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AI World Conference & Expo · Boston, MA · December 11-13, 2017

Posts Tagged ‘wi-fi’

The industry is well into the 802.11ac Wave 1 cycle now, with almost every vendor having product available. Now is the time many of us industry watchers start looking ahead at what’s next and for Wi-Fi that’s 802.11ac Wave 2. Wave 2 brings more bandwidth, in theory a little over 3.5 Gig; a remarkable speed for Wi-Fi.

The other innovation that Wave 2 brings is something called “beam forming.” Without going into a lot of technical details, beam forming concentrates the Wi-Fi signal and aims it directly at the target, as opposed to traditional wireless broadcasts, which distribute a signal to a wide area and with the hope that it’ll reach the device. So traditional Wi-Fi coverage looks like a circle, whereas beam forming looks like a star.

For those familiar with the Wi-Fi vendor Ruckus, the company has a proprietary version of beam forming called BeamFlex that has been a significant point of differentiation for Ruckus since the company launched.

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To say Wi-Fi is hot is as big an understatement as saying that A-Rod is a cheater. Everyone knows it’s true, but it’s bigger than most people think. In a joint ZK Research/Tech Target Network Purchase Intention Survey that was run near the end of 2013, Wi-Fi ranked as the No. 2 in priority for network managers, behind only the red-hot security market.

The primary driver of Wi-Fi is, of course, the influx of millions of consumer devices into the workplace, which means the wireless network needs to be expanded and made denser. Deciding to deploy more Wi-Fi is an easy decision, but deciding on whether to stick with N or to deploy AC may not be easy. One would think that shifting to AC, the newest standard, is a no brainer; however there are a number of challenges that need to be dealt with in order to have a successful 802.11AC deployment.

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This has been quite the past half a year for the once-beleaguered Extreme Networks. Given all the change in the industry and all the media focus on network startups and SDNs, Extreme Networks had almost become the forgotten-about network vendor. Six months ago, Extreme’s stock price was trading at a little over $3.50/share and the company had recently gone through a CEO change.

Today, the company seems to have had a complete facelift and the stock has more than doubled in price. In November, Extreme acquired Enterasys Networks and effectively doubled the organization’s revenues. Earlier this year, the company was named the official Wi-Fi analytics provider of the NFL. While this may seem like an odd thing to form a partnership around, Wi-Fi analytics holds massive potential for Extreme.

It seems every company today is trying to improve the customer experience, and the NFL is no different. In fact, in this era of fantasy football and social media, NFL fans are constantly checking scores, tweeting and posting Facebook updates, and the NFL has been on a mission to improve the in-stadium fan experience.

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Yesterday, Silicon Valley’s biggest shopaholic, Cisco, added to its wireless portfolio when it announced the acquisition of a small company that develops Wi-Fi analytic technologies called ThinkSmart Technologies. ThinkSmart is a Cork, Ireland, based technology company that uses the information it gains from Wi-Fi networks to collect intelligent information such as time of day, traffic patterns and dwell times for mobile users.

There were no financial terms announced, so it’s a safe bet this was a relatively small acquisition primarily meant to add the technology into existing Cisco products.

I like this move by Cisco for a number of reasons. One of them is that it’s based overseas, so Cisco can use part of the huge war chest of cash it has in Europe. Company CEO John Chambers has strongly stated that it would continue to invest in Cisco, but the amount of U.S. investment it does will be limited until the Obama or incoming administration (if different) grants a repatriation holiday on bringing foreign cash back into the country.

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The current, dominant architecture for enterprise Wi-Fi networks is to have a bunch of “thin” access points (APs) deployed for coverage with a number of controllers used as the “brains” of the deployment. The APs provide the connectivity to the devices and the controller acts as a central point of control for configuration, security and policy. This model is very common and has been in place now for about a decade.

However, the IT environment has changed and Wi-Fi architectures need to change along with it. The controller-AP model works in some scenarios, like deploying in large facilities with lots of people in them. But how many companies are like that now? My research shows that over 80% of employees now work outside the corporate headquarters, primarily in branch offices, and that’s where the main problems are for the current controller led model.

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