Extreme is updating its core switches today, and has hinted at other developments. The company's wireless products will soon have RF management to match the specialist vendors, and Extreme will make a major power-over-Ethernet play in 2004, according to a top Extreme executive.

The BlackDiamond 10K switch, previously known by the code-name Mariner, has the next generation of Extreme's ASIC chips, and a new modular operating system called ExtremeWare XOS. Costing $7,200 per 10 Gbit/s port, and packing up to 480 Gigabit ports in a chassis it's firmly in honking big switch category, with redundant everything and no single point of failure.

"Mariner is initially aimed at enterprises, and then at service providers" said Extreme's chief operating officer Alex Gray, claiming it has the world's highest port density. "It takes our ability to scale up several notches."

On wireless, Gray underlined Extreme's approach to access points "on the thin side" of the range. "Our access points have most of the abilities of fat access points, including local encryption, support for 802.11a/b/g, and all relevant security standards. It is thin because there is nothing persistent in the access point. Everything is administered from the switch."

Unlike wireless switch vendors such as Aruba, Trapeze and Airespace , Extreme manages its access points with a general-purpose wiring closet switch - albeit an intelligent one with redundant power and power-over Ethernet. Advanced features are added using expansion cards and memory. "A lot of things that are in wireless switches can be in firmware on our switch," said Gray.

These features include RF management - which will more than likely be bolstered in product upgrades during 2004, hinted Gray. "We haven't delivered quite the functionality of some dedicated startups," he said. "But we will go toe to toe with the other players by spring."

Meanwhile power-over-Ethernet is going to be a big theme for Extreme, as for other vendors including HP, and not just for wireless. There will be power over Ethernet for Extreme's Alpine service provisioning switches. "802.3af is the first truly global electrical power standard," said Gray, predicting that it will change the way networks are put together and used. "In 2005, Gigabit and Power-over-Ethernet will allow products to be truly universal." he said.