Vendor Neutral WLAN Management Requires Research

12 FEBRUAR 2010

By Charlie Schluting

If you're managing a WLAN comprised of hardware from multiple vendors, you're going to be looking at a vendor neutral WLAN system to keep up with firmware upgrades, configuration and security. Be careful, though: No solution is going to address every feature of every piece of hardware, so advance research is key.

Last week, we explained your options for managing wireless networks. One category of wireless management products we identified was "vendor neutral," meaning products that claim to work across a variety of devices. This week, we'll cover two popular and feature-rich products: AirWave from Aruba Networks and WiFi Manager from ManageEngine.

To be clear, these are applications which are able to manage access points from various vendors; we are not talking about access point controllers. An access point controller, at least as it's commonly understood, refers to a "master" device that controls all other access points on the network. With controllers, you often don't run a full access point firmware on each device, instead each has enough smarts to boot and get its configuration from the master controller. Next week we will cover a few Cisco products that operate this way.

Vendor neutral management implies that you must be careful to ensure that your access points are supported. For products we're talking about today, the respective companies list access point compatibility on their product Web pages. This type of software is managing full access points, be they Cisco, Proxim, Avaya, or other devices, which are each running their own firmware and traditionally require an administrator to login to each unit for configuration. Unified management software essentially logs in automatically (or uses SNMP) to configure the devices.

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