Cisco has added centralised wireless LAN control to its flagships, the Catalyst 6500 and the ISR branch router.

The products have been widely predicted, but leave the company's existing "distributed" wireless LAN products in an uncertain position (see our analysis)..

Nearly a year since Cisco's purchase of Airespace, the company is doing what everyone predicted, and putting the Airespace centralised Wi-Fi controller into its wired switches.

The company is also phasing out the Airespace name, replacing it with the Aironet name that has been on its existing "distributed" access points.

"We're making sure we can offer scalability," said Andy Oldfield, wireless technology marketing manager for Europe at Cisco, in London on Monday. "The centralised product is where advanced services such as location will be deployed."

The announcement, timed to coincide with Cisco's entry into the Wi-Fi mesh arena, is simply the logical next step, said Oldfield.

A new blade for the Catalyst 6500 switch, called the Wi-Fi services module (WiSM), will contain the equivalent of two Airespace 4400 wireless switches, and will be able to command up to 300 of the thin access points designed to work with those switches. It will cost $45,995.

This is the future for wireless LANs in a Cisco network, and will ultimately even take the place of Cisco's way of providing distributed control for its fat Aironet access points.

The Wireless LAN service module (WLSM), launched in 2004 is a Cat 6500 blade, launched at $18,000, that can control 150 old-style fat APs. However, Cisco has also launched a software upgrade to the older APs, that "thins them down", allowing them to be controlled, using the Airespace LWAPP protocol, by Airespace switches or the new WISM.

The company also launched a module for its branch router, the Integrated Services Router (ISR). This Wireless LAN control modulge (WLCM), will support six access points, and bring the wireless LAN control into the same box that also offers intrusion detection firewall and other branch office functions. This will cost $2300.

Both devices can be federated, and in both set-ups, the APs will be controlled by the Cisco wireless control system (WCS).