Foundry Networks adds to wireless LAN family

New products and enhancements zero in on high-density wireless environments, need for real-time security

Foundry Networks gave its IronPoint wireless line a boost yesterday, unwrapping two new infrastructure products and an update to its IronPoint Wireless Location Manager application.

The new IronPoint Mobility RS4000 Radio Switch is a thin access point (AP) that can handle a large number of clients -- up to 256 -- making it useful for environments that have many concurrent users (such as 300 students in a college lecture hall all logged on to the wireless network during class). It has two 802.11a radios and two 802.11b/g radios for service to multiple 802.11a/b/g channels.

Scalability is also the driving force behind Foundry's new AP150 access point, which supports 802.11a/b/g. The AP150 is a single-channel solution and will intelligently interact with other APs on a network to prevent interference -- eliminating the need for an admin to carefully plan out channels when deploying APs.

New updates to the IronPoint WLM (Wireless Location Manager) 2.02 focus on security. The application can now do real-time mapping and scanning of the wireless network and location tracking, helping to sniff out rogue APs. Existing APs act as a sensor network, eliminating the need for a second set of sensors to detect location information. WLM combines the network mapping with location-based access information to detect unauthorized users and send alerts to admins when problems crop up.

The main idea behind these products is to smooth out traditional bumps -- deployment difficulties, client density, and security -- in the enterprise wireless road, said Michael Hong, senior product marketing manager for Foundry's wireless solutions. Wireless deployments "are no longer one-size-fits-all," he said, because large, high-density wireless architectures need solutions that can handle not only the bandwidth demands of concurrent users but also the company's security requirements.

There's a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation when it comes to the argument about whether technology innovation drives adoption, or whether adoption drives tech innovation, added Hong.

In the case of wireless, Foundry sees wireless VoIP breaking out in the next 12 to 18 months, and "we believe wireless VoIP is going to force the hand of these enterprises" to start thinking about providing seamless, available wireless coverage across an entire campus, he said. "As you see the adoption increase, the demand will drive the new technologies."

Hong also expects to see the emergence of "stronger, beefier handsets" that can handle the stronger encryption, streaming media, and other mobile applications customers want. And of course, networks will need to be strong enough and dependable enough to instill user confidence.

"People will expect [wireless network] performance to be there all the time, the way they do with their land lines and the way they do now, to a certain extent, with cell phones," said Hong. "To do that now, a lot of the existing technology is somewhat lacking."

All three IronPoint Mobility products will be available in April. The RS400 costs $2,075 for the 180-degree directional antenna and $2,195 for the 360-degree omnidirectional antenna. The AP150 is priced at $525. WLM 2.02 is available at a price of $7,995.