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SOHO Wireless Gateways

Wi-Fi is quickly becoming a fixture in a growing number of SOHO environments. Many of the devices are used for remote access into enterprise networks, and protecting them from wireless


In the U.S. market, D-Link, Linksys (a division of Cisco Systems) and Netgear dominate the wireless SOHO router market, with an array of smaller but often more aggressive competitors slugging it out for shelf space. Although all work hard to offer unique products--and some subtle differences between products do exist--commoditization has occurred, largely because more integrated system offerings are available from the original design manufacturers. For example, Belkin received some headlines for being the first to release a product based on Airgo Networks' True MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology, but it wasn't long before Linksys and Netgear released products based on the same chipset.

While the broader consumer market commoditizes and focuses on low cost, a new market is emerging for slightly upscale wireless gateway offerings from enterprise security companies. These midtier products, which typically retail for $500 to $1,000, are available from a wide range of companies, including Check Point Software Technologies, Fortinet, Juniper Networks, SonicWall, Symantec Corp. and WatchGuard Technologies.

Unlike consumer-oriented offerings, these higher-end products provide more advanced enterprise-class features, ranging from centralized management to rich firewalls and content filtering. Some, like those from SonicWall, also offer a scalable architecture, letting you install additional APs (access points) and manage them from a single gateway. Rather than letting employees install their own wireless gateways, some organizations are turning to these more advanced products for greater peace of mind.

Looking toward the future, enterprise WLAN vendors are planning new products aimed at the distributed office. For example, Aruba Networks recently introduced a personal AP that extends the coverage of enterprise WLAN switching gear into the home or remote office--remote users can access all enterprise services, with automated centralized policy enforcement.

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