Colubris Networks is set to unveil feature-packed wireless LAN access points that company officials say eliminate the need to extend wired networks with WLAN switches.

The access points, which support 802.11a, b or g networks, are designed to simplify deployment of large-scale WLANs by plugging into existing Ethernet switches and using the wired network's security and authentication features. The devices can be centrally configured and managed via Colubris software.

Until recently Colubris had focused on the hotspot market, shipping one-box solutions for public access in coffee-shops and other places. Hotspot-in--a-box solutions demand intelligent access points which handle access control and security; Colubris' partners here include Juniper (see our article, Architecture Wars).

With enterprise Wi-fi growing faster than public hotspots, the company is now aiming products at the office, and arguing (contrary to thin-AP vendors like Trapeze, Aruba and Airespace) that heavily-featured access points are the way to go.

Colubris officials say this is a better approach than using WLAN switches, which they say can introduce new protocols and require configuration changes to the wired network.

The company has not presented any plans to hit Europe yet, but has customers in the US. STSN, a Salt Lake City ISP to the hotel industry, is a Colubris customer and has tested the new access points. A highlight for Justin Powell, director of new product development at STSN, is the access points' support for virtual LANs, which give each guest a walled-off connection from other guests. Other products he has seen "were more of a kludge fixture," he says.

The new access points have been designed to support the IEEE 802.11i security enhancements when they are finalised later this year. The devices currently have Wi-Fi Protected Access, which is a subset of the 802.11i changes, and Wired Equivalent Privacy encryption.

The 1250 model, which includes a VPN server for encrypting data, costs US$900; the 1210 costs $650.

The Colubris Networks Management System (CNMS) is a $3,500 package that's based on the WLAN management application from AirWave. When a new Colubris access point is plugged in, CNMS detects it and can automatically configure it. Among other things, the application runs a range of diagnostic procedures, detects unauthorised access points and analyses network performance.