Novell wireless LAN connects 2,000 workers

Two thousand users with wireless network access cards installed in their laptops are now connected on Novell's new wireless local...

Two thousand users with wireless network access cards installed in their laptops are now connected on Novell's new wireless local area network (LAN) at the company's headquarters.

The LAN has 100 access points deployed in seven buildings on Novell's new base in Utah, said Tracy Young, the company's global network architect.

A point-to-point wireless link between the headquarters and Novell's private terminal at Provo Airport - and two access points at the airport - allows employees waiting for flights and staff that maintain company aircraft to connect wirelessly to the network, Young said.

The LAN is based on 802.11b technology, the default 11Mbps standard for wireless Ethernet networks, Young said. The wireless network interface cards and the access points installed at Novell are made by Avaya.

A single wireless LAN running outside Novell's corporate firewalls gives staff easy wireless Internet access without the need for complex security manoeuvres, said Young. At the same time, Novell's wired corporate network is protected from unauthorised wireless access by hackers.

To get through the Novell firewall to their data and applications wirelessly, Novell employees enter the open wireless network and then log on to a virtual private network (VPN) that establishes a secure tunnel to the corporate network, Young explained.

Stan Schatt, an analyst at Giga Information Group, said: "There are a lot of security issues with wireless. Setting up the network outside the firewall [and using a VPN] is a smart thing to do."

Young's approach means that network managers would not have to contend with wired equivalent privacy (WEP) encryption, an approach to securing wireless networks that has been deemed inadequate by some security experts, said Jason Smolek, an analyst at IDC.

But VPNs can slow network throughput, warned Smolek.

Young acknowledged that as wireless LAN technologies become faster, VPNs could eventually crimp performance, but said: "There's a second or two to establish a VPN connection, but once you have the connection, there's no degradation."

Novell's wireless network was implemented in 30 days, according to Sniffer Technologies, whose Sniffer Wireless tools were used to facilitate setup and ongoing management of the network

Young said companies thinking about setting up a large wireless network needed a troubleshooting tool.

"We're developers [at Novell]; people here do everything they can to break the network," Young said. "When that happens, we use Sniffer to track down the user or machine and fix the problem."

Sniffer's wireless tool includes a data recorder for tracking network traffic by user and access point. Users of WEP-enabled wireless networks can also use Sniffer to detect intrusion attempts by unauthorised users.

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