As wireless local area networks grow in popularity, business are looking for ways to better manage and secure them.
The wireless offerings at the Networld+Interop 2003 conference in Las Vegas show that many vendors are attempting to meet that challenge.
Two products announced today at N+I from Perfigo Inc. and ReefEdge Inc. combine management features with security applications and target larger deployments, like those at universities.
San Francisco-based wireless LAN start-up Perfigo is launching its first product at N+I. The company's SecureSmart wireless LAN product enables user authentication, rogue access point detection and encryption, as well as centralized management.
This is a single product that allows a user to have secure, managed wireless access to the network, said Arvin Babu, Perfigo's CEO. The product acts a bridge between security solutions and the user, he added.
The real breakthrough with this product is its ability to authenticate users without allowing them access to the network, said Matthew Kovar, director of security solutions and services for the Boston-based research firm Yankee Group. Many current authentication products allow access to the network while a user is being authenticated, which opens up a security gap, Kovar said.
While users are being authenticated, Perfigo's SecureSmart Server keeps users off the network in a holding area. Network managers can assign levels of network access to each user as well, increasing the level of security.
That authentication ability is part of what drew Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., to Perfigo. The college recently deployed a wireless LAN with about 30 access points on its campus. Right now, there are about 200 users, a number that is expected to grow significantly during the next few years.
Chris Stevens, director of network and technical services at the college, said that user authentication was a high priority. The university is located in the heart of Portland, and Stevens wanted to allow users access not only to the Internet, but also to the college network. He was concerned that anyone walking by campus with a wireless device could gain network access.
He was also concerned about rogue access points. In the past, students have put up their own access points in dorms, which caused a significant security risk. Perfigo's product allows him to troll the network for rogue access points. The system also prohibits users from accessing the network through those rogue access points.
Fort Lee, N.J.-based ReefEdge's product is targeting many of the same problems.
ReefEdge CTO Sandeep Singhal said the company's new product suite, Wireless Services Fabric, is really a platform on which different wireless LAN services can be deployed. Because enterprises, universities, health care facilities and others investing in wireless connectivity have varying needs, he said, the product is designed to be flexible and let customers decide what they want to deploy.
Users can choose from a range of security options, including 802.1x encryption, wireless equivalent privacy (WEP) or Internet protocol security (IPsec). The product enables centralized management for remote wireless LAN deployments, and it is vendor independent.
Craig Mathias, principal at Farpoint Group, a Framingham, Mass.-based research firm, said that this expansion of ReefEdge's current offering makes it a better match for larger Wi-Fi networks.
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