Meru applies corporate Wi-Fi security to private devices

The WLAN vendor joins its competitors in extending security to the access point for mobile devices

Wireless LAN vendor Meru Networks has announced a new optional software module that lets its Wi-Fi networks recognize privately owned clients and automatically configure them to meet corporate security and management policies. The module, dubbed Smart Connect, is part of a new release of the company's network operating system, new 802.11n access points with radios that achieve 450Mbps data rates, and a new family of WLAN controllers that support more users and more backhaul capacity.

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IN DEPTH: Wi-Fi devices crowd 2.4GHz band; IT looks to 5GHz

Companies face a rising tide of mobile Wi-Fi devices, and often users with three or four devices, including some they buy themselves. LAN equipment vendors have started to ship hardware and software to address this changing usage profile, and Meru's newest products are part of this trend.

In March, Aruba rolled out a line of access layer Ethernet switches that coordinate with the vendor's WLAN controllers to configure Wi-Fi clients such as smartphones and tablets with the relevant security and management policies. In September, Extreme Networks unveiled an iPhone-size access point, designed and built by Motorola Solutions, that can replace an existing Ethernet wall jack in just a couple of minutes: the Altitude 4511, dual-stream 802.11n radio, with a special designed antenna. It's intended to quickly and cheaply create pervasive 11n networks to support the new generation of mobile devices.

Meru Smart Connect is a licensed, optional module for Meru's existing Identity Manager application. When either a wired or wireless client attempts to log on for the first time, Smart Connect sees it and checks to see if it's a corporate or personally owed device. Then, it downloads a temporary agent program, which configures the device based on existing corporate security policies and access permissions, including setting up 802.1x authentication.

Smart Connect draws on either a Meru- or corporate-generated database of device types, software versions, and user information. It supports a wide range of commonly used WLAN security protocols such as WPA2 Enterprise. It works with Windows, iOS, Mac, and Android clients and can work with multivendor WLAN networks. Once configured, the client device can log on subsequently and have the policies enforced automatically.

The new access point model is the AP400 line. All models have up to three 802.11n radios, each of which supports three data streams. The three streams give each radio a data rate of 450Mbps, with actually throughput typically in the 200Mbps-to-300Mbps range, according to Meru.

One specialized model, the AP433is, uses one of the radios as a permanent RF sensor, with integrated spectrum management software that monitors all channels on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.

The new release of Meru's network operating system, System Director 5.0, can detect and identify a range of unified communications servers, such as Microsoft's Lync 2010, which combine services such as IP-based voice communications, IM, and audio, video, and Web conferencing. Once detected, the 5.0 release can automatically provision the appropriate quality of service level and guarantee it.

The new controllers, both 1U rack mounts, are the midrange MC3200, which supports up to 200 access points with four 1Gbps Ethernet ports, and the high-end MC4200, which adds a module with two 10Gbps Ethernet ports, to support up to 500 access points. It also adds a redundant power supply.

Smart Connect is part of Identity Manager, and starts at $995 for 50 user licenses. (Another optional program for Identity Manager is Guest Management, which starts at $3,995 for a 50-user license.) The AP433 model access point, with three three-stream 11n radios, costs $1,995. The MC3200 controller starts at $10,995 and the MC4200 at $17,995. All these products are available now.

The spectrum monitoring AP433is access point will ship later this year, priced at $2,495.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: Email: Blog RSS feed: Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.

This story, "Meru applies corporate Wi-Fi security to private devices" was originally published by Network World.

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