Extreme Networks is updating its wireless LAN product line with new appliances and access points that support faster client roaming, QoS and improved WLAN security.

Extreme says its Summit WM WLAN switches and Altitude 350-2 access points will make voice over wireless LAN (VoWi-Fi) easier to install, and includes QoS support for wireless traffic.

The new gear takes a step beyond Extreme's current LAN/WLAN integrated devices, and is built as more of an WLAN overlay product, which could run with any Layer 2/3 infrastructure. The Summit WM supports faster connection hand-offs for roaming clients moving between access points, and a new WLAN management architecture that the vendor says is simpler and more secure to use than standard 802.11 management schemes.

"Extreme's target for this announcement is non-Extreme customers," said Sam Lucero, senior analyst with InStat/MDR. "This equipment is designed to run in heterogeneous networks," whereas Extreme's past WLAN architecture relied on software added to its LAN switches for managing and securing access points.

The Summit WM is a WLAN control appliance that can sit anywhere on a corporate LAN and control access for hundreds of Extreme thin access points, and control WLAN entry with what Extreme calls wireless mobility access domains.

In these domains, security and access criteria are outlined by users - such as a voice domain with extra QoS support, or a guest domain with limited access or WLAN network identification names - are associated with each domain. The Summit WMs push these domain configurations down to the Altitude 350-2 access points, which can support multiple Service Set Identifiers (SSIs) on each device.

"Extreme calls the Summit WM a switch, but it's really more of an appliance," Lucero said. "This device is designed to be more of a data center box, centrally controlling many access points," as opposed to a WLAN switching box, which would sit at the LAN/WLAN edge.

In addition to airwave QoS, the Summit WM switches support Layer 3 fast roaming, which lets a WLAN client roam across access points connected to different subnets.

The Summit WM and Altitude 350-2 access points are the first major upgrades to Extreme's WLAN portfolio since it introduced its Altitude 300 and WLAN-enabled Summit and Alpine Layer 2/3 Ethernet switches in 2003. Extreme says the new Altitude access points will not work with the older WLAN-enabled switches, but users with older Altitude 300 access points can use the devices on newer Summit WM networks, with some limitations of advanced features such as QoS and roaming support.

The Summit WM-based architecture is similar to WLAN overlay technology offered by WLAN switch vendors such as Aruba and Trapeze, and Cisco's Airespace-based WLAN technology, as well as VoWi-Fi-focused offerings from start-ups such as Meru.
The Summit WM starts at $17,000.