Foundry Networks is to launch a thin Wi-Fi access point in March, which will rely on the network to handle intelligent functions. Meanwhile, on the wired network the company has added Gigabit Ethernet to its Terathon 10 Gigabit Ethernet core switch, pushing 10 Gigabit technology outside the supercomputer room.

"We are not religious about Wi-Fi architectures," said Ken Cheng, vice president of marketing at Foundry. In November, Foundry launched conventional Wi-Fi access points (so-called "fat APs" that can operate independently of the network) and they have been selling "like hot cakes", said Cheng: "Many customers have heard stories of wireless switches; they believe thin access points are more complex to manage and want the simplicity of a full AP."

For those that do want it, however, the thin AP will also be available as a software "upgrade" to existing access points. The upgrade will turn off functions and lock the system down so that it will not operate without getting settings from a central switch, a mode of operation which enterprise wireless switch vendors recommend.

Instead of requiring a dedicated wireless switch, Foundry is making its switches capable of managing wireless APs. This strategy, of upgrading a general purpose switch to manage access points, is similar to that of Extreme, although Cheng reckons Extreme is limited by its insistence on thin access points and by only enabling a limited range of switches to manage Wi-Fi access points. However, Extreme has hinted that it has a Wi-Fi update of its own in the works.

The wired switch upgrade tames Terathon, a monster switch architecture currently only of interest to huge supercomputing labs and similar installations, by giving it a lower-speed option.

The Terathon-based BigIron MG8, and a related NetIron product aimed at service providers, can have up to 32 Ten Gigabit ports arranged four to a blade and running at wire speed. (This is impressive, explains Cheng, because most chassis architectures support around 8 Gigabits per blade, so even with one port per blade, most 10 Gigabit switches run at less than wire speed). However, such a beast is only of interest to big installations, such as the Sandia National Laboratories, which apparently has nineteen fully populated BigIron MG8s.

"We're moving Terathon into the mainstream," said Cheng, by adding plain old Gigabit Ethernet ports. The blades will have forty Gigabit ports. "Most customers will have one or two slots of Ten Gigabit Ethernet," he said. The four-port Ten Gigabit blade and the 40-port Gigabit blade will both cost around $50,000.

Foundry claims it is market leader in Ten Gigabit Ethernet, as well as being number two in the overall Layer Three Switch market place, both according to the Dell'Oro Group. However, Cheng does concede that in that market, Cisco has more than 50 percent market share and every other player is in single figures.