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7/26/2011
10:11 AM
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Aruba Brings NSA-Grade Crypto To Wireless Networks

With new Suite B cryptography support, Aruba says it aims to make wireless networks as secure as wired.

Wireless networks can now be just as secure as their wired counterparts, something Aruba Networks aims to show with its launch Monday of support for Suite B, a cryptography stack aimed at high-security applications. As well as upgraded software in its controller, Aruba featured a new version of its client for tablets and smartphones, something that underscores its attempts to convince people that it is about more than just wireless access points.

"We're hoping to be a general access networking company," said Robert Fenstermacher, director of education marketing at Aruba, in an interview. The most significant step in that direction is what it calls a its S3500 line of gigabit Ethernet switches, launched in March and described by the company as "wired access points." Intended for direct connection to wired clients as well as to wireless access points, these are essentially thin switches: they download their configuration from the Aruba controller, applying the same policies to wired clients as wireless access points do to wireless clients.

Another recent step is a partnership with Microsoft, announced in June, that centered around unified communications, optimizing the Aruba wireless network for Microsoft's Lync unified messaging software. The theory here is that unified communications doesn't just mean uniting voice with messaging and video; it means integrating wired with wireless. According to Aruba, the partnership will offer Microsoft Lync users the same performance and experience whether using wireless or wireline.

Aruba and Microsoft also stepped up collaboration in their respective partner programs, with Aruba becoming a Microsoft Network Infrastructure Optimization Partner and Microsoft Lync Server 2010 being certified through the ArubaEdge program. However, both partner programs are aimed at broad interoperability, so neither is excusive.

The Microsoft program aims to give networking vendors technical guidance on optimizing performance with Lync and also includes Aruba competitors Brocade, Cisco, HP, and Juniper. The Aruba program is similarly aimed at an assurance of technical compatibility and includes many applications, including several others from Microsoft. However, Aruba says that the integration is particularly tight. "We have direct access to Microsoft technology and can help customers with a specific UC solution," said Fenstermacher.

Developed by the National Security Agency, Suite B itself is based on the same AES algorithm as the 802.11i security built into wireless radio chips, so it's likely to be supported by most other wireless vendors without the need for a hardware upgrade. The new version of the Aruba client, which it calls a Virtual Intranet Agent (VIA), is designed to automatically detect whether a tablet or phone is connected to a trusted network and, if not, create a VPN tunnel, switching between 802.11i and IPSec whenever necessary.

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