Colubris has produced a wireless LAN road map for a single network infrastructure that can serve both wired and wireless users.

The goal is to create an access layer Ethernet switch, loaded with Colubris' WLAN software, that will use switching silicon by vendors such as SiNett or Broadcom to process wired and wireless traffic. By contrast, many enterprise WLANs today use separate WLAN switches to process packets and handle roaming, authentication and management for wireless users.

"The idea of having one network to manage remotely in our stores is a lot more comforting than managing a wired net with one set of rules and having a separate set of rules for wireless," says Lou Hernandez, hardware network engineer, for Gander Mountain, an outdoor retailer with 82 stores in 15 states across the US. The company has deployed Colubris' WLAN access points at its headquarters, and is rolling them out in selected stores.

"To this point, we've been doing the overlay model for WLANs," says Craig Mathias, principal with wireless consultancy The Farpoint Group. "Going forward, overlays will fade, and we'll have unified networks, what I used to call 'integrated WLANs'. Wireless and wired users will have the same switches, the same Radius databases and so on."

Currently, Colubris offers a line of intelligent WLAN access points, which handle client-oriented functions, and public access gateways, which are aimed at service providers that want to offer hot spot services and centralise some control functions and billing. Both are managed by the Colubris Network Management System application.

In May or June, Colubris plans to announce details of a new controller specifically designed for corporations. It will incorporate the gateway's public access features, and add new, centrally controlled capabilities including radio frequency management, authentication, roaming, and configuration of the Colubris intelligent access points, which will continue to be plugged into current third-party LAN access switches.

The new controller would make Colubris competitive with centralised architecture from WLAN switch vendors including Aruba, and with offerings from some WLAN controller companies such as Bluesocket and Cranite. This new controller is expected to ship later in 2005

In 2006, Colubris says it plans to introduce the unified LAN/WLAN access switch that enterprise users can deploy instead of standard Ethernet switches in wiring closets, for example, when upgrading LAN switches or in a new building.

Colubris is talking with Taiwanese switch makers and with chip vendors such as SiNett but has made no decisions on its partners in this product.