HP ProCurve converges wireless and wired network access

HP ProCurve has introduced a combination wired and wireless client access device for the network edge, along with two new wireless LAN controllers.

The wired-wireless access device is designed to support the growing panoply of IP-based client devices, ranging from notebook PCs and Wi-Fi enabled handhelds, but also VoIP desk phones, IP TVs and other gear that needs or benefits from a wired connection.

The HP ProCurve MSM317 combines a 802.11b/g Wi-Fi access point and a four-port wired Ethernet switch. One of the four support 802.3af Power over Ethernet. A fifth port is available for a telephone line. The device looks and mounts like a standard Ethernet wall-jack plate but slightly thicker.

It's aimed at creating network connectivity for client devices in a single room in venues such as hotels, hospitals, college dorms, and apartment complexes. Each in-room MSM317 can be centrally managed by a ProCurve Mobility Controller. The ProCurve wireless product line is based on equipment and technology from Colubris, which HP acquired in 2008

The new access device comes at a time when some enterprises are discovering that that their extensive wireline infrastructure for network access is largely idle, as end users increasingly and routinely rely on wall-to-wall WLANs for wireless access.

The decision to support only 802.11b/g means that the MSM317 can be priced low: the list price is $349. But it limits clients to the potentially crowded 2.4-GHz band. And it doesn't support higher throughput 802.11n clients, though these clients are compatible with 802.11b/g access points. "We see 11b/g as more than adequate for a single room," says Carl Blume, director of mobility solutions for HP's ProCurve group.

HP faced a number of WLAN challenges with the new product. The 2.4-GHz band because of its comparatively lower frequency tends to carry farther, and penetrate through walls. The wall-mounted device uses a directional antenna to focus the radiated energy within the room in front of it, and minimizes its bleeding into any adjoining rooms behind it.

Most access points are ceiling mounted to optimize coverage and signal quality. Because the MSM317 is mounted near the floor, HP used two antennas with polar diversity to optimize sending and receiving performance. The company says its internal testing shows "excellent performance" for the device's Wi-Fi connectivity.

The two new controllers feature a flexible licensing scheme for the first time: customers can purchase an initial block of access point licenses, and for an additional fee, "unlock" additional license groups as the WLAN grows. (Compare WLAN products by clicking on "Wireless & Mobile" at our online Buyer's Guides.)

HP ProCurve MSM760 is a stand-alone, rack-mounted controller with two Ethernet ports, capable of handling 40 to 200 access points. The ProCurve MSM765 is different only in its form factor: it's a blade that slides into an available slot on any ProCurve 5400 or 8200 series Ethernet switches.

The stand-alone 760 is $8,000; the 765 blade is $7,000. Both, along with the MSM317 wall device, are now shipping.

HP also has released an updated Version 3.0 of ProCurve Mobility Manager, which now automatically detects and configures all wireless access points and controllers in a WLAN. This software is also available as part of the new version 3.0 of HP ProCurve Manager Plus, an application configuring and monitoring both wired and wireless networks. The new version of Manager Plus includes a single-screen view of the complete network.

This story, "HP ProCurve converges wireless and wired network access" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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