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High-density WLAN environments mirror enterprise Wi-Fi network needs

Gina Narcisi

Enterprises have been designing their Wi-Fi networks to light up the entire physical space of an office, but now they are finding that user mobility makes the load on wireless networks much more dynamic.

IT departments are noticing that users are prone to congregating when connecting to a wireless network, creating demand for high-density

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wireless LAN coverage, said Andre Kindness, senior analyst for Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. This user density is prompting enterprises to build Wi-Fi networks with the density and management capabilities traditionally reserved for sports stadiums and convention centers.

"People are always bringing their own devices and using unique applications at large-scale events, and now enterprises are facing these issues for the first time," he said. "The ideas today around Wi-Fi networks should really be about people and where the users are, as opposed to mapping Wi-Fi around the physical design of the building -- This is a key change for the enterprise."

Enterprises grappling with high-density wireless LAN environments

Enterasys Networks Inc., a wired and wireless network vendor, recently announced Enterasys IdentiFi -- an offering that combines its OneFabric Edge software for unified management, as well as new access points and controllers that can help enterprise network administrators build the high-density wireless LAN environments traditionally favored by sports and entertainment venues, said Vala Afshar, chief customer officer of Andover, Mass.-based Enterasys.

As enterprise users demand mobility, IdentiFi will help IT manage and control the influx of wireless devices resulting from the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, across both entry-level enterprise networks and large-scale venues, Afshar said. "The shift from wireless being nice to being necessary is evident now across all verticals -- and no one is carrying just one device anymore in any industry," said Mike Leibovitz, product manager of wireless LAN for Enterasys. But for any enterprise network administrator working to keep up with BYOD, real-time analytics and visibility for integrated wired and wireless networks is a must-have, he said.

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The OneFabric Control Center included within IdentiFi for wired and wireless network management will provide enterprises with device management through Enterasys' Mobile IAM offering for mobile network access control, as well as visibility into applications and users on the network. IdentiFi will also include IdentiFi Radar software on all new 3700 series access points for channel scanning and radio management. IdentiFi also includes new physical and virtual controllers.

"Density performance and scale is top of mind for [large-scale sports and entertainment venues], and enterprises now need the same from the networking vendors," Leibovitz said.

The city of Staunton, Va., recently upgraded its wireless network with the OneFabric Edge and Enterasys identiFi. The upgraded bandwidth and management features have allowed the city's IT team to extend its city-wide free public Wi-Fi to an outdoor park, as well as several government buildings.

Staunton's public library, which has offered free public Wi-Fi for 11 years, used to see about 25 concurrent users a day, said the city's Chief Technology Officer Kurt Plowman. "In addition to our 15 public workstations, we have recently seen the number of concurrent users really grow because more users are bringing their own devices to the library," he said. The city added an extra access point in the library to accommodate the growth.

The city also recently extended the free public Wi-Fi into a public park that hosts several events each week, including baseball and football games and concerts. "The number of concurrent users in the park can vary from 20 scattered people on laptops, to a couple hundred watching a game or at the bandstand on their mobile devices," Plowman said.

With OneFabric Edge, Plowman's five-person IT team is able to manage 450 network nodes on its network, including 40 city-wide Wi-Fi access points.

"With one central management point, my team doesn't have to manage each individual access point or establish rules separately," he said. "I can make a change and push it out to all the access points, deploy and configure a new access point quickly, and manage all my network devices from one place."

One pane of glass to manage the Wi-Fi for an entire city is especially important to Plowman and his team, who have extended the public Wi-Fi network into all the city's buildings. The city plans to extend the Wi-Fi network into the city's downtown area soon.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.


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