Interop New York: Enterprise mobility and WLAN architecture grow up

Wireless LAN architecture changes and enterprise mobility will be hot topics at Interop New York. Users will learn how to handle the security and management issues surrounding personal mobile devices in the enterprise, as well as how to prepare for new WLAN architectures. spent some time with Paul Debeasi, research vice president for networking and telecom at Gartner and panel chair at Interop New York, to preview some of the hot topics in enterprise wireless and mobility. He shared his thoughts on the most pressing issues facing enterprises, including mobile devices, what's next for WLAN architectures, and the impact of the new unlicensed white space.

What do you expect will be the most pressing issues discussed during the Interop New York enterprise mobility and wireless conference sessions?

Management and security are the big issues. In particular, management of mobile devices is very complex due to the variety of devices and the inability of IT to completely control them, like they do for Blackberries. Secondly, data security and risk mitigation is a big issue. Enterprises are concerned about data leakage, and the effect that has on their ability to protect enterprise assets and to adhere to regulatory rules.

Along those lines, what kinds of conversations should network administrators be having with their bosses in terms of enterprise mobility?

The days of giving a new employee a company-owned BlackBerry and an IT-controlled laptop and telling them they are "good to go" are quickly fading away. Increasingly, IT must learn to accommodate user requests for them to support employee-owned devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops) and social media (instant messaging, Facebook, blogging). This means that IT must talk with their bosses about what user requests should be implemented, what it means to support a user/device/service, and what level of security risk is acceptable.

The last couple of years have seen the enterprise WLAN market heavily focused on 802.11n. With ratification now a year behind us, what is the next big thing in the wireless LAN market?

I get this question a lot. I see three things:

  1. Distributed spectrum management systems. These systems are more than just a "spectrum analyzer in a box". They are a distributed, closed loop control system that will give enterprises what they've always wanted: a wireless LAN with the predictability and performance similar to that of a wired LAN.
  2. Next generation WLAN, or so called "very high throughput WLANs" based upon 802.11ac and 802.11ad. In 2011, we will see early pre-standard products.
  3. White space spectrum: While the FCC did not mandate a particular protocol (e.g., 802.11), Wi-Fi can and will be modified to operate in this band so this has the potential of extending Wi-Fi to provide new applications. A potential application is the deployment of Wi-Fi hot spots in rural areas. This decision to allow 700 MHz usage further blurs the distinction between cellular and Wi-Fi because Wi-Fi will potentially be able to travel distances comparable to cellular. We have to wait and see how this develops


There has been a lot of talk about the "all-wireless enterprise", and even a session dedicated to the topic at Interop. What are your thoughts on the concept and is it an option for most enterprises?

When I first wrote a report on this topic in 2007, I was ridiculed (and even threatened). But now, I think the notion that wireless will become the dominant method of network access is a fairly widely accepted idea. Many enterprises are moving toward deployment of the "all-wireless enterprise".

So what is driving this move?

A few things have changed. First, 802.11n APs are now widely available and prices are dropping. 802.11n provides a significantly higher level of throughput and reliability than earlier technologies. Secondly, user expectations have changed. Enterprise wireless used to be a "nice to have". Now it is a "must have". Lastly, the number of Wi-Fi devices per human is now more than 1. It is not uncommon for an employee to have a Wi-Fi enabled smartphone, laptop, and tablet (that is 3 Wi-Fi devices for 1 human!). Enterprises are adapting to this new reality by deploying the all wireless enterprise.

This was last published in October 2010

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