D-Link, one of the leaders in low-cost wireless access points, is to make a play for the enterprise market with a new access point designed to work with multiple vendors' wireless switches.
However, the announcement, made with wireless switch vendor Airespace, leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
The device has one stated feature: support for the Airespace's LWAPP protocol, which promises to usher in an era where users can attach access points from different vendors to wireless switches. Aside from that, it will be a "business-class" device (whatever that means) and has no announced price or delivery date. "We in fact did not launch an access point today, we simply announced the partnership and referred to an AP that will be available at a future date," a spokeswoman told Techworld.
"We think LWAPP is going to be the emerging standard," Keith Karlsen, D-Link's VP, told the press, while the press release called LWAPP a "USB for enterprise wireless networking". Wireless switches have so far used proprietary methods to communicate with lightweight (also called "dumb" or "thin") access points. Airespace has been the first to open its protocol up, by offering LWAPP to the IETF standards body as the basis for a specification called CAPWAP.
CAPWAP will face big opposition from Cisco and Aruba but has support from several of the wireless switch vendors, including Legra and Proxim as well as Intel and Avaya. We sum up its prospects in this feature.
D-Link's motive is clear, of course: "Enterprise access points sell for £300 to £4,000, three or four times the price of consumer products," said analyst Richard Webb, of Infonetics Research. With prices tumbling at the low end of the market, D-Link has to move up-scale.
Airespace is obviously pleased to have an announcement to boost the (so-far unrealised) multi-vendor credentials of the LWAPP standard and is happy to lose some of its access point business to D-Link. "If a customer starts out with 500 access points, they will probably buy from Airespace," said Airespace marketing vice president Alan Cohen. "If they then add more, they may buy from D-Link."