The Days of Exclusive Partnerships Should Come to an End

Mike Fratto

Mike Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • HP’s planned acquisition of Aruba highlights the perils of relying on a single partner to fill a gap in a product line.
  • IT vendors should leverage the software-defined movement to foster diversity and robustness in their partnering plans.

Last week, HP pulled the rug out from under Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, Brocade, Dell, Juniper, and apparently Arista (considering Jayshree Ullal was keynoting Aruba’s Atmosphere Event) by announcing its intent to acquire Aruba Networks. I won’t say I anticipated the acquisition, but I’m not surprised by it either. Aruba is a very strong WLAN competitor with both APs and location analytics, mobility, and security software. Read more of this post

Leveraging Wi-Fi Location Can Creep Out Your Customers; Best Tread Lightly

Mike Fratto

Mike Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • Privacy and increased location tracking of consumers is going to come to a head as consumer facing companies try to leverage location to enhance customer experience and drive more upsells.
  • Wi-Fi based location can be a useful tool, but in an ever increasing privacy sensitive climate, too much tracking can be a bad thing.

How much privacy would you or your customers be willing to give up for enhanced customer service? That’s going to be decided in the next few years as retailers, entertainment venues, and other public places implement more services based on Wi-Fi location. Whether you install a loyalty app on your phone or not, your presence is being logged, tracked, and mined more and more. Read more of this post

WiFi Alliance Shows How to Get Interoperability Done

  • Mike Fratto

    Mike Fratto

    Standards without interoperation don’t address enterprise IT’s primary need.

  • The WiFi Alliance WiFi Certified ac program once again assures WiFi buyers that products will work together.

Ask any IT administrator if standards are important and invariably they’ll say yes. Ask them if interoperation is as important, they’ll say yes again. Press them for which is more important, standards or interoperation, and in many cases they’ll say interoperation. Standards are wonderful things that have both business and technical benefits, but at the end of the day, IT has to deploy and manage products in live environments and seamless interoperation is critical. Read more of this post

Where Is the Enterprise Campus Network Heading?

Mike Spanbauer

Mike Spanbauer

Summary Bullets:

  • 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).  Read more of this post

Networks Do Matter – Really!

Jerry Caron

Jerry Caron

Summary Bullets:              

  • Networks and networking suffer from a lack of respect that defies logic.
  • Innovation continues apace, however, the industry often fails to give these advances the attention they deserve.

Networks and the stuff that make them work are suffering from a dearth of respect to which even Rodney Dangerfield would have to defer. Sure, we all know that it is lunacy to dismiss the value of both private and public networks because the quality of experience is utterly dependent on the quality of the network connections. This is a stone-cold fact, whether we are talking about a teenager looking at YouTube videos on a smartphone, or a business running mission-critical applications.

Yet while networks and networking have never been truly glamorous, there is a perceptible downward trend in love for the stuff of connectivity. It has long been the case, for example, that the hottest, most admired Internet businesses take public and private networks for granted and ride roughshod over them with something approaching complete disdain. If Facebook is sluggish, you don’t blame Facebook, do you?. Read more of this post

Wireless: 802.11ac May Break Your Wired Network

M. Spanbauer

M. Spanbauer

Summary Bullets:

  • 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.  Read more of this post

Cisco Becomes First Enterprise WLAN Vendor to Commit to 802.11ac Support

M. Spanbauer

M. Spanbauer

Summary Bullets:

  • 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. Read more of this post

All I Ask For Is a Stable Connection

M. Spanbauer

M. Spanbauer

Summary Bullets:

  • With today’s modern professional so dependent on remotely located files and real-time, Web-based applications (sales force, Web portals, etc.), downtime is painful.
  • Device failures, misconfiguration issues, congestion, and interference all make the job of the IT infrastructure specialist more complex as dependence on the infrastructure increases daily.

On a recent trip, while I sat waited for my flight to depart (the airport shall remain nameless), I hopped on the wireless network, connected via VPN, and started to download some material from the company intranet.  About 50% into a large file download, the network link was lost, dropping the VPN, and of course stopping the file transfer.  The signal strength was good; since I was short on time, I did not break out the wireless troubleshooting tools to see how much additional noise was in the area that may have interfered.  Instead, I pulled out my phone, tethered via strong 4G (yes, I’m lucky), and grabbed the file in a minute.  However, I could see that several others in the immediate area had issues with the WLAN and were growing frustrated.  It struck me how dependent we are on having convenient access to remain productive in these moments of lull time (unless you can get through an airport in 15 minutes consistently, you know what I’m referring to).  Unfortunately, public area WLANs are not yet universally enterprise-grade and a solid connection is not a given.  I had grown accustomed to being able to connect in the airport and assumed it would be working as usual.  We have this same assumption in our enterprise environments; why not in the highly trafficked areas? Read more of this post

Dual-Mode Telephony Solutions Fall by the Wayside

Brian Riggs

B. Riggs

Summary Bullets:

  • Enterprise FMC solutions may no longer be aggressively marketed, but they are still available.
  • Device security, management, and application enablement have taken over as top enterprise mobility concerns.

A few years back, there was such a rage for enterprise FMC solutions that maintained voice call continuity while transitioning a call in progress on a dual-mode mobile phone between a cellular and a WiFi connection.  It seemed every time I turned around there was some new VC-backed enterprise FMC start-up – Agito, Divitas, Comdasys, Varaha, OptiMobile, Telepo, QuesCom, NewStep – focused on this. Read more of this post

Incremental WLAN Investments May Pay Significant Dividends

M. Spanbauer

M. Spanbauer

Summary Bullets:                  

  • Even minor incremental upgrades may pay significant dividends
  • IT departments should consider additional WLAN surveys post-deployment due to the increase in radio noise and potential coverage issues that result

In the last six months several vendors have announced products that incrementally improve the 802.11n solution either through clever antenna designs, intelligent noise suppression or improved throughput performance (radio or otherwise).  The key element is that most of these require additional investment in WLAN hardware or software.  To some this may seem odd as in the past, unless a new technology or significant advantage was to be obtained, the effort to procure any budget would not be worth the hassle of the RFP and budgeting process.  However, we contend that with the demands placed on the WLAN network today, even minor incremental investment in the network could pay handsome dividends, with returns in months.  The number of tablets, smartphones and other wireless dependent devices being brought into the enterprise and consuming WLAN cycles continues to increase at an incredible pace.  This in turn increases the access to and therefore the usage of enterprise applications which are easily accessible via these mobile devices, the most notable being email.  As more advanced applications become more widely available and these users further increase their productivity, the correlation between WLAN performance and user productivity grows clearer.  Therefore, the improved WLAN coverage and performance may directly translate into increased user productivity and ultimately into increased revenue productivity (or at least user efficiency). Read more of this post