Cisco Systems is responding to the security and manageability concerns around wireless local area networks by offering up some of its technology to chip companies at no charge.

The networking company Monday announced a partners

program to complement the first version of what it calls Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX) it released nine months ago, executives said during a Webcast Monday. Enrolment in the program, whose seven initial members include Intel, IBM and Texas Instruments, includes free licensing of Aironet features for integration into client adapters and, ultimately, mobile devices.

Bill Rossi, vice-president and general manager of Cisco’s wireless networking business unit, said CCX would help its partners offer greater compatibility between its infrastructure and client reference designs. Clients, in this case, refer to wireless solutions like a PC card or some form of embedded WiFi in a device like a PC, PDA or cell phone. The program also includes an interoperability test administered by a third-party lab to verify interoperability between the wireless LAN client solution and Cisco’s infrastructure. A “”Cisco compatible”” brand will be available to place in marketing materials or the products themselves.

“”(Customers) are willing standardize on a single access point vendor like Cisco, but they’ve got to have different clients available, because they can’t control what client is showing up in which mobile device,”” he said.

CCX is intended to be complementary to other standards bodies like the WiFi Alliance and IEEE, Rossi added, and Cisco will continue to be involved with both groups.

Meta Group analyst Chris Kozup said many enterprises are feeling a hefty grassroots push for the adoption of wirless technology. This is causing them to take a proactive approach in terms of establishing a policy to deal with the technology, he said. “”What they don’t want is to repeat mistakes,”” he said, like a series of mixed protocols from ATM to Token Ring that came along as ethernets evolved.

Intel’s vice-president of network platforms Jim Johnson agreed, noting that standards development between vendors changed ethernet into a robust, stable communications technology. “”Now as employees go into enteprises, they expect to find an ethernet-wired connection to hook up their computers,”” he said.

Rossi said security and management remain the biggest barriers to the adoption of wireless LANs, but failure to do anything about them now could amount to a “”cost of postponement”” later on.

“”After somebody realizes they have this whole plethora of mixed-vendor products within the network, at some point they have to go back and reassert some kind of compliance to a centralized policy,”” he said.

Rossi said Cis

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