Trapeze's WLAN System -- Worth a Second Look?

Trapeze's WLAN system has been previously plagued with problems. A new version has been released, but is it too little too late?

Dave Molta

March 20, 2004

3 Min Read
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Perhaps more important than the technical glitches during testing,Trapeze failed to quickly adjust its system architecture to the marketreality that enterprise IT pros have little appetite for installing aWLAN switch in every wiring closet. While Airespace and Aruba allowedusers to logically attach APs (access points) to their switches using anexisting Ethernet infrastructure, Trapeze still required a physicalconnection from AP to switch. At the time, the company promised to fixthat shortcoming. With this week's release of its second-generationproduct offering, the company has made good on that promise. Now it'stime to take another look at Trapeze.


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When Trapeze Co-Founder and Vice President Dan Simone briefed us earlierthis week, it was obvious that he understood the key issues associatedwith enterprise WLAN deployment and management. While acknowledging someof the shortcomings of the company's first-generation offering, Simonemade a solid case for its new system, which not only overcomes thedirect-connect limitation of Trapeze's initial release but also broadensthe product portfolio to allow for much more flexible system deployment.

Trapeze's key differentiators are a software-based WLAN modelingapplication called RingMaster and a secure mobility architecture thecompany refers to as Identity Based Networking, which is based on theIEEE 802.1x standard that is the foundation for the existing WPA (Wi-Fiprotected access) and emerging 802.11i security standards.

The RingMaster 2.0 application has been enhanced to support 3D modeling.It's a slick modeling tool, perhaps the best the industry has to offer.But we've always looked at WLAN modeling tools the same way we viewtraditional network simulation tools. While RingMaster does add somemarginal value, experienced system designers usually can do an adequatejob of estimating the appropriate location of APs without using such atool. And if they really insist on accuracy, there's no substitute for aphysical site survey.

Trapeze's Identity Based Networking is a key element of its MobilitySystem Software, which also has been upgraded to version 2.0. The newMobility System Software adds support for Layer 2 and Layer 3 APconnections to the company's Mobility Exchange switches. And newversions of the switches, targeted at branch-office as well as corenetwork deployments, have been rolled out. These new offerings round outthe product line quite nicely.

The company continues to embrace 802.1x as the foundation forauthentication, privacy and access control. And unlike its competitors,the company rejects the VPN model often viewed as the preferred WLANsecurity solution by enterprise IT professionals. We think Trapeze is onsolid ground in embracing 802.1x as a preferred strategic direction.However, most of today's enterprise WLAN rollouts are tactical at thispoint and, right or wrong, a large proportion of enterprise IT folks seeVPNs as a preferred security solution.

Trapeze has had a tough year, including a major round of layoffs andshakeups in its executive ranks. But its new product enhancementsposition the company for another run--perhaps its last chance--at thepositive enterprise mindshare it so desperately desires. We thinkTrapeze is worth another look, and we hope to do a more thorough,competitive evaluation in our labs this summer. But with enterprise WLANuptake still a bit lukewarm as well as a growing list of facilecompetitors, Trapeze faces quite a battle.

-- Dave Molta, [email protected]

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