loads data-plane forwarding from centralized controllers to distributed controllers, even to edge APs themselves. According to Trapeze, this architecture will enable more-scalable 11n deployments. However, such a claim depends entirely on the traffic profile of a given enterprise network. To cover all bases, Trapeze has also announced a high-end centralized controller, the MX-2800, with a touted capacity of 28 Gbps.

Photo by Charlie Schuck/Stone/Getty Images

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