Wi-Fi network maker Trapeze Networks has launched a pre-configured appliance that can manage up to 5000 wireless access points or 1000 wireless switches - and won a giant contract for 802.11n Wi-Fi.

The RingMaster-200 is a hardware version of Trapeze's RingMaster network management software, and is pre-tuned to manage wireless LANs. “Today, it’s common for enterprise Wi-Fi networks to include thousands of access points cover hundreds of acres and span multiple sites," said Ahmet Tuncay, Trapeze's marketing vice president.

Before this product, Trapeze's largest hardware device managed around 200 access points, while rival Aruba was ahead with its MMC-6000 which can manage 2048 APs. Both companies use software to manage larger installations, which has normally run on general purpose servers. Aruba's recently purchased AirWave management platform uses software to go up to 50,000 APs. Trapeze's appliance will make the process of design and management simpler, says Trapeze, saving hundreds of IT hours.

Ringmaster was central to Trapeze's recent success in winning what it calls "the world’s largest deployment" of the new 802.11n standard, a $15 million, five-year upgrade to the wireless LANs at the University of Minnesota. The upgrade will include $3 million on access points alone, swapping out existing APs from D-Link, Cisco and other vendors for around 9,500 of Trapeze's 802.11n access points. Ringmaster "…allowed us to quickly import our own CAD drawings and immediately begin Wi-Fi planning for 300 buildings, including 1,300-plus floors," according to Steve Cawley, the university’s vice president of IT.

RingMaster has been a big part of Trapeze's WLAN strategy from the beginning, for dealing with Wi-Fi propagation issues, and managing the lifecycle of WLANs. The appliance can make a "virtual" site survey based on architectural drawings, and configure access points for specific locations before they are installed.

The appliance is based on a Linux OS, and has two redundant 250GB hard drives to gather monitoring and performance data. The basic unit costs $19,000 (£9,515) including a licence to support 250 APs, which can be extended in steps of ten to 1000, up to 5000, if users buy software keys.

Trapeze's claims - like most claims in the ever-competitive Wi-Fi world - have already been disputed. Aruba told us that it already has an appliance that manages 5000 APs, called the MM-200. We have been unable to find this product on Aruba's site, however.