Meru Networks this week unveiled virtualised versions of its wireless LAN infrastructure software, part of trend that's simplifying enterprise WLANs and eliminating hardware.
In effect, Meru took its WLAN operating system, System Director, and put a VMware wrapper around it, so it can run atop a VMware hypervisor, deployed in rack-mounted X86 servers. By anchoring Wi-Fi access points in a virtual WLAN backend, Meru can eliminate hardware controllers and other dedicated appliances both in remote offices and in the data center. The goal is a WLAN that's easier to deploy, operate and scale as part of an existing virtual server environment.
The WLAN vendor is also offering virtual editions of its three main mobility controllers, as an alternative to dedicated hardware controllers. They'll be available in the second quarter of this year. Meru declined to provide pricing information.
Finally, Meru also announced virtual versions of its E(z)RF suite of applications, including network management, and of its Meru Identity Manager, which includes Guest Manager and SmartConnect for automatic provisioning for Wi-Fi clients. Both also can now be used as subscription-based, hosted applications instead of behind-the-firewall licensed software servers.
In a separate announcement, Meru unveiled a pocket-sized 802.11n access point that can create a secure link to the corporate WLAN from remote sites, without separate client code or a VPN.
As virtual applications, the controllers can be deployed in existing VMware deployments within existing data centers or off-site in a private cloud. Virtualized, System Director can be deployed more simply and more flexibly than as a hardware appliance. Enterprise WLANs can have a mix of virtual and physical Meru controllers.
The three virtual mobility controllers are the MC1500-VMW, for up to 30 access points; the MC3200-VMW, for up to 200; and the MC4200-VMW, for up to 500 access points.
The new AP110 is a compact access point, with a single 802.11n radio, and two Ethernet ports. It can link wireless with up to 10 Wi-Fi clients. It's designed to create a secure connection to the corporate LAN from branch offices, offices at home, or hotels or other off-site locations, without the need for VPN clients.
A Wi-Fi laptop or tablet connects to the AP110, which plugs into an Ethernet jack. The access point does a DNS lookup to find the enterprise Meru WLAN controller. The on-board SSL certificate creates a Transport Layer Security (TLS) connection to the controller, according to Meru. The access point can split off non-business traffic and send it directly to the Internet. It's equipped with one additional Ethernet port. Pricing is $195, and it ships in April.
Also announced: a free iOS app for iPads, called E(z)RF OnTheGo+, which lets WLAN managers use the tablet to remotely monitor their Meru WLAN.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.