February 01, 2012

Wireless Onslaught Requires Expanded Enterprise Networking Strategies

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2012 issue of Next Gen Mobility

The enterprise WLAN space is hot, and it’s not hard to understand why. While wireless LANs have been around for years and always have been a nice-to-have networking option, the growth in ownership and use of mobile devices including laptops, smartphones and tablets is now making WLANs a must have for many businesses.

“Mobility is now the norm,” says Dirk Gates, founder and CEO of Xirrus. “People expect to connect without wires. Organizations depend on it. The explosion in the use of smartphones and tablets has seen to that. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance (News - Alert), there are now about 800 million Wi-Fi-enabled devices being produced every year. Most of these devices don't even come with an Ethernet port. Smart organizations see the writing on the wall: Wireless networking is overtaking conventional wired networking, letting users do more, and in more places, than ever before.”

That said, it’s no surprise that new entrants are moving into the WLAN marketplace and existing players in the space are working to up their games.

"This market continues to gain momentum as vendors and end users discover more possibilities and growth potential with mobile enterprise applications and cloud applications and services," says Rohit Mehra, director of enterprise communications infrastructure at IDC (News - Alert). "The demand for adaptable, robust, easily deployed wireless LAN solutions is on the rise as more and more enterprise employees access the network through smart mobile devices."

In its latest MarketScape report, IDC named Cisco and Aruba the leaders in the enterprise WLAN category for 2011/2012, and noted that several others are considered major players in the space. The report covers Aerohive (News - Alert), Bluesocket-ADTRAN, D-Link, Enterasys, Extricom, HP Networking, Juniper, Meraki, Meru Networks, Motorola Solutions, Ruckus, and Xirrus.

Gates of Xirrus says that “there has been some consolidation in the networking category as full-service vendors seek to fill gaps – ADTRAN/Bluesocket is the latest, following Juniper/Trapeze, HP/Colubris, and Cisco/Airespace.” And he adds that Gartner expects 80 percent of today's wireless networks to fail by 2015 because they are not designed to handle the load that will be placed on them. 

IDC’s Mehra notes that as the enterprise WLAN market continues to evolve, traditional controller-based WLAN solutions are being complemented by alternate architectures such as cloud-based and integrated or virtualized WLAN deployments.

Indeed, ADTRAN – via its recent Bluesocket acquisition – is among those new to the WLAN space. It’s hawking a virtualized solution. What’s more, the company’s solution can enable enterprises with separate wireless and wireline networks to integrate those dual networks into a single, seamless network that can serve any endpoint virtually anywhere. That means wired ports now can have the same policy as those coming in via wireless, explains Mads Lillelund (News - Alert).

ADTRAN believes the move to 802.11n, the explosion in demand for wireless connectivity, and the adoption of cloud virtualization in enterprise networks created the ideal climate for it to enter the wireless LAN space and, in the process, “reset and redefine the whole wireless LAN industry,” says Gary Bolton (News - Alert), vice president of global marketing at ADTRAN.

The Bluesocket solution leverages virtualization to put control of the wireless network into the data center – either as an appliance or as software running on a VMware server. Placing WLAN control in the data center allows for unprecedented scalability. That’s important in light of the explosion in wireless endpoints and the fact that wireless access has become a must-have not just a nice-to-have capability, meaning that more organizations are now deploying larger numbers of access points. Controlling WLAN networks from servers at the data center also significantly reduces power requirements, Bolton adds, and it allows for a more secure overall architecture.


Lillelund notes that while competing wireless LAN solutions tunnel about 80 percent of traffic from access points back to a controller, the ADTRAN solution authenticates traffic at the edge. (And access points talk to each other, so as users move around, the policy related to their connections move with them.) That makes for a more reliable solution, he explained, because the traffic as a result travels on shorter paths, meaning fewer points of potential failure. Because traffic on the ADTRAN/Bluesocket solution runs at the access point layer, he adds, there is zero failover with zero packet loss.

The ADTRAN vWLAN solution was in use by 3,000 customers worldwide as of the end of 2011, and ADTRAN expects that its existing relationships with service providers will help open new customer opportunities for the Bluesocket solution.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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Rich Tehrani,
Since 1982 Rich has led TMC© in many capacities. Rich Tehrani is an IP Communications industry expert, visionary, author and columnist. He founded INTERNET TELEPHONY® magazine...Read More >>>
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