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Aruba expands 'instant' Wi-Fi offerings to small, midsize businesses

Aruba Networks has unveiled new WLAN access points and software, expanding its Aruba Instant product line of easy-to-deploy Wi-Fi networks, and retargeting them for small and midsize businesses.

"Wi-Fi client surge forcing fresh wireless LAN thinking"

The new products are aimed at improving Wi-Fi capacity, security, and management for the SMB market, which typically lacks the dedicated IT staff of big companies. All three areas are being pressured by the influx of more Wi-Fi enabled devices, including smartphones and tablets owned by employees.

Aruba also announced a distribution deal with Synnex, which will offer Aruba's full product portfolio to its value-added resellers, which target this market segment.

Aruba Instant (AI) was introduced six months ago to simplify dramatically Wi-Fi networking for branch office and remote office Wi-Fi networks. But SMB customers, even when not highly diversified geographically also benefit from Aruba Instant's architecture and features. The traditional Aruba controller box now becomes a software program running on an Aruba Instant access point. That access point becomes the controller for up to 15 others, which can form a mesh network based on Aruba's mesh software. The WLAN can be managed via Aruba's AirWave management application.

There are no ongoing service fees, licensing fees or management appliances.

The new IA access points were announced originally last March as new high-end products in the company's enterprise line. Now, with the IA software, they boost capacity for the IA line. The new devices are the IA-134 and IA-135. Each has two 802.11n radios, each supporting three data streams, in a 3x3 MIMO configuration. Adding the third stream, boosts the maximum data rate for the access point to 450Mbps. Each radio can run on either the 2.4 or 5 GHz bands. The difference between the two new devices is that one also has external ports for attaching directional antennas.

Both are priced at $1,295, and will ship in December. The complete IA product line starts as low as $395, with the existing IA-92 and -93 models; the differing access points vary in the number of radios and data streams.

For the IA product line, Aruba turned many of the configuration options into standard default settings. Users typically need little or no IT support as they follow directions from a wizard program to accept the defaults (which can be customized later if desired or needed). The access points can automatically discover their "virtual controller," and download their configurations, including 802.1X authentication, and role- and policy-based permissions. An IA access point can be operational in as little as three minutes, according to Aruba.

One IA customer is Mimeo.com, which specializes in on-demand document printing and distribution. The New Jersey-based company shipped nine IA access points to one site in southern California, where the store manager and another employee had a full-fledge WLAN up and running in about an hour.

The newest version of the ArubaOS software for the access points now integrates Aruba's Amigopod software, which lets not only guests but employee-owned Wi-Fi devices like iPads to register themselves on the Wi-Fi network and then be outfitted with specific access permissions. Also new is the AI network's ability to detect and then block rogue access points.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

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