This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

A unique solution to help network managers get the right technology in the best spots.

Earlier this year, Extreme Networks oriented its go-to-market strategy around the redefinition of “mobility”–that is, how everything goes mobile–content, applications, devices and people. This vision involves more than a wireless edge, it requires a robust wired core and access edge, which is the sweet spot of traditional Extreme.

Last week though, Extreme stepped out of its comfort zone and launched its first wireless product–the Altitude 4511 wall plate access point or “Snap-On WiFi” solution. The Snap-On WiFi access point is one of the cooler products I have seen in awhile. It’s an access point in a wall jack form factor. Grab any wired wall plate, unscrew it, unplug the wire and plug it in to the Altitude 4511. That’s it. Instant wireless where there was none before.

Sure, there are other ways to solve the problem, you could actually plug a full size access point into the wall jack and mount it on the desk or the wall. Alternatively you could get out your site planning tools and extend the wireless network to that location. But those methods seem rather time consuming and overkill for a product that takes under five minutes to install. It also sits nice and flush to the wall and takes up no actual room. There’s a few different flavors as well in case the installer wants to put in wireless only, or wireless plus a couple of wired ports for anything that might require a cable to connect to the network.

The Extreme Snap-On wall plate isn’t some run-of-the mill AP that Extreme built overnight. It’s based on technology from its long-time wireless partner, Motorola and includes spectrum analysis, intrusion prevention and, from what I understand, can be its own controller.

The Snap-On, though, does have a couple of limitations, the most notable one being that it can’t be part of a larger WiFi “mesh”. However, despite the lack of meshability, I think there’s room in many verticals, such as education and hospitality, for the Altitude 4511.

In these verticals there are literally thousands of miles of copper cabling that have been run through hotels, schools, universities, etc. over the past few decades. These cables were run when a wired connection was the norm. Any business traveller remembers the day where the hotel provided you a 3-foot long cable to connect to some box on your desk or even the lamp (who ever thought that was a good idea?) for Internet connectivity.

Well, most of those cables are still there, but the students and hotel guests want to connect over wireless. In fact, most devices today have no wired port on them, making wireless service a must for these verticals. In today’s environment, it’s not good enough to provide just wireless access–it needs to be wireless of some quality.

I can’t tell you how many hotels I’ve stayed in where the wireless access is poor to fair only. I’ve been in rooms where it works marginally by the door to the hallway, but when I sit on the bed, it’s out of range. Or the wireless is so congested, I could connect but nothing works. This is the primary reason I carry a MyFi card. I’ve given up on wireless in hotels, so none of the places I stay get any revenue from me for Internet access.

Well here is where the Altitude 4511 can definitely help. Any hotel could replace a wall jack with one of these devices for every 3-4 rooms in the hotel, improving the in room experience greatly. If the hotel was a high end one, each room could have its own AP, giving each user uncongested bandwidth and a great experience.

The same drivers are true for education as well. Lots of copper cabling has been run to classrooms, labs, dorm rooms and other areas years ago to connect computers. Well, times have changed but the infrastructure to support it has not.

Many school are implementing tablet programs, but if the wireless infrastructure can’t support hundreds of tablets, then what? Parents and students pay hundreds of dollars for devices, but the wireless network doesn’t have the proper reach or is too old and the experience is bad?

I’d like to be clear here, the Altitude 4511 Snap On wall plate isn’t for every company. Most enterprises are going to choose a traditional mesh from one of the market leaders, but for the verticals like the ones I mentioned above where there is a wireless need, the Snap On solution is a low cost way of putting in wireless where no wireless was before. As we continue to do more demanding stuff on our wireless networks like VoIP and video, it becomes ever more important that solution providers find unique solutions like this to help network managers get the right technology in the best spots.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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