Enterprise access networks are still largely wired today, but with wireless stability and performance improvements providing a relatively similar experience, the all-wireless campus access environment may be imminent.
How much will the access switch port taper off once 802.11ac begins to ship?
In a recent conversation with a colleague, we were discussing how quickly (or if) the enterprise access environment will shift from the traditional wired access methods to an all-wireless environment. While nearly every enterprise has some wireless support today (of the many enterprises to which I have spoken, I cannot name one that does not), very few have committed to solely wireless access for the clients. Printers, the odd workstation or two, and other peripherals may always demand some wired access, but with the prevalence of the mobile worker and the multitude of devices they tote around, it is very easy to envision the WLAN in any campus being the access method of choice. In the past year, the market has seen an aggressive maturation of unified access solution messaging, with some extending into the adjacent space of mobile device management (where acquisition and/or consolidation will likely occur in the next 18 months). Continue reading “Where Is the Enterprise Campus Network Heading?”→
802.11n, which capped out at a max of roughly 500 Mbps in ideal cases, never filled the 1 Gbps link with which many were connected, avoiding bottlenecks at the access port itself (though potentially congesting aggregation links).
802.11ac, with its initial specification release capably supporting 1.3 Gbps throughput on a single AP, may force a ‘re-think’ on access point attachment and how traffic will be routed onto the physical infrastructure and ultimately back to the data center or services location.
Wireless enterprise networks are a must today for both efficiency and convenience. More frankly, they are necessary to be competitive. The market gets this, as indicated by the continued healthy growth of WLAN as a segment. Originally, 100 Mbps links often connected 802.11a/b/g APs, and given that the top throughput was often less than the 54 Mbps throughput of 802.11g, no bottlenecks were encountered. Then came 802.11n; in many cases, it was either proceeded by or coupled with a Gigabit network upgrade, sufficient to support the initial 150/300 Mbps and scaling to 600 Mbps (in a perfect world), as well as multiple radio technologies. This is still well below the 1 Gbps links that in some cases supply connectivity and power (PoE) to the 802.11n access points. However, with the next-generation 802.11ac specification nearing completion and its initial release throughput providing up to 1.3 Gbps connectivity, we reach the first throughput bottleneck from the AP to the wired environment. No debate has come up yet in the public forums regarding how one would wire and architect an 11ac network, but it is certain to become an issue in the coming quarters as commercial products become available. There is no specification for 10Gbase-T PoE currently, few (if any) access points in the past have had multiple Ethernet ports to connect to the network, and the current link technology employed (1GbE) will be oversubscribed. Continue reading “Wireless: 802.11ac May Break Your Wired Network”→
Customers have been apprehensive about continued significant investment in 802.11n with the 802.11ac technology on the horizon.
Cisco’s 802.11ac guarantee, via a simple tool-less module available in 2013, will provide forward compatibility with 11ac with a capable, enterprise-class 802.11n access point today.
I have had several conversations that started with the question of whether continued investment in 802.11n platforms was wise given the pending standardization of 802.11ac and the benefits which it will bring (in late 2012/early 2013). Since the standard is not yet fully ratified and endorsed, there has been no guarantee that the fully ratified specification will be supported by an enterprise vendor… until now. Cisco had announced that the Aironet 3600 access point would be eligible for a tool-less module upgrade (which simply snaps in and is secured with two thumbscrews on the back) in early 2013 (release date: TBD) that would allow customers to take advantage of the 802.11n features the AP possesses today while ensuring investment protection for a forward-looking upgrade to 802.11ac. Now, this module is not free of course, and as of the time of this writing, it had a suggested retail around $500 (potentially subject to change); however, given the access point’s suggested retail of around $1,500 and the module SRP of $500, each access point would have a CapEx of $2,000 (list) and provide for a simple evolution from 11n to 11ac. Continue reading “Cisco Becomes First Enterprise WLAN Vendor to Commit to 802.11ac Support”→