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Choices in SDN wireless technology emerge

New SDN wireless technology uses intelligent controllers in the cloud to granularly direct traffic and policy among access points on premises.

Editor's note: The first part of this article explained how managed service providers could resell SDN, cloud-based Wi-Fi control and management through Tallac Networks. Part two examines the companies that are giving Tallac competition in taking SDN wireless.

Tallac Networks is busy building a channel of managed service providers that will resell its cloud-based SDN control of Wi-Fi networks. But taking SDN wireless is not a new concept and Tallac will see competition in an emerging ecosystem of vendors.

Just this year, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) formed the Wireless & Mobile Working Group, which will explore ways of adapting OpenFlow for use in cellular access networks and wireless transport networks for telecommunications providers. The group will also explore OpenFlow's applicability in unifying Wi-Fi and wired networks in enterprise campus environments.

As the ONF works toward standards, networking vendors are already finding their way to applying SDN to wireless networks.

"Extreme Networks can probably give Tallac Networks a run for its money," says Ronald Gruia, emerging telecoms director, Frost & Sullivan.

Extreme bought Enterasys Networks and combined its own IdentiFi Adapt technology with the Enterasys OneFabric architecture. Now Extreme Networks uses SDN to centralize Wi-Fi management and deliver new applications and services.

IdentiFi Adapt directs traffic either through a centralized controller or it can place intelligence at the access point to make forwarding decisions there. The choice between the two is made based upon the needs and capabilities of the SSID, user, application and infrastructure.

IdentiFi Adapt is able to integrate management and control of applications and management components, such as third-party UC, mobile device management, firewalls and hypervisors. The Extreme Networks solution appears to be focused on meeting the needs of medium to large enterprises rather than enabling MSPs to sell to small to medium enterprises, which is Tallac's forte.

In addition to Extreme, Aricent also offers a wireless management service with HotSpot 2.0 features that rival Tallac's. Aricent uses thin APs, which house less intelligence and processing power while offering more coverage. Meanwhile it relies on fat -- or more intelligent -- controllers in the cloud. This frees up APs to do their work while centralizing and easing management.

"They have OpenFlow clients on the fit APs that reduce the BOM (Bill of Material Cost) on the AP. They have a CAPWAP (Control and Provisioning of Wireless Access Points) client for the controller," Gruia said.

This was last published in April 2014

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