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WLAN Switch Use Increasing But Vendors Face Threats: Study

The use of WLAN switches and so-called thin access points in enterprises will grow dramatically, but the startups the launched the technology will face difficulties, according to a study released Wednesday by research firm In-Stat.

WLAN switches enable more centralized management of wireless networks and enable use of lower-cost thin APs that are less expensive because they need less built-in intelligence.

The study predicted that the number of WLAN switches shipped will increase from just under 36,000 units in 2004 to about 242,500 units in 2009. However, separate WLAN switches, which the study refers to as overlay switches, will be supplanted over that time period by wireless switch functionality built into wired Ethernet switches offered by companies like Cisco, Extreme and Foundry , the study reports.

That will make life difficult for start-ups such as Aruba and Trapeze that were among the first to market several years ago with wireless switches. Another early vendor in that space, Airespace, was recently acquired by Cisco.

"As WLAN management functionality is increasingly integrated into wired Ethernet switches, the price difference between a wired Ethernet switch with WLAN management functionality and a switch without such functionality could become small enough that substantially all new enterprise Ethernet switches sold will be capable of managing APs," Sam Lucero, an In-Stat analyst, said in a statement.