Along with the Aironet 600 Series OfficeExtend hardware, Cisco also launched Monday a line of wireless controllers to provide support for the dual-band 802.11n access points. The new controllers, which are also shipping under the OfficeExtend brand, can support up to 500 corporate and home WAPs.
Cisco is introducing the new hardware as the use of teleworking increases among organizations. For example, the number of federal employees who engage in some form of telework has increased to nearly 14,000, or almost 6% of all federal employees, according to a recent report by the Office of Personnel Management. The report also found than 76% of employees who telework say they are satisfied with their jobs versus 68% of those who are unable to work from home.
Cisco is hoping its latest hardware will help it grab a slice of the rising telework market by making it simpler to extend a corporate network to the home. The Aironet 600 Series access points are pre-configured by IT departments before deployed. The devices can be set up so an employee's family can access the public Internet, while a separate and secure channel with data encryption is used to access the corporate network, Greg Beach, director of product marketing for Cisco's wireless networking unit, said in an interview.
Once the WAP is turned on in the home, it automatically finds the Cisco controller behind the corporate firewall, according to Beach. The Aironet supports 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radio bands, automatically switching to the least congested channel. The product also features four Ethernet ports for connecting Internet-enabled phones, printers, and other network devices.
On the controller side, Cisco is providing the Catalyst 6500 Series Wireless Service Module chassis that supports up to 500 corporate and telework access points. For smaller networks, Cisco provides the Cisco 2500 Series Wireless Controllers for up to 50 WAPs.
Cisco has taken a "pay-as-you-go" approach to pricing for the controllers, Beach said. The Catalyst starts with support for 100 WAPs, and customers can expand by increments of 100 units until the 500-unit maximum is reached. The Cisco 2500 Series starts with support for five WAPs and can be expanded in increments of five until 50 are reached.
All the OfficeExtend hardware is scheduled for release in May. The Aironet 600 Series access points will cost $419 each. The 2500 Series controller will start at $2,495 and the Catalyst 6500 Series Wireless Service Module will start at $29,995.