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Randy George
Randy George
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Extreme Catching Up On Enterprise WiFi

The switching business is tough, and Extreme Networks has faced its share of hard times recently. With the departure of CEO Mark Canepa in late October and with the announcement of a sizable layoff, it would be easy to assume that Extreme Networks has lost momentum against the big players like Cisco and Juniper, but Extreme is far from down and out. Read on to hear about some interesting news with respect to Extreme's enterprise WiFi strategy.

According to some sources we trust, the layoffs at Extreme were not primarily driven by the changing business or competitive climate, but were mostly driven to expunge big company policies and procedures that were introduced into a relatively small company.  When you're competing against the R&D budgets of HP, Cisco, Juniper and Aruba, the last thing you need are stifling policies and procedures.
  
While it's too early to tell if Extreme's renewed focus will pay off, a recent sneak at the future direction of Extreme's Enterprise WiFi strategy gave us renewed hope that good things are coming.  A recently announced partnership with Motorola will add new silicon into Extreme's edge switches and WM Controllers.  Once fully integrated, Extreme wireless customers will have some interesting new capabilities. Here are some of the more interesting features that we picked out from their roadmap. 

Extreme's new access points (AP) will now have dual radio and dual band capabilities, along with the ability to mesh APs together to extend the range of your WiFi network for hard to cable areas.  This will allow IT shops to trunk data traffic wirelessly from the edge to the core or distribution layer on the 5GHz band, while simultaneously serving out client wireless connections on the 2.4 GHz band.
 
Other interesting features included location based "Geo-fencing," where wireless client access policies can be implemented based on a physical location.  The captive portal and stateful firewall capabilities built into the new line of WM controllers make the Extreme solution look more attractive as an integrated wireless access and security gateway in one.  If you're a customer of Bluesocket, and you're using Extreme for your wireless, you can expect to see significant feature overlap in the next 12-24 months.  However, according to our notes, there's no mention of any bandwidth limiting capabilities for client wireless connections.  So if you're planning to use Extreme's captive portal for a guest audience, and you want to limit the amount of bandwidth they take from your corporate users, you'll still need a third party solution. 

Most importantly, Extreme's new APs promise better channel management.  According to the presentation, the new APs will be able to dynamically select channels and power levels to account for coverage gaps or changes to the RF environment. 

Randy George has covered a wide range of network infrastructure and information security topics in his 4 years as a regular InformationWeek and Network Computing contributor. He has 13 years of experience in enterprise IT, and has spent the last 8 years working as a ... View Full Bio
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