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ReefEdge switches signal new WLAN strategy

ReefEdge's new switch architecture is intended to make distributed wireless LAN management easier. The company's move beyond gateways could put it in direct competition with Cisco.

Wireless LAN gateway vendor ReefEdge Inc. today announced the availability of a switched wireless LAN architecture that represents a shift from its previous wireless LAN gateway strategy.

The Fort Lee, N.J., company's new series of products, called the ReefEdge WLAN EcoSystem, is designed for companies with multiple remote offices. The system enables remote management of access points, as well as management and enhanced security of the WLAN in a company's primary office.

"The challenge for us was to figure out how to easily deploy wireless LANs in thousands of locations, and manage them centrally," said Mark Juliano, vice president of strategy with ReefEdge.

The products include the ReefSwitch 25 switch, which contains an access point that can be deployed at a remote office. The switch can handle up to three additional access points. The ReefSwitch 200A is deployed at the main office and manages the remote switches. The ReefSwitch 300 is an enterprise switch for managing access points in a single location. The ReefEdge WiSE OS enables security, quality of service, roaming, radio frequency monitoring, rogue access point detection and configuration management in conjunction with the switches.

ReefEdge's system of centralized configuration not only makes branch office deployment easier, but it also should not require any changes in the WAN connection. Juliano said that his customers did not want to have to change anything about the WAN connection in order to deploy Wi-Fi.

ReefEdge's product set can even work for those that utilize low-bandwidth dial-up connections, Juliano said. That is partially because the system is switched locally. The only data moving back and forth across the WAN is the management and configuration information, as well as any Internet traffic. All local traffic stays off the WAN connection.

Other switched wireless LANs require all traffic to go back to the central switch before being routed to the end destination, Juliano said. In those cases, the WAN link is tied to performance, even in local communications.

This system also provides a benefit to businesses with multi-vendor systems, said Gemma Paulo, an analyst with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based research firm In-Stat/MDR. Branch offices in particular may not want to spend top dollar for an access point from a company like Cisco Systems Inc., she said, so the ability to work with a range of access points is important.

ReefEdge, like other vendors, including Bluesocket Inc. and Vernier Networks Inc., had used a gateway approach to WLAN management, which centralizes management functions. With this release, the company is making a significant shift away from that approach, said Aaron Vance, an analyst with Phoenix-based Synergy Research Group.

"Gateways are not going to last," Vance said. "It seems like the market is moving towards switches. They are doing the smart thing and making the appropriate adjustment."

But now that ReefEdge is competing in the switch market, it will be running up against large competitors such as Symbol Technologies Inc. and Cisco. Other heavyweights, such as Extreme Networks Inc., Nortel Networks Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., are also developing technology in this area, Vance said.

Vance said ReefEdge recently added $13 million to its venture capital war chest, which will come in handy as it prepares to take on those established players.

The ReefSwitch 25 begins at $1,390. The ReefSwitch 200A starts at $9,900 and the ReefSwitch 300 starts at $12,900.


Read our exclusive on Cisco's enhanced wireless LAN management engine.

Learn about ReefEdge's wireless LAN services platform.

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