Trapeze has scored a significant technology and marketing coup by integrating Cisco's legacy standalone Wi-Fi access points into its switch, before the network giant can hook them up to the wireless LAN switch it acquired with Airespace.

A free upgrade to Trapeze's Ringmaster software will allow Cisco's Aironet 350, 1100 and 1200 access points to be part of a Trapeze Mobility Domain, supporting roaming and authentication across the Cisco access points as well as Trapeze's own. The power and channel settings on Cisco APs can also be determined by Ringmaster, and integrated into RF planning.

The upgrade will give Trapeze, and Nortel, and 3Com, who sell Trapeze switches, a chance to sell wireless switches to customers who have Cisco's standalone access points. This is significant. Last year, those Cisco APs made up something like half the enterprise wireless LAN market, and many of those users are looking to integrate them.

"It's ironic what we've been able to achieve this before they did," said Bruce Van Nice, vice president of marketing at Trapeze. Even when Cisco/Airespace delivers, Trapeze's approach would be better, he said: "The Airespace approach will put software on Aironet APs, and use LWAPP, which will be a proprietary control protocol."

"No software changes are needed on the Cisco APs," said Van Nice. The network manager resets them to refer authentication requests to the Trapeze switch, instead of Cisco's APS, or another RADIUS server. The switch will hand on authentication to whatever Radius server is in use, said Van Nice: "but we can then see all the Radius traffic, and pick up pieces of it to configure our switch."

Since Cisco bought Airespace, centralised switches are recognised as the way to manage wireless access points, and users want to hook systems up. Switch vendors have come out with a wave of announcements that their switches will manage other vendors' access points. Trapeze has announced the ability to manage D-Link and 3Com access points with its Open Access Point Initiative, while Aruba has promised to manage Netgear kit through open source boot code posted on SourceForge.

Cisco's Aironet access points have the biggest installed base of any access point in the enterprise, but have remained outside the scope of such schemes. Cisco is obviously going to use its Airespace switches to control these APs, but has yet to promise anything specific. Trapeze's announcement is therefore a bloody nose for the big guy.

The Trapeze upgrade - due in May - was created in response to customer demand, said Van Nice: "We've already won a couple of deals based on this." Because no software is changed, using a Trapeze switch will not invalidate any Cisco warranty, he added.

Some Cisco customers will be loyal, and wait patiently for a Cisco-branded Airespace solution, but many will use a Trapeze solution to express their independence, said Van Nice: "Fifty percent of Cisco customers are died in the wool [loyalists], 30 percent sit on the fence, while 25 percent always want competitive equipment in the network, to keep Cisco on its toes." .