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Colubris woos Cisco customers with choice rack

Don't get a Cisco Catalyst 6500 upgrade, says CTO.

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Colubris has added security and planning to its enterprise Wi-Fi products, using products from AirTight, and is going after Cisco customers.

Colubris products, which now have RF planning and security, are cheaper than Cisco's recently launched enterprise wireless range, make fewer demands on the user's network, and have no hidden costs, says Pierre Trudeau chief technical officer and founder of the company.

"Cisco's wireless strategy is expensive," he said. "The WLSM [Cisco's Wireless LAN Service Module] requires a Catalyst 6500, and the latest version of IOS. Ours works on any recent LAN switch from any vendor." Similarly, in the branch office, Cisco requires users to have the new ISR router, and add a controller module. "If you have a switch you bought two years ago, why would you change it, just to put in wireless access points?"

Airtight's new SpectraGuard version 4.0 is a rackmounted wireless security appliance, which has published APIs so it can work with other vendors' probes and wired switches, and fits with existing wired security applications. It can manage wireless APs at multiple sites in an enterprise, and sits alongside existing wired networks.

Colubris is selling SpectraGuard as the InCharge RF manager, and also selling AirTight's RF planning application as the InCharge RF planner - a program that can calculate the best locations for access points, using a graphics file of the building floorplan, and printing out instructions for untrained staff. It has also put AirTight software on its dual-radio access points, to make a device that acts as a sensor and access point full-time.

"We wanted to partner with someone who could get us to the dance faster," said Trudeau. "We looked at specialist wireless security vendors like Airdefense, Network Chemistry and AirMagnet [Colubris' previous partner] - their breadth of security was really strong, but their management functions were duplicated and not well integrated.

Competitors [like Trapeze, Aruba and Cisco/Airespace] had all integrated some security, but the coverage was weak. Trapeze is the one with the best tools for planning, but its security is light. Aruba has better security - though not as good as what we are offering - but management is a challenge for them."

Colubris now has something that is less work for the administrator, said Trudeau. In its own materials, AirTight it makes the unlikely claim of having "zero false positives". It also promises it can handle multiple threats at the same time, and only uses two or three kbit/s of throughput for management and monitoring traffic.

AirTight is hoping to sign other partners, but its approach - making wireless management that uses the existing wired infrastructure - is a particularly good fit with Colubris, said Trudeau. His company, which previously focussed on "fat" access points and the service-provider market, launched its enterprise range earlier this year, and delivered it in June. "We want to make Wi-Fi fit the network, instead of vice versa."

This story should make it more attractive as a partner for a big switch vendor (providing it an instant rival to Cisco's WLSM) but, so far, there has been no move, even from Juniper, which is a partner for Colubris' existing service provider products.

"Colubris doesn't report sales figures, but it is starting to ramp up," said Greg Collins, analyst at Dell'Oro Group. "It's in the running."

"In the not too dist future, some of our technologies could find their way into the control plane of a switch," said Trudeau. "In the meantime, expect some fixed-mobile convergence announcements in the next three or four months."


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