Undaunted by the announcement that rival Airespace has beaten it to the prize of being bought by Cisco - and claiming it would not have wanted to be bought anyway - wireless switch start-up Aruba has pushed on with an upgrade to its software, intended to distribute control securely to wireless LANs in branch offices.
"Cisco approached us, but we had no reason to sell at this point," said Keerti Melkote, vice president of marketing at Aruba [well what did you expect him to say? - Ed]. He also suggested that Aruba was expecting to hear from the presumably disaffected Airespace OEMs, Nortel and Alcatel, in short order (read our analysis for some other opinions on this).
Aruba's AirOS version 2.3, to be launched on Monday, allows the company's switch to more securely control a remote access point across the Internet, for instance in a branch office, said Melkote. Aruba encrypts control traffic between the AP and the switch as well as the actual broadcast WLAN traffic (the basis of some of Aruba's controversial security claims and its wired/wireless security pitch). The company is now using that to extend across untrusted networks such as the Internet, setting up IPSec tunnels and using 802.1x authentication.
In practical terms, this means that the IT manager can pre-set an access point with 802.1x credentials, and post it to the remote office, where it can be plugged in by non-technical staff, or even carried about by staff wanting to move their office. "The remote office doesn't have to do anything, they just plug it in and boom, you have SSIDs managed by corporate IT. It is the only time this has been done," claimed Melkote. "No one else supports the extension of thin APs using IPsec."
The new software also includes a live site survey tool, which gives continuous "heat-mapping" of Wi-Fi coverage. Aruba also added a new high-end hybrid wired/wireless access point to its wireless grid range (read our analysis of Aruba's wireless grid idea). The Aruba 70 has 802.11a/b/g radio, two Ethernet ports (for redundancy of network and power-over-Ethernet) and a USB port.
The USB port will allow Aruba to add features such as Bluetooth detection, smart-card security RFID and WiMax in future, said Melkote: "It gives us limitless expansion, in terms of stuff we have thought of - and in terms of stuff we haven't thought of."
Want more? Read our analysis of the long term results of Cisco's purchase.