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IETF selects Cisco's LWAPP

Size matters, but then, perhaps it does not. Cisco's LWAPP (lightweight access point protocol) has been selected as the basis for a standard which will control WiFi APs in enterprise networks. We should use the word "control" carefully here because it is not clear how much sway this new standard will have. LWAPP was selected by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) which has been working for a while now on the CAPWAP (control and provisioning of wireless access points) protocol. As it happens, the CAPWAP initiative was urged by Cisco's opponents--chief among them Airespace--as a means to create a group of switched wireless vendors who would coalesce around an alternative to Cisco's LWAPP. The goals was to keep Cisco's dominance in the enterprise LAN in check.

What did Cisco do? Last year it acquired Airespace, removing the main anti-LWAPP player from the opposing team, and LWAPP became the leading candidate to become the CAPWAP standard. LWAPP's purpose is to allow users relief from a single-vendor stranglehold when building their enterprise WLANs: Instead of buying all the network components from one vendor (for fear that otherwise performance would degrade), the Cisco standard will make it possible to construct a WLAN using gear from different vendors. Airespace is now swallowed whole by Cisco, but LWAPP is now facing competition from SLAPP, a lighter approach supported by Aruba and Trapeze, two rivals of Cisco and of Airespace when that company was still around. SLAPP's approach is that instead of a standard to control gear from different vendors, a simpler protocol should be developed which would allow vendors to download firmware to other vendors' APs.

We said earlier that all this may be moot and that LWAPP may not make much of a difference. The reason: Most people use gear from the same vendor in their WLANs not because of compatibility, but because they typically get a better deal.

Read more about CAPWAP:
- in Peter Judge's Techworld report

ALSO: If Cisco's move on LWAPP can be seen as the company's contribution to standardization (in this case, of multi-vendor WLANs), the company's moves on another front will have the opposite effect. Cisco is making an undisclosed investment in Zensys, developer of the Z-Wave wireless mesh networking technology. This is good for Zensys, but it is not good for the development of the standards-based ZigBee protocol to which Z-Wave is an alternative. Z-Wave is a proprietary RF wireless technology in the unlicensed 908.4 MHz spectrum in the U.S. and 868 MHz in Europe. Not having to comply with any standards, the technology claims advantages such as a longer range at the same power level with a longer battery life. Users of Z-Wave will be locked into buying from Zensys, however, as it is the only Z-Wave silicon vendor. There is another problem: Z-Wave uses a very simple routing system which sends information to all the devices in a network, but this constitutes a limitation on the size to which a network can grow before congestion becomes an issue. Our prediction: Here we go again. In a typical Cisco move, the company supports a proprietary technology, then relies on its market muscle to establish it as a de facto standard for the industry. Just wait. Report

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