Wireless LAN vendor Chantry Networks has decided small is beautiful and broken down its BeaconWorks product line to allow modular installations.

The BeaconWorks range, which was launched early in 2003 as a system for large Wi-Fi networks, includes the BeaconMaster router and the BeaconPoint access point. It has now been split into separate families to make it easier for organisations that want to deploy Wi-Fi technology but aren't sure of their long-term requirements, said the company.

The system, which Chantry claims is the first to use Layer 3 routed IP to manage 802.11 a/b/g access points, can now be configured in more ways.

"We've heard loud and clear that enterprise customers are looking at a phased deployment," said Tom Racca, vice-president of marketing at Chantry. "They want to start smaller and grow. Rather than having to buy a larger-scale system today and grow into it, we are saying, buy into the right size that you need today and upgrade when you are ready."

Chantry has separated its BeaconMaster product range into two lines - the BM 100 series and the BM 1000 series. The BM 100 series is available in several versions from the BM 105, which supports five BeaconPoints or third party access points, to the BM 160 which supports 60. The BM1000, which has Gigabit Ethernet, has two versions, supporting 100 or 200 access points.

According to Racca, the BeaconPoints do all the handshaking between the client and the BeaconMaster. After being contacted by a client, whether it be a laptop or a PDA, the BeaconPoints then tunnel back to the BeaconMaster for all authentication.

To upgrade from the BM-105 to the BM-160, an enterprise just needs to buy new software, said Racca. If it needs to move beyond that, the two systems speak to each other, he added. If an organisation isn't ready to upgrade completely to BM 1000s now, it can try the product within its network of BM 100s, he said, as the two products will integrate and communicate together seamlessly.

"They can still back each other up, they can still migrate users across. You can seamlessly mix and match them into your network," he said.

Analyst Craig Mathias of Farpoint Group likes the strategy the company has gone with. When establishing a product family, it's easier to start big and go small than it is to start small and try to get big, he advised.

When it comes to implementing WLANs, organisations should ideally have a hierarchical family of hardware products, said Matthias, so that they can start small and get larger and the smaller networks can become part of a bigger installation so that they do not wind up becoming obsolete.

Plus, when implementing wireless technology it is very important for businesses to do as little disruption or modification to the wired infrastructure as possible.

"We don't want to come in with an entirely different solution and say 'okay, all this wired stuff has to be changed, you've got to redefine your VLANs.' It just doesn't work. IT managers are very conservative people and they view any disruption to their current operation as an opportunity for unscheduled overtime and that's to be avoided," Mathias said.

To provide RF intelligence, Chantry has a partnership with Propagate, which is also working with Blusocket and others.

Chantry's BeaconMaster product starts at US$8,000 with BeaconPoints starting at $395.