In the wake of Cisco's $450 million purchase of Airespace, wireless LAN vendor Trapeze Networks is launching improved wireless LAN management software - and touting its high performance, and availability for partnerships.

"We now have a better opportunity in 'anything-but-Cisco' accounts," said Michael Coci, director of technical marketing at Trapeze, commenting that the concept of centralised WLAN control is thoroughly vindicated by Cisco's purchase. "We also have a nice opportunity while Cisco backpedals out of Airespace's existing OEM relationships." No-one expects Nortel to continue selling Airespace kit, and Trapeze is ready to help out, Coci said (read our analysis for more on this).

Trapeze will compete against the Airespace offering on features and price, said Coci, pointing to a recent demonstration with a third-party test house, of a 10,000 client WLAN. The event has been called "My Big Fat WLAN Test" [We thought they used thin access points - Ed].

The company will compete on its Ringmaster WLAN management software, which was developed in-house instead of bought in, as is the case at Airespace and Aruba. Ringmaster is also a single package, compared with multiple offerings from the other players.

The next version of Ringmaster, due this quarter, will introduce clustering for more resilient WLAN management, said Coci, alongside several features which have quietly emerged in version 3.1 in the last couple of weeks.

New features in 3.1 include a dashboard, which centralises all the key factors to monitor on one screen, and a client-server management model, so the dashboard can be operated from different stations around the campus. Despite having full control from any station, all managed devices report to one place, says Coci: "One of the basic rules of network management is not to manage the same device with more than one device at the same time," said Coci. "Management traffic is processor intensive."

Rivals - who Coci says don't distribute management at all - might criticise the model for having a single point of failure. The clustering promised for this quarter will remove this small objection, says Coci.

The new version also has wizards for configuring Trapeze switches and access points, which will catch configuration errors and verify the settings. "It is a click-to-fix function," said Coci. "It's like having real time release notes."

RingMaster uses the same data to install and configure devices, as well as to monitor them during live use. The same data is also available in a new range of long-term reports and analysis tools to pick up trends in activity.

Rivals Airespace, Cisco and Aruba have WLAN management software from multiple sources, that is not so well integrated, said Coci. He also claimed that, even though rivals such as Aruba bundle the software and miss crucial features, Trapeze's RingMaster still works out cheaper.

The comparison, which Coci reckons is "more than fair" to his rivals - but is obviously open to challenge since he worked it out - claims that for $12,995, RingMaster does everything for 500 access points, while Cisco, Airespace and Aruba's management applications do somewhat less, for $52,000, $72,000 and $80,000 respectively.