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Aruba to bring WLAN-level security to LANs

Security at the switch, not the wiring closet

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Wireless switch specialist Aruba will next year bring to wired networks the same tight security it provides for WLANs in a bid to provide better protection from inside-the-firewall attacks.

During Q1 2005, Aruba will ship a unit that connects to an existing LAN port and provides a buffer between a potentially unauthorised computer and the enterprise network.

Essentially, the intermediary, branded the Aruba 2E Grid Point, creates a secure IP tunnel to one of the company's 'wireless grid' switches, blocking access to network resources until the client has been authorised and a suitable access policy applied. Each wired grid point can be powered by the Ethernet link itself.

The system builds on the 'wireless grid architecture' Aruba introduced in August this year. Instead of fitting a small number of expensive, ceiling-mounted access points, Aruba reckons it makes more sense to roll out a large number of low-cost, low-power 'thin' APs, which are cheaper to upgrade and provide, it claims, better per-user coverage.

"Security and wireless networking are synonymous," an Aruba spokesman told The Register. "Now we can extend that same level of security to the wired infrastructure."

That it has needed to do so is the result of increased mobility within the enterprise, he said. Where IT departments could once be certain that desktops machines connected to the LAN inside the building were authorised to do so, the mobility that comes from laptops means that's no longer possible. "Anyone can bring a notebook into the building and connect it to a spare Ethernet port," the spokesman said.

Support for the 2E wired grid point and an integrated policy enforcement engine are provided by an upcoming update to Aruba's wireless switch OS. While an update will be offered for its existing 5100 grid-oriented switch, Aruba will also offer two further models, the 6000 and 6100, which incorporate the new code and up the bandwidth provision to 4Gbps clear/3.6Gbps encrypted and 8Gbps/7.2Gbps, respectively.

Both are designed to connect directly to a range of security appliances, in particular Fortinet and Sygate anti-virus kit. Since the wireless switch can be connected anywhere on the LAN - every client is connected through an isolated, encrypted tunnel - it allows the security hardware to be equally easy to implement, saving the need to install it in every wiring closet, Aruba said. The switches can also hook up to standard authentication servers.

Aruba said it doesn't expect enterprises to equip every LAN port with an E2. Instead, it's pitching the boxes for use in more public ports, such as those located in meeting rooms.

The E2, 6000 and 6100 are set to ship in Q1 2005. Pricing will be disclosed at that time, Aruba said. ®

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