Wi-Fi management specialist Roving Planet is about to change its product and join the stream of Wi-Fi companies expanding to Europe. Central Site Director, currently an appliance for managing wireless access points, will be available as a pure software product and the company is looking for a channel partner to sell the product over here.

Roving Planet's appliance is comparable to the Bluesocket wireless security gateway, offering RF management and security policies for access points connected across the corporate network. However, the product has more features, according to marketing vice president Harry Simpson, and the company's unique angle is to reduce wireless LAN management to a simple software issue.

For Simpson, wireless switch vendors, with their insistence on specialised hardware and proprietary access points, are barking up the wrong tree. Roving Planet's software can work with anyone's access points and sit on general purpose servers or even network switches, he said. The company is even happy to hand over parts of the management function, sometimes selling its product in conjunction with Airwave's RF management product.

"We are not in the business of selling proprietary hardware," said Simpson. "It is a software-based solution, which we currently sell on a standard Linux system." Customers would prefer to run it on hardware from Dell, HP or IBM, he said, though he expects they will still continue to run dedicated systems when Central Site Director begins shipping on CD-ROMs and is supported on other platforms, starting with IBM.

Roving Planet claims around fifty customers in the US, in the three popular environments for multiple access point Wi-Fi networks: airports, universities and hospitals. Like Bluesocket, the product is most used in Cisco-based wireless networks - "probably 80 percent of our installed base," said Simpson. Not surprisingly, given its insistence on software to complement existing hardware, Roving Planet is a partner in Cisco's Avvid scheme.

"For quality of service, all the other solutions on the market either use VLANs, or user- based class of service," said Simpson. "Ours is based on application as well as user." In future it could sit on Cisco Catalyst's IOS or even on an AS/400 server.

Simpson is not actively hostile to wireless switch vendors, as he expects they will come round to his way of thinking in the end. "We are in dialogue with at least one of those guys," he said. "They need us or they will lose a deal to us in partnership with Cisco."