Cisco is set to announce a series of products and product improvements to bolster its wireless LAN offerings, including additional software that shifts WLAN features into other parts of the corporate net.
The announcement will include, according to a source familiar with Cisco's plans:
- Cisco's first 54M bit/sec 802.11g radios for its access points.
- A new client adapter card that can work with 802.11a, 11b, or 11g access points.
- A new version of its IOS network operating system, adapted for the model 1100 and 1200 access points.
- A new software version for the CiscoWorks Wireless LAN Solutions Engine, which is a server for administering access points.
Last June, Cisco unveiled a WLAN strategy called Structured Wireless-Aware Network (SWAN). The idea behind SWAN is to distribute WLAN functions to various devices in the net, as appropriate. Cisco officials say some functions are best done on access points. The adaptation of IOS for these devices makes them highly programmable, and visible to other Cisco network resources, such as network management and network security products.
Other functions have been shifted to the Wireless LAN Solutions Engine (WLSE or "willsee" to insiders). Still others will be shifted gradually to Cisco's wireline switches and routers, as IOS is updated. The first release of "wireless aware" IOS will be sometime in 2004, Cisco said.
The new 11g radios will give customers a new option when they buy either the single-radio Aironet 1100 access point or the dual-radio Aironet 1200. Either can be bought with an 11g adapter, instead of an 11b. The change will let enterprises use the same radio band, 2.4 GHz, but increase the data rate to 54M bit/s from 11M bit/sec. Actual likely throughput will be in the 20-22M bit/s range.
List prices for the access points is unchanged: the 1100 is US$595, with either one 11b or one 11g radio; the 1200 is $849, with either one 11b or one 11g radio, and one 11a radio, which uses the 5 GHz band and offers comparable data rates and throughput to 11g. Existing customers can buy an 11g card to plug into the access points for $149.
The new client adapter card, with 11a/b/g, will be available during the first quarter of 2004 in CardBus and PCI formats. List price for the CardBus adapter will be $169, unchanged from the current price for the 11b version; the PCI product will list for $249, which is $50 below the 11b PCI adapter.
Version 2.5 of the Wireless Solutions Engine will now be able to detect unauthorised, or rogue, access points, triangulate the approximate location of any access point, and automate at least some features of a wireless site survey, such as creating an initial layout design for placing access points in an office or warehouse.
The new IOS version being released for the access points includes a number of changes that make it possible for the WLSE to monitor the radio waves in the access points. List pricing is unchanged at $8,995.