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Best-of-Breed or Single-Vendor Simplicity?

This issue hits home in the enterprise WLAN space, where network
managers have often been forced to play the role of systems integrator
to meet a broad range of needs for performance, manageability and
security. There are countless examples. A major university with over
1,000 Cisco APs (access points) turns to Bluesocket for security and
mobility services. A large medical center dissatisfied with the
management capabilities on Proxim APs turns to Airwave for management. A
defense-oriented research lab worried about possible intrusions on its
3Com WLAN looks to AirDefense for security monitoring. You get the idea.

We've long favored a more integrated approach, and it's one of the
reasons we've been supporters of emerging wireless switch vendors like
Airespace, Aruba and Trapeze. All these vendors designed their systems
from the ground up to meet the full range of management needs. While
many analysts focus on the low-cost thin APs that are offered by these
providers, it's the core system functionality that really counts. But
it's fair to ask whether you are compromising on certain best-of-breed
features by selecting products from these vendors.


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We've seen this in our labs when evaluating wireless security monitoring
capabilities. While we were impressed by the capabilities, if not the
cost, of distributed monitoring solutions from AirDefense and AirMagnet,
we found the integrated security monitoring capabilities offered by
Airespace, Aruba and Cisco lacking in comparison. To a degree, that's
understandable. AirDefense and AirMagnet live and die by the quality of
their monitoring capabilities. For the system vendors, it's just one
feature on the competitive matrix.

We're about to take another look at security monitoring, as we evaluate
the latest versions of enterprise WLAN infrastructure offerings. Based
on what we've seen so far, there is evidence of improvement. However,
AirDefense and AirMagnet keep raising the bar. It makes you wonder
whether it will ever be possible to attain feature parity using an
integrated solution.