Are Smart Mobile Devices Changing The Way We Deploy Enterprise WLANs?

by Rohit MehraMuch has been written about Wireless LANs (WLANs) over the past few years, especially as enterprise IT has rolled out large scale wireless networks as overlays on their wired ethernet deployments.So one may ask- what's new with...

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by Rohit Mehra

Much has been written about Wireless LANs (WLANs) over the past few years, especially as enterprise IT has rolled out large scale wireless networks as overlays on their wired ethernet deployments.

So one may ask- what's new with enterprise networks, especially as it relates to WLANs. It's the smart mobile devices- stupid. It’s the iPhones and the Android-based phones in the hands of enterprise users who are looking for instant gratification.

Add to that the more recent tablet phenomena- and the number of devices needing connectivity in the enterprise start to become really interesting. IDC's forecasts for 2011 show shipments for these smart mobile devices will be twice those of laptops, and over the next 4 years, these devices will grow a minimum of 4x.

Enterprise networks have reached a "wireless crossroad" of their own. IT is no longer being asked "can I connect to the network", rather the question is "how can I connect into the corporate network". So what’s the future outlook for enterprise wireless?  What should the priorities be and how do they affect the roadmap for enterprise wireless?

Once the initial euphoria around increased mobility in the enterprise has died down, the real question is- Are businesses ready for applications that leverage ubiquitous wireless in the enterprise? Can these applications leverage the explosive growth in mobile devices? We've all heard, anecdotally, of the hospital buying 100+ iPads for medical practitioners. Or the case where an airline is now using tablets for passing out flight manuals to its pilots. The question is- Will IT really make this transition to support these non-PC devices, and in what timeframe?

Right now, there's a lot happening behind the scenes with Wireless LANs- much more than meets the casual eye:

    * WLAN vendors have made significant improvements to support media-rich applications on their network offerings, while supporting a diverse set of mobile devices
    * While high bandwidth 802.11n wireless networks are the defacto today, the industry is not sitting still. Even higher speed, Gigabit WLANs are on the way with standards such as 802.11ac, amongst others
    * There's growing realization- amongst vendors, service providers and enterprise IT- that 5Ghz has the potential to do more- with more channels, more spectrum, and minimal interference
    * Growing support in the global service provider community for 3G/4G offloads with Wi-Fi, an area that will eventually benefit enterprises as well
    * Increased interest in Wi-Fi deployment architectures, from controller-based to controller-less, to cloud-based and integrated/virtualized ones, all of which offer improved integration with the wired network

Clearly, enterprise wireless is headed in the right direction- a direction that will greatly help the proliferation of wireless in enterprise and cloud-computing computing environments.

Do you agree?