Trend: Where wireless networking is heading

Wireless networks not only proliferate, but they also grow, become more complex, and are now more critical for more and more organizations. In many enterprises, large and small, WLANs are now the main way of connecting to--and within--the organization. What are the major trends in wireless networking? E-Commerce Times' Greg Murphy offers a useful summary.

  • Increased scale. Not too long ago only very few networks encompassed 1,000 or more wireless APs. Today 1,000 APs are considered moderately sized WLAN. More and more WLANs now boast more than 10,000 APs, often scattered across hundreds of facilities. The key to coping with this increased size: management software that provides a single console from which to manage an entire network, regardless of its size.
  • Device diversity. There used to be a time when practically the only devices connected to a WLAN were laptop PCs running Windows. Nowadays any wireless-enabled device--laptops, PDAs, smartphones, etc.--may become a node in the enterprise network. Smaller devices mean greater mobility, and greater mobility affects reception and network performance. The greater number and diversity of devices means that IT managers must now develop a plan to support multiple security policies simultaneously, improve WLAN performance (in order to sustain such new devices that impose higher performance requirements), and understand new mobility patterns within the enterprise. IT managers must conduct regular audits of the entire infrastructure to alert them to AP or wireless-enabled devices not complying with security policies.
  • Diverse infrastructure. Many enterprises must integrate different wireless technologies--WiMAX, mesh networks, other proprietary technologies--into their current networking mix. The challenge of how to support multiple wireless architectures and topologies, in addition to multi-vendor networks, is not easy.

"In the long run, as wireless networks grow larger and more complex, IT needs to consider investing in neutral network management solutions that give them the flexibility to control and monitor both traditional and advanced infrastructures from the same console," Murphy concludes.

For more on the direction of WLAN:
- see Greg Murphy's E-Commerce Times discussion