I have to admit I never expected to see Xirrus again - but here it is, as large as life.

I first heard of Xirrus four years ago. The company takes a novel approach to Wi-Fi networks, putting a large number of access points (up to 16) into one giant disk-shaped unit, and then letting each AP handle a sector, using directional antennas.

I ran a < ahref="http://www.techworld.com/mobility/reviews/index.cfm?reviewid=326">product review in 2005, but have heard from Xirrus sporadically since then, the communicaitons more or less limited to an early promise for 802.11n, in 2007.

The company, like many other Wi-Fi start-ups, dropped off my radar, but I was reminded of it when Cisco announced beam-forming in its latest APs - although the beam-forming that Cisco (and Ruckus) do, is very different from the static directional antennas used by Xirrus.

Anyway, last week at the BETT educational technology show, I ran into a smiling Simon Hollister, regional manager for Xirrus (seen here with a 16-AP unit), who says he saw the light while working for a competitor, when he lost a sale to Xirrus.

 Simon Hollister with a Xirrus AP

Unlike other vendors, Xirrus has a direct sales approach, he says, so it doesn't market itself through channels in the same way. He claims the company is growing rapidly, and pointed me at a list of press releases, mostly detailing new customers, and including a showcase deployment at the Intel PDC event in Los Angeles, last November.