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Posts Tagged ‘Wireless LAN’

It’s the holiday season and soon we’ll all hear the Bing Crosby or Perry Como song “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” over and over again. You can tell it’s looking like Christmas, at least in Massachusetts. The malls are over-crowded; I have bags of ice melt in the garage; the usual rudeness you see on the roadways has been escalated; I have pine needles all over my house and the Patriots are running rough shot over the rest of the AFC East (you poor Jets fans).

Well, the same thing is happening with wireless LAN, as it’s starting to look a lot more like wired. Over the past few years or so we’ve seen better failover times with controllers, better connection resiliency, and today Aruba announced the first wireless LAN platform with optimized application delivery.

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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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Tablet computing, smartphones and the current BYOD craze have put a significant emphasis on the corporate wireless LAN network. Even in this current macro where IT spending seems to be in a bit of a lull, one of the few areas of enterprise networking spend that’s growing is Wi-Fi. A recent ZK Research survey shows Wi-Fi being the No. 1 area of spend for network infrastructure over the next 12 months. This should come as no surprise, considering the majority of devices coming into the enterprise are wireless-only.

All of this activity has given credibility to the notion that the wireless network, in many organizations, will become the primary access network, instead of an augmentation to the wired network. The question I pose is whether the Wi-Fi network is really ready to assume this role. As Peter Parker’s uncle said before he died, “with great power comes great responsibility.” I’m not convinced, at this point in time, that wireless LAN is really up to the task of operating as the primary network.

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