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Aruba Rolls Out New "Grid" Architecture

Unfortunately, dense deployments can be both expensive and difficult to
design. Because traditional products generally have required the
installation of new UTP cabling for each AP, every new AP carries with
it capital as well as operating costs. Depending on the type of facility
and prevailing labor rates, installation alone can cost hundreds or even
thousands of dollars per AP.

Aruba Wireless Networks has a different idea, something it calls the
Wireless Grid. The concept of wireless grids that use mesh architectures
has been the subject of academic research for several years,
but Aruba's twist on the term is different.
Rather than a mesh design, Aruba's solution can best be thought of as an
ultra-dense micro-cell deployment. Instead of going through the time and
effort of conducting a detailed site survey, pulling UTP wiring for
every new AP and installing above the ceiling, you simply plug
inexpensive mini-APs into existing spare Ethernet jacks. Aruba claims
that most organizations have plenty of spare ports. Presumably, a
minimum number APs is required to provide full coverage within a
building. But as you add more APs beyond this minimum, the system
automatically reconfigures the RF environment, creating smaller and
smaller coverage cells and, therefore, more capacity per user. Aruba has
gone so far as to announce a partnership with Ortronics, a longtime
leader in structured wiring systems, to embed an AP into a modified wall

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For many in the industry, this vision has incredible appeal for several
reasons. In theory, at least, installation of a WLAN becomes as simple
as plugging a bunch of little APs into Ethernet jacks. Need more
capacity? Simply plug in more APs. No more fussing with complicated
physical site surveys or logical RF models; just plug and play. Second,
by increasing the density of APs, you increase capacity. When you
consider that there are now 24 non-overlapping radio channels in the
5-GHz band, such dense deployments offering very high throughput per
user finally are becoming feasible. Lastly, as you increase the density
of APs, you also enhance your ability to use the WLAN for location-based

As you might suspect, there are some challenges. All those extra APs
increase both the cost and the need for faster switches. In response,
Aruba has introduced a new switch that promises 3.6 Gbps of
AES-encrypted throughput. The APs themselves are reasonably priced ($375
to $395 list price, depending on model), but they are single-radio abg
APs. That means they can support either 11b/g or 11a, but not both at
the same time. Aruba's new pricing model allows organizations to
effectively lease APs and software for a fixed annual fee--a strategy
the company feels will be appealing to organizations with constrained
capital budgets but flexible operating budgets.

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