Hewlett-Packard has launched a Wi-Fi switch module for its ProCurve 5300 edge switch, intended to compete with the wireless modules Cisco released for its switches last year.

Despite coming late to the switched Wi-Fi party, HP claims its Wireless Edge Services Module (WESM) makes a more tightly integrated wired/wireless network than the similarly-named WISM (Wi-Fi Services Module), which Cisco launched last November, based on technology which it had acquired with Airespace.

"HP is late, but the market isn't very big yet," said Evelien Wiggers, senior research analyst at IDC. "There is a chance for HP to get very large in this. The market is mainly with Cisco - and of course Trapeze and Aruba - but there has still been no real uptake. It might still be in time for large deployments."

"We have unified wired and wireless management," said Kail Krall, global mobility manager for ProCurve. HP's system uses the same ProCurve management suite as wired products, and is more scalable than Cisco's, since access points can be added with only a software upgrade on the module. It also has a lifetime warranty, like other HP switches, he said.

With centralised RF management, self-healing, quality of service and fast client roaming within a subnet, the product handles the basics of wireless LAN management, but lacks many of the features that more experienced WLAN switch providers include, such as RF planning, for which HP uses a third-party product from AirWave, and intrusion detection.

A single WESM module can support up to 36 of a new series of "thin" access points, connected anywhere on the same network. The initial cost of 3,699 euros only includes support for 12 access points (which HP calls "Radio Ports". The other 24 can be added, 12 at a time, with software keys, costing 2,959 euros.

A given 5300 switch can hold two WESM modules, supporting a maximum of 72 access points - and, at least theoretically, 1,000 users. For higher reliability, HP suggests each one is backed by a "redundant wireless services module" in a different 5300 switch.

HP has promised a branch-level access point in June, which includes two radios, and is designed to be managed over a wide-area connection. It can support a fail-over local RADIUS server to keep wireless access available if the wide area link goes down, said Krall.

WESM does not replace HP's existing 700wl product, said Krall - because the 700wl, a first-generation product that manages access points by separating them from the wired network, is still needed by some users.

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