Strategies for enterprise wireless deployment discussed at Interop

802.11n wireless adoption presents new challenges for enterprise network managers, including Power over Ethernet and network management issues. Paul DeBeasi, senior analyst at Burton Group, has plenty of experience advising enterprises on their wireless and mobile deployments. At Interop in Las Vegas, Paul DeBeasi will moderate a session, "Deploying Wireless Across the Enterprise: Mobile Strategies for IT," where he will discuss wireless strategies for IT decision makers. In this Q&A, DeBeasi discusses his upcoming session, his thoughts about Interop, and his advice for enterprise wireless deployment.

Paul DeBeasi

802.11n wireless adoption presents new challenges for enterprise network managers, including Power over Ethernet and network management issues. Paul DeBeasi, senior analyst at Burton Group, has plenty of experience advising enterprises on their wireless and mobile deployments. On Tuesday, April 29, at Interop Las Vegas, DeBeasi will moderate a session, "Deploying Wireless Across the Enterprise: Mobile Strategies for IT," in which he will discuss wireless strategies for IT decision makers. SearchNetworking.com recently caught up with DeBeasi by email to discuss his session, his thoughts about Interop, and his advice for enterprise wireless deployment.

At Interop, you're moderating a panel on strategies for deploying wireless across the enterprise. What do you see as the biggest wireless deployment pain points challenging network managers right now?

Paul DeBeasi: Unfortunately, there are still a lot of pain points. These include:

  • 802.11n power management is kind of a mess right now. The first-generation enterprise 802.11n access points exceed the Power over Ethernet power limits. Vendors have come up with lots of different approaches to solve the problem. But the solutions are not as clean as they need to be.
  • As I mentioned above, network management and network monitoring are still problem areas. This is especially true with new 802.11n deployments because the physical layer is so dramatically different from legacy technology. Enterprises don't feel as though they really have a good grasp on wireless management.
  • There is the perception that wireless is unreliable and "not ready for prime time" in the enterprise. 802.11n does improve network reliability (robustness). It takes some time for this fact to ripple through the industry.
  • 802.11n does have an impact on the wired network. Access points should have gigabit Ethernet links. And some centralized controllers will even need 10 Gb Ethernet links.

How can network pros approach a wireless strategy in a way that will grow with their needs?

DeBeasi: Not to be overly simplistic, but I think a big decision is whether to (a) deploy 802.11n or legacy wireless technology, and (b) deploy wireless instead of wired Ethernet for network access. And not to beat a dead horse, but the network management and monitoring strategy must be thought through right up front.

What is the worst mistake organizations make when deploying wireless solutions across the enterprise?

DeBeasi: I don't know that there is any single "worst mistake" an organization can make. However, what I tend to see over and over again is that enterprises continue to use outdated wireless security. By that, I'm talking about WEP. Everyone knows that WEP is totally broken. But many enterprises have not been able to overcome the inertia to change their security strategy. I have also noticed that many enterprises continue to deploy autonomous access points rather than a controller-based architecture.

What new wireless technologies shall we see coming out of Interop that will help an organization make anytime/anywhere wireless access and communications a reality?

DeBeasi: I think we're going to see higher-density access points that will improve network performance and robustness. I think we're also going to see improved network management products.

Many enterprises power their wireless access points with Power over Ethernet (PoE). The current PoE standard, 802.3af, carries only 12.95W of power, and 802.11n requires about 15.4W. Vendors are making a lot of noise about 802.11n and their ability to solve PoE issues. What advice could you offer to network pros who are looking into using 802.11n in their strategic deployments?

DeBeasi: I think the best advice is probably that enterprises should try not to make expensive investments in power distribution solely to address the limitations of first-generation enterprise 802.11n products. I think that the next generation of enterprise 802.11n products will consume less power. The other piece of advice I would give is to make sure that they fully understand the behavior of their access points with regard to power. There are a lot of subtleties here.

Are there any killer apps that are enticing organizations to fully embrace wireless solutions (i.e., voice, video, data, presence)?

DeBeasi: I don't see any "killer apps" that will entice organizations to fully embrace wireless solutions. Rather, I see a global trend toward pervasive mobility and communication, both in the consumer space and the enterprise space. It is this trend toward pervasive mobility and communication that drives enterprises to make investments in wireless. And I see that trend not only continuing but accelerating.

In general, what will be the biggest trend or news on people's minds at Interop?

DeBeasi There are a few areas that will be "top of mind" for enterprises:
Wireless, of course, will be a big focus. This includes new mobile cellular services (3G/4G), Femto Cells, and smartphones. Enterprises are worried about how they are going to secure smartphones. What happens when the smartphone is stolen or lost? What happens to the confidential information stored on that device? Also, who owns the phone -- the employee or the enterprise? If it is the employee, then how does the enterprise enforce smartphone policy? How does it control the applications installed on the phone and the information stored on the phone? This is a big problem.

Network neutrality is still an issue for many and has spillover into wireless network neutrality with the advent of 3G/4G mobile services.

Many enterprises are struggling with Voice over IP and real-time communications. The term "unified communications" is being broadly applied to many products and services. Enterprises are trying to understand the technology, the products and the business value proposition.

Which is the up-and-coming wireless vendor Interop attendees and networking pros should watch?

DeBeasi: This is an interesting question.

Xirrus seems to be getting some traction. Their product, the Xirrus Array, is a good solution for very high-density wireless deployments, such as in a large auditorium or other public places.

Ruckus Wireless has interesting beam-forming technology that has proven itself for service provider deployments. They are now repositioning their product line to go after small and medium-sized businesses.

As the enterprise market matures, it will become more segmented. And this is beginning to happen. There are vendors now focused on the small and medium-sized business segment. These include Ruckus Wireless and Bandspeed. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

Among major vendors at the show, which do you think will make the most interesting -- or most underwhelming -- wireless news?

DeBeasi: Over the last two weeks, I've had a slew of wireless briefings. All of them have been under embargo, so I can't really talk about vendor details. However, I can say that the following areas will be emphasized:

  • There will be more 802.11n access point products announced at the show. At least one of them will have an interesting "robustness" angle.
  • Network management will be big. This includes network monitoring products, element network visualization products, and embedded spectrum analyzers. In fact, I think that network management is a big topic in wireless for 2008. I plan to do a report on the wireless management next quarter.
  • Wireless security -- at least one announcement will focus on improvements in wireless security.

This was first published in April 2008

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