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Meru Networks Brings Virtualization to Wireless LANs

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‘Virtual Cell’ Pioneer Introduces ‘Virtual Port’ Technology: A Dedicated WLAN for Every Client Device Provides Wired Switch Reliability and Lowers Cost

Meru Networks has brought the techniques of virtualization to its enterprise wireless LAN products, allowing an optimization of radio frequency (RF) resources that raises WLAN performance and reliability to wireline levels, while reducing the cost of wireless networking to a fraction of its wired equivalent.

The new "virtual port" technology, available now on Meru products, for the first time provides every client device with its own dedicated virtual wireless network. Just as with dedicated ports on a wired switch, enterprises gain control over the wireless resources allocated to each client, lowering both initial expenditures and ongoing management costs.

The increased control realized with virtual port technology is especially important as wireless becomes the primary edge technology for network connectivity in an increasing number of environments, and as new and more diverse wireless devices, based on the high-performance 802.11n Wi-Fi standard, proliferate throughout the enterprise.

"Virtualization has brought dramatic cost savings, resource efficiencies and predictability to the server and storage worlds," said Ihab Abu-Hakima, Meru Networks CEO.  "Now it is doing the same for wireless LANs – at a time when the increasing diversity of devices and applications in the enterprise makes cost-effective utilization of assets more critical than ever. When applied to the WLAN, the fine-grained control and effective resource-sharing of virtualization allow each user device to live within its own ‘virtual world,’ where performance and other policies can be customized to its specific needs."

Virtualization: Pooling and Partitioning on the WLAN

Virtualization technology has two chief components: pooling and partitioning. In 2003 Meru pioneered the concept of wireless "virtual cells," which enable all wireless access points (APs) in an organization to share a common, pooled radio channel resource – a technique that removes the discontinuity of physical boundaries between access points, eliminating co-channel interference and disruptive "handoffs" as clients roam across the network.

With the introduction of virtual port technology, the common pooled resources of virtual cells can be partitioned into multiple virtual WLANs, with a unique WLAN for each user device; the dedicated virtual WLAN moves with the user as long as his device is connected to the wireless network. As with wired switches, the network has full control over the resources and services allocated to a given device. Because the device is "sandboxed" in its own virtual WLAN, the user has a highly reliable wired-like experience, with full access to appropriate resources yet protected from disruptions by other users’ network demands. When devices are partitioned into their own dedicated virtual WLANs, the network can control client behavior in ways that proprietary client driver extensions and AP radio management technologies cannot – without adding any client software. As with virtual cell technology, virtual port technology is fully based on IEEE 802.11 standards.

Virtualization Means Lower Deployment Costs, Lower Recurring Operational Costs

Because the channel-sharing APs in Meru’s virtual cell architecture are turned up to full power, up to one-third fewer APs are required than in the "micro cell" architectures of other WLAN vendors. "The micro cell approach calls for adjacent APs to sit on different channels, a dead-end approach in which pooling – and the resulting benefits of efficient RF utilization – cannot occur," said Dr. Vaduvur Bharghavan, Meru co-founder and chief technology officer. "By using virtual cell to create a common RF resource pool which can be partitioned to give each user device a dedicated network, Meru allows the enterprise to realize the full benefits of virtualization – but with the mobility of wireless.

"For years our virtual cell technology has helped enterprises save on capital expenditures by reducing the number of APs needed and eliminating RF planning," he added. "With virtual port, customers gain additional savings on operating expenses. Once client behavior is bounded, they need no longer worry about the impact of new applications or diverse client populations. This saves them significant time and money on resource allocation and management, and gives them a much greater degree of predictability and control over future infrastructure costs."

How Virtual Port Works: A Unique Identifier for Every Device

With Meru’s virtual cell architecture, all client devices saw a single, common IEEE 802.11 Basic Service Set Identifier, or BSSID (the MAC, or Media Access Control, address in Wi-Fi networks). With the new virtual port technology, every client device has its own unique BSSID. This enables the partitioning of pooled RF resources into virtual ports, eliminating "lowest common denominator" contention among devices and enabling the enterprise to exercise precise control over the uplink and downlink performance of each device – similar to the per-port control in wired switches. This performance remains constant for a laptop, phone or other wireless device no matter which physical AP its packets are passing through.

Segregation of a client’s network access also means significant enhancements for WLAN security and privacy. Multicast traffic intended for one client cannot be overheard or altered by others. Similarly, one client’s bad behavior (e.g., the inadvertent launching of a denial-of-service attack) has no impact on other clients. And since network problems can be isolated to specific client links, debugging can be done on a client-by-client basis in real time, without disrupting the rest of the network.

Availability

Virtual port technology is included in Meru’s System Director 3.6 software, which is available now. Meru customers with active support contracts can upgrade to virtual port capability at no charge.

Videocast on Wireless Virtualization Nov. 19

Meru will host a videocast on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 1:00-2:00 p.m. EST, at which Meru senior executives will present details on the company’s wireless virtualization technology and its benefits. To register, visit http://w.on24.com/r.htm?e=126640&s=1&k=1129D489DA1D0747CC88941DC64B3AB0&partnerref=MPR.

About Meru Networks
Meru Networks develops and markets wireless infrastructure solutions that enable the All-Wireless Enterprise. Its industry-leading innovations deliver pervasive, wireless service fidelity for business-critical applications to major Fortune 500 enterprises, universities, healthcare organizations and local, state and federal government agencies. Meru’s award-winning Air Traffic Control technology brings the benefits of the cellular world to the wireless LAN environment, and its WLAN System is the only solution on the market that delivers predictable bandwidth and over-the-air quality of service with the reliability, scalability and security necessary to deliver converged voice and data services over a single WLAN infrastructure. Founded in 2002, Meru is based in Sunnyvale, Calif. For more information, visit www.merunetworks.com or call (408) 215-5300.

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