HP Puts Wired And Wireless In The Wall


New ProCurve device does all your networking from inside a wall socket


HP ProCurve has combined a mini Wi-Fi access point with an Ethernet switch, and put it into a wall-socket for hotels and offices.

The MSM317 Access Device is intended for hotels and meeting rooms, which are often provided with one Ethernet port, but have an increasing number of connected gadgets such as IP phone and TVs. It lets them upgrade to support new devices without expensive rewiring, by taking an 802.11b/g Wi-Fi access point and a four-port wired Ethernet switch, and putting them in a package that can replace standard Ethernet wall-plates.

The unit is powered over Ethernet (PoE), and passes power on through one of the ports. It also has a fifth port which is simply a pass-through socket for a conventional phone. The product is clearly a continuation of the Colubris product line which HP bought last year, and can be centrally managed by HP’s new version of the Colubris wireless switches, now known as MultiService Mobility controllers. In the UK it will cost £272.

“In a hotel, this unit can connect an analogue or IP phone, a TV, a video on demand box, maybe a fridge and a guest PC, wired or wireless, with only one cable,” said Lars Koelendorf, HP ProCurve’s EMEA wireless networking manager. It could also be useful in office meeting rooms, or branch offices connected over the Internet, he said. It could even potentially be deployed to every cubicle in an office.

The Wi-Fi access point acts just like other managed APs, so users can roam between one and another when they are in the same building, said Koelendorf. It also has the option of independent local switching between devices in the same room, something Colubris added to its architecture in advance of Trapeze and Cisco.

The device does not include the new fast 802.11n Wi-Fi technology for three reasons, said Koelendorf. Firstly, it’s not needed when few devices are connected in a small space, and secondly, 802.11n on two radios is power-hungry and would leave less PoE electricity for other devices. “Finally,” he said, “802.11b/g costs less.” The device has been thoroughly tested in actual sites and covers a room very well, he said.

The strategy of moving wireless access points down from the ceiling into the wall can save a lot of effort and expense in installing access points, but has not been a big success when tried in the past. Aruba announced a similar concept, the Grid Point, which has not done well, with vestiges remaining such as a case study on Aruba’s site. Aruba had a deal for cabling partner Ortronics to sell grid points as “Wi-Jacks”, but that company now works with Wi-Fi vendor Bluesocket.

“We have seen similar vendors with similar products but they do less than what we are doing,” said Keolendorf. “It’s normally a hub or a smartswitch, not a fully managed switch, or an unmanaged Wi-Fi access point”

HP also launched two new converged wired/wireless controllers that upgrade Colubris technology. The MSM765 controller is a blade which can be slotted into ProCurve 5400 and 8200 series switches, while the MSM760 is a stand-alone device.

The company also upgraded its Mobility Manager 3.0 software with automatic update capabilities, to automatically detect and configure all wireless access points and controllers that are on the network – including the new MSM317s. Mobility Manager is part of HP ProCurve’s Manager Plus 3.0 management platform.

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