Wireless appliance vendor Vernier Networks has transformed itself into a network security vendor to avoid the shakeout of wireless LAN vendors. ITs new products are designed to lock down vulnerable network segments, devices and end users, and move it into the highly competitive world of firewalls.

A year ago, Vernier called itself a "leader in wireless LAN security" (link courtesy of the Wayback machine), now it provides "adaptive security for wired and wireless networks", and its new EdgeWall products are sold as a means to screen client devices for security risks

Cisco's purchase of Airespace is widely expected to hasten the demise of the "security appliance" approach, espoused by Vernier, Bluesocket, and the late, lamented ReefEdge, which uses a firewall-like box to integrate fat APs of the kind sold by Cisco and Proxim.

Although Vernier's box is sold by HP as the 700wl (and performs well according to our review), the appliance vendors have not been performing well in the competitive WLAN market, and have been overtaken by switches from the likes of Airespace.

The EdgeWall appliances perform endpoint screening of client devices such as desktops, and traffic inspection to ensure a vulnerable or infected machine doesn't connect and take down an entire network. The appliances sit at the network edge behind switches and wireless access points, and integrate existing RADIUS servers. They report to Vernier's Control Server, which stores policies and integrates with customers' existing authentication servers.

One Control Server console can manage up to 100 EdgeWall appliances distributed in network segments. Each 1Gbit/s appliance can handle up to 1,000 end users and requires no agents on end-user clients. To take action on end-user devices, such as applying patches, Vernier depends on partnerships such as that with PatchLink which could have agents installed on client machines.

Much like products from firewall vendors Check Point and Sygate, Vernier's EdgeWall will query devices attempting to access the network to ensure they have the proper policies, configuration, software and patches applied before logging on. If the device doesn't comply or meet security requirements, it will be denied access until a patch can be applied, for example. Vernier partners with PatchLink to automate the process of applying patches. The idea is to prevent infection proactively rather than respond to threats after they've hit.

"Vernier is moving sideways and taking advantage of what they already did in the wireless world, which is control access to the network," says John Pescatore, vice president and fellow at Gartner.

Pricing for the line of appliances - which includes the EdgeWall 7030, 7060, 7100 and Express - starts at US$9,000.