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Aruba Networks latest to unveil 802.11ac access points

John Cox | May 22, 2013
Joins other WLAN vendors ushering in the "gigabit Wi-Fi" enterprise

But there is another 11ac caveat. According to Aruba, the access point radios can run on standard 802.3af Power-over-Ethernet, supplying about 13 watts. But in that case, the 5-GHz radio can only support 802.11n data rates and throughput. To boost performance to 11ac, the enterprise will have to upgrade to 802.3at PoE. That standard supports up to 25 watts, but Aruba says its 5GHz 11ac radio only needs 15 watts.

The 220 has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, with link aggregation to enable both to be sending and receiving at the same time.  

The first of the 220 products, designed to work with Aruba controllers, will be available in June, with a starting list price of $1,295. That compares to $1,095 list price for Aruba's existing three-stream 11n access point. In the third quarter, Aruba will release a controller-less model, part of its Aruba Instant product line.

ClientMatch is designed to compensate for Wi-Fi clients that, for various reasons, persist in clinging, or "sticking," to one access point when one that is nearer, and less loaded or suffering less interference is available. It can do this for any Wi-Fi client, not just 11ac.

"11ac wifi requires really good signal quality," says Ozer Dondurmacioglu, director, product and solutions marketing for Aruba Networks. "To get gigabit Wi-Fi, you need to be no more than 20 to 25 feet [from the access point] to take advantage of that. If you're not close enough, you don't get 11ac rates: you get 11n rates."

ClientMatch is designed to ensure that all Wi-Fi clients are connected to the closest and least busy access point. It ends up making the access point behave a lot like a cellular base station. In cellular networks, unlike Wi-Fi, it's the network, not the client device, that controls the roaming decision.

The ClientMatch code on the access point gathers real time information about every packet, statistics such as retry rates and rates to form a picture of signal quality for each client, and information about the coverage and signal quality for its neighboring access points. As clients increase, ClientMatch can calculate the utilization rates for the access points, and detect interference.

If the original or host access point detects that a neighboring access point is a better match for a given client, it sends a de-authorization and then a de-association message to the client. The client then sends out probes searching for another access point. But only the AP that's been identified as the best match for that client responds to it.

Aruba tested a beta version of ClientMatch during its annual sales meeting, in a auditorium packed with sales reps on their laptops and devices. Without ClientMatch, Aruba's WLAN management software found a lot of Wi-Fi clients with a low signal to noise ratio (SNR), which is bad, because it means the signal is less powerful compared to the background electronic "noise." When ClientMatch was switched on, "SNR improved significantly and more of the devices moved to higher SNR values," Dondurmacioglu says.


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