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Aruba Reveals 802.11n Lineup

Aruba Networks made its first 802.11n product announcement this week by adding new wireless controllers and 802.11n access points, as well as incrementing its controller software.
Although rumored about weeks ago, there wasn't doubt in any customer or competitors' minds that Aruba had 802.11n product under development. Unlike many product announcements from technology companies, where there is a measurable element of innovation and ingenuity, the 802.11n product announcements to date, including this one, are in many ways merely the tangible culmination of several years of IEEE task group work. With standards the ultimate equalizer, vendors have emphasized their architecture, performance, and implementation flexibility as key differentiators. Aruba follows much of the same formula.
Not willing to surrender its long-standing bias toward centralizing the management, control, and data planes, Aruba is now offering an improved multiservice mobility module that supports double the number of users per module with the capability to fit double the number of modules per chassis, resulting in a four-times increase of capacity (in regards to users). From a traffic perspective, it now supports two 10Gbase-X (XFP) ports per module with a forwarding throughput of 80 Gbps. While the numbers are awe-inspiring, the practical effect is that almost every organization's throughput concerns should be addressed and speeds above 1 Gbps are possible without resorting to port bonding. When asked about Ohio State University, one of Aruba???s premier accounts, Aruba???s co-founder and head of products and partnerships, Keerti Melkote, admitted that the existing 8-Gbyte controllers only reach about 30% of their capacity. If throughput isn't a concern for this larger institution with tens of thousands of potential users, then controller throughput (when appropriately sized) ought not be a concern for the majority of enterprise WLANs.

Aruba took the opportunity to introduce the 3000 series of controllers, which fits between its existing 2400 controllers and 6000. What these three new controllers offer are greater performance than the lower 2400 but at a price point below the 6000. The only drawbacks of the 3000 are that it lacks a substantial quantity of Ethernet ports and no PoE ports, making it more appropriate for the network core than edge closet deployment.

Aruba also announced two new access points, the AP-124 and AP-125, take advantage of Atheros' second-generation chipsets, which include many improvements, among which one of the most significant is reduced power consumption. Aruba claims that these APs will operate at full power with both radios on most PoE runs. If the power provided required is insufficient, it will change from 3x3 MIMO mode to 2x3 (one less transmit antenna). Other enterprise WLAN vendors are likely to take advantage of the power savings in this new Atheros chipset, too, and Cisco already has its own power "boost" mode, which allows its 1250 AP to draw a bit more power from the switch.

Atheros included a TPM (trusted protected module) in its new APs, which allow them to store keys in a tamper-resistant manner. Also on board is a Cavium chip for IPSec traffic tunneling, most applicable to those that have set up IPSec tunnels between their APs and the controller, and for remote APs operating over a WAN. It has dual Gigabit Ethernet interfaces for redundancy for Ethernet connectivity, but unlike some other vendors, not for additional or backup power. The Ethernet port can serve a desktop PC in a remote worker situation, or a guest connection link in a conference room.

Aruba's ARM, or radio monitoring component, also has improved. It can control, to the extent that's possible, the amount of time a client can use the air. That prevents a distant connection operating at the lowest link rates from saturating the whole link.

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