By Lisa Phifer
April 22, 2008
Aruba preps for the next wireless wave by expanding support for 802.11n, 3G, WIPS, and multi-vendor management.
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Enterprise WLAN sales will surge over the next three years, triggered by 802.11n ratification and workforce mobilization. As vendors reposition to ride this next wireless wave, Aruba Networks is betting that extensibility and preparedness will be key differentiators.
“Our newest APs address an issue many customers now face,” says Michael Tennefoss, Aruba’s head of strategic marketing. “They don’t necessarily need 802.11n today, but they have to use or lose this year’s budget. We’re offering n-ready APs at a price that fits into existing budgets, but can be simply upgraded by downloadable keys in the future.”
Aruba’s RFprotect Wireless Intrusion Prevention System offers customers another way to prepare for tomorrow. “Security is an unending, iterative process in which the best defense is built by rapidly integrating updates about real or potential attacks,” said project manager Rajeev Shah. “We’re pleased to be the first to make [user-defined threat definitions] available for WIPS.”
Two more announcements—a Remote Access Point (RAP) mobility upgrade and AirWave Management 802.11n extensions—round out Aruba’s “get ready to rumble” campaign. Bigger, faster WLANs are on the horizon, but companies that deploy them are in for growing pains. With these announcements, Aruba is trying to help its customers grow more gracefully.
For starters, Aruba capitalized on the modular design of its 802.11n draft 2.0-compliant APs to lower the bar for customers who plan to upgrade to n.
“Our existing 802.11n APs list for $1295,” explained Tennefoss. “Our new AP-124ABG and AP-125ABG APs will list for $995. The price of a downloadable key to unlock 802.11n operation will vary by volume, but if you’re upgrading 500 APs, each key would cost $300.” In other words, customers can use Aruba’s new AP-124ABG (detachable antennas) or AP-125ABG (integrated antennas) to defer one fourth of their new hardware investment.
Even when used in 802.11a/b/g mode, these 3×3 MIMO APs will deliver improvements like better sensitivity and TPM secure key storage. When customers are ready, they can then unlock 802.11n without increasing power consumption. “Our APs offer full 802.11n performance with full power output and encryption over a single [802.3af] PoE port,” said Tennefoss. “Many other APs have drastically higher power consumption that requires infrastructure upgrades.”
Preparing for the unknown
The next version of RFprotect, available early summer, has also been modified to promote future extension.
“New attacks require intrusion detection vendors to create attack signatures, test them, and then issue new releases. In the wireless world, this has been done by each vendor. [In this update], we’re giving users the ability to create their own new signatures with a scripting language,” explained Tennefoss.
Aruba hopes that public dissemination will reduce the time between threat discovery and mitigation. In December 2005, Network Chemistry established the Wireless Vulnerabilities and Exploits database, a public initiative to increase vulnerability awareness. Aruba acquired the WVE along with Network Chemistry’s security assets last year. This month, several 802.11n vulnerabilities were submitted; more are likely with an update as complex as 802.11n. According to Tennefoss, Aruba will submit signatures to WVE, but hopes that others throughout the community will make contributions as well.
As WLANs grow, enterprises must contain the spiraling cost of maintenance and monitoring. Aruba tackled that challenge last year by acquiring AirWave, maker of the popular AirWave Wireless Management Suite.
“The AirWave acquisition is the smoothest that I’ve been involved with,” said Tennefoss. “This is because we weren’t trying to assimilate them into the Borg. Rather, we wanted to learn from them and let them continue to do what they do so well. We didn’t try to change AirWave to fit into Aruba — we changed Aruba to integrate with AirWave.”
The upcoming 6.0 release includes 802.11n migration management features and more extensive help desk and diagnostic support — features important to expansion. Tennefoss stressed that 6.0 supports more than Aruba’s 802.11n products. “Some customers were concerned that we would drop AirWave support for other vendors. That’s not our intention at all, and now we’ve put our money where our mouth was at the time of the acquisition by continuing to provide multi-vendor management,” he said.
Moving beyond Wi-Fi
Finally, Aruba announced a mobility enhancement to the Remote Access Point (RAP) released last year.
“You can take an Aruba AP-70 and download RAP software to turn it into a combo VPN replacement and mobile work platform,” explained Tennefoss. “Once I have RAP software loaded, I can plug that AP in anywhere–it automatically goes out on the Internet to find my Mobility Controller and download all of the same policies that apply to me back at the office.”
The mobile RAP release, available at no extra charge to licensed RAP module customers, adds 3G cellular modem support. The mobile RAP’s objective is to securely deliver enterprise applications to teleworkers and mobile users. In particular, 3G is targeted at organizations with highly mobile workers, temporary secure access needs, first responder, or disaster recovery requirements — anywhere that a RAP could be used but Ethernet is not available. If both 3G cellular and Ethernet are available, the RAP selects the highest speed WAN link. “This is a completely plug and play solution,” said Tennefoss. “The IT department configures the unit and users just turn it on.”
Aruba is testing the mobile RAP for compatibility with Verizon, AT&T Wireless, and Sprint EV-DO and HSDPA services. It also plans to test with 3G providers in Asia and the European Union. Like the other upgrades announced this week, Aruba’s Mobile RAP will make its public debut next week at the Interop Las Vegas.
Lisa Phifer owns Core Competence, a consulting firm focused on business use of emerging network and security technologies. An avid fan of wireless, Lisa has written, taught, and consulted about Wi-Fi security since 2001, and participated in the WVE since its inception.