April 24, 2008 -- Meru Networks has introduced the AP440, a four-radio IEEE 802.11n wireless access point that the company says is designed to provide the data rates and functionality to let enterprises replace aging wired infrastructures with wireless networks without compromising access speed, throughput capacity, security or resiliency. The company has also added a 4-Gbit/sec Acceleration Module for its MC5000 controller, enabling an MC5000 chassis loaded with five of the modules to achieve throughput of 20 Gbit/sec.
"The AP440 takes a major step toward the 'all-wireless enterprise,' signaling an era when throughput and functionality need no longer be sacrificed in the move from wired to wireless," comments Kamal Anand, Meru's senior vice president of marketing and corporate strategy. "By providing wired-like access speeds and user capacities while internally handling security and redundancy, the AP440 lets companies roll out demanding new applications with full assurance that the WLAN can handle them."
Each of the AP440's four IEEE 802.11n radios supports access at up to 300 Mbit/sec, for 1.2 Gbit/sec capacity. According to the company, because the four radios work together to provide internal redundancy, load-balancing and security, enterprise users can dramatically reduce the number of access points and additional security sensors they need, thereby realizing significant savings on cabling, connection and deployment/installation costs.
In addition to supporting the 802.11n standard, which is seeing increasingly rapid adoption across a wide range of enterprises, the four radios are backward-compatible with the legacy 802.11a/b/g standards, enabling the AP440 to simultaneously accommodate all types of old and new client devices. Each radio can be dedicated to a specific frequency band, allowing enterprise users to take full advantage of 802.11n performance.
The ability to concentrate four high-speed radios in a single access point without introducing interference problems is made possible through the company's patented antenna design, which allows multiple radios to operate simultaneously on different channels. Deployment of large-scale WLANs with multiple channel layers is simplified by the company's "virtual cell" architecture, which automatically selects a single channel for use enterprise-wide, layering additional channels to increase capacity, security and/or redundancy.
Up to four channels can be layered with the AP440. In contrast, notes Meru, the "micro cell" approach used by most legacy WLANs assigns different channels to adjacent network cells, necessitating frequent and disruptive client "handoffs" and requiring meticulous channel planning to avoid interference. Micro cell systems also require additional wireless sensors to be deployed for security, increasing cable and Power over Ethernet (PoE) port requirements, as well as installation costs.
"Compared to an equivalent four-AP micro cell system - which would require extra cabling, more switch ports and separate security APs - the AP440 provides extremely cost-effective wireless coverage on a megabits-per-square-meter basis as well as lower overall cost-of-ownership," adds Meru's Anand. "In the all-wireless enterprise, the ceiling is the new wiring closet. When wireless is the primary means of networking, the ability to disperse access points on the ceiling rather than concentrating all wired networking equipment in a traditional wiring closet reduces heat dissipation issues and the need for cooling fans - critical considerations in an age of rapidly rising energy costs."
Key features of the AP440 wireless access point, according to Meru, include:
RF redundancy: One channel layer can be dedicated to redundancy for both bands. In case either the 2.4-GHz channel or one of the 5-GHz channels fails, traffic will still be delivered on the channel that supports both frequencies.
Capacity: Four 802.11n radios together offer up to 1.2 Gbit/sec capacity in a single access point; one radio is configured for 2.4-GHz operation and two for 5-GHz operation; the fourth is a dual-band radio for 2.4- and 5-GHz. Up to four channels can be layered, with all channels capable of operating at 40-MHz channel width.
Security: The integrated dual-band 2.4-/5-GHz radio eliminates the need for dedicated "sensor APs" because it can scan for and mitigate rogue activity on all channels while simultaneously delivering traffic.
USB port: This feature broadens application flexibility by allowing other ceiling-installed but non-802.11 devices - e.g., spectrum analysis systems, video surveillance cameras, public address systems - to be incorporated into the WLAN.
Flexible omnidirectional antenna: An integrated antenna system simultaneously serves four layered a/b/g/n channels. The antenna casing is attached to the base unit using a special hinge that allows the AP440 to be mounted on wall or ceiling, vertically or horizontally, with the antenna rotated in any direction.
Being introduced in conjunction with the AP440 is the company's MC5000 Acceleration Module, designed for ultra-high-capacity deployments. One 4-Gbit/sec acceleration module can be plugged into each of the MC5000's five controller blades, boosting total chassis capacity to 20 Gbit/sec of throughput. As traffic grows, users can incrementally add capacity while protecting their original hardware investment, maintains the company.
The module is a field-upgradeable option for the Meru MC5000 controller, a modular hardware system which provides centralized configuration and management for the company's 802.11a/b/g/n access points in large enterprises and branch offices.
The AP440 Access Point is priced at $2,995 and the MC5000 4-Gbps Acceleration Module at $15,000. Both products will be available in the third quarter of 2008.