Meru offers a virtual switch for WLANs
With its System Director 3.6 software, WLAN supplier Meru has introduced its "virtual ports" technology for wireless networks. In a wireless network with virtual ports, each base station involved does not have a fixed identity (a BSSID, equivalent to the MAC address of the access point's WLAN interface). Instead, an additional layer ("virtual cells") handles access control and manages exchanges between the wireless clients and individual access points (APs) – i.e., roaming. The association between client (MAC) and AP (BSSID) is carried along in the process.
This way, Meru's virtual ports lock every client in a separate virtual wireless cell. This is to allow WLAN links to be controlled like wired LAN connections, for example enabling upper bandwidth limits to be determined for individual clients. It also prevents multicast traffic intended for one client from being overheard by others, and one client's "bad behaviour" has no impact on other clients, says Meru.
According to the vendor's press release, the technology does not require any additional client software and complies with the 802.11 WLAN standard. Meru will initially offer virtual ports for its Draft-N devices, but the technology is said to work with less recent 802.11a/b/g base stations too.
Despite the technology's increased similarity with a cable network, however, virtual port WLANs remain a shared medium: all the clients signed on at a base station share this base station's capacity.
The System Director 3.6 software is available now. Meru customers with active support contracts receive the update free of charge.