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April 7, 2005

Aruba and Trapeze propose standard for WiFi discovery, authentication

In tacit recognition that the standardization process for end-to-end management of wireless access points (APs) by wireless LAN switches has all but ground to a halt, switch vendors Aruba Networks and Trapeze Networks have submitted a less ambitious proposal, covering only discovery and authentication, to the standards body, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

By CBR Staff Writer

The proposed standard, with the sonorous moniker of Secure Light Access Point Protocol (SLAPP), would enable any WLAN switch (provided it was SLAPP-compliant, presumably…) to discover any AP and authenticate it with the central controller. It leaves undefined, however, the control protocol, which can and will thus remain proprietary, barring a broader entente among the players in this space.

Airespace [ed: now Cisco] pushed their Lightweight AP proposal and submitted it to the IETF, but it was a case of putting the cart before the horse, because they submitted it before there was any definition of what should go where, said David Callisch, VP of marketing at Sunnyvale, California-based Aruba.

The issue he referred to was the fact that each WLAN switch vendor splits the Media Access Control (MAC) in a different was, some, such as Aruba, putting functions such as encryption in the switch itself, while others put it in the AP.

The IETF has had a working group studying the whole issue of AP control by switches for some time. It goes by the name of CAPWAP, standing for Control and Provisioning of Wireless Access Points, and it was to this group that both the LWAP proposal and now SLAPP were submitted. CAPWAP are still looking at how control will be, so we’ve kept it simple and not tried to mandate a monolithic control protocol, said Callisch.

In the absence of a standard for AP, both Aruba and Trapeze (which hails from (Pleasanton, California) have taken unilateral action in recent weeks. Aruba announced it would be open-sourcing its AP boot code, such that any AP vendor could blast an Aruba image onto its devices and make them manageable from an Aruba switch, while Trapeze announced a deal with D-Link whereby the latter would make a Trapeze-branded AP.

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