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“Change is the handmaiden nature requires to do her miracles” – Mark Twain

Time to Call Myself on Some PredictionsAbout 3 years ago, I made some predictions about how the Enterprise Wireless Market was going to shape up.In the spirit of reflective self-improvement (and more, venally, self-promotion), I thought it would be worth giving myself a report cardHere is the link to the original blog http://wirelessinnovator.com/index.php?articleID=1639&sectionID=3Here is the opening thoughts and the predicitons“The force propelling WLANs into new business segments are productivity gains associated with extending a real-time, always-connected information architecture. WLANs are creating a new communications and collaboration model for all users. Yet, as Clayton Christensen reminded us in The Innovators’ Dilemma, when a market grows rapidly, when it inflects, it tends to morph and reset the rules of competition.”Inflection Points for the WLAN Marketplace:1. Wired to Wireless:The first inflection point is the shift from wired to wireless networks. When wireless networks equal the reliability of wired networks, and meet the requirements of 90%+ of user applications, a new generation of network access will take off.Today, the predictability and reliability of WLAN systems are dramatically better, as we see a wide range of industries using these systems in business critical situations, from stock exchange trading floors to a range of supply chain applications. Interesting, I think the major shift here is that there is a major fusing of the the concepts of wireless and wired. At Cisco, today, over 43% of all employees use Wireless as the principal access method2. Consumers/SOHO to Enterprise/Service Provider:The WLAN revolution started in the home but is going to finish in the enterprise and carrier market segments, perhaps even blurring some of those distinctions along the way. With this business shift, new control and performance requirements are emerging for the people who operate WLANs.Yep3. Convenience to Business Critical:Today, WLANs are relatively ad hoc and are unpredictable (unlike your wired LAN or phone network). Increasingly, as end-users depend more and more on WLANs, they will change from convenience networks to production networks to, ultimately, business-critical networks, networks that operate as reliably as wired networks. To make this transition, WLAN platforms must evolve in terms of reliability, performance, and mobility.Yep4. Proprietary Clients to Heterogeneous Clients:One of the dirty little secrets of the WLAN industry is that while most industry players adhere to standards and operability (e.g., WiFi), most of the advanced security and performance features are handled by proprietary clients loaded with -- you guessed it — proprietary software. While this paradigm worked in the last phase of the industry, control of the WLAN client is lost, gone forever as PC, PDA, cell phone and other device manufacturers bundle WLAN chipsets in all kinds of devices. Going forward, all business-critical WLANs must live and thrive in a world of heterogeneous, standards-adherent clients.Absolutely true. If you look at our CCX program, much of what we are pushing is the more rapid adoption of the standards. Take a look at Dave Molta and James Blandford’s column CCX plays by the rules http://www.unstrung.com/document.asp?site=unstrung&doc_id=90378&page_number=55. Stand-alone APs to Switched APs:WLANs, like the first Ethernet networks before them, were designed as flat, peered networks, where the end-nodes on the network operated as independent entities. When there is a little traffic or no requirements for predictable performance, this program works fine. However, for WLANs to scale and support the new requirements outlined above, they will need to associate, to work together. Increasingly, intelligence and coordination will be handed by a centralized intelligence source, a WLAN Switch.The history has been written on this one6. Shared Media to RF Management:The other dirty secret of the WLAN industry remains the industry’s lack of attention to the RF environment, a fixed resource with associated statistical problems. Business-critical WLANs will require network operators to implement self-optimizing radio resource systems that compensate for the frequent shifts of the RF environment -- without forcing IT staff into becoming RF engineers.More true today than ever. Lightweight APs are not the same as RF-insensitive devices.7. Ad Hoc to Self-Managed:WLANs have grown virally, with APs hanging off ethernet jacks like power cords off of a power strip. As wireless networks grow in size and usage in the office, attention to network design and optimization is becoming a first-order priority for network managers, building on the emergence of self-optimizing radio resource systems.Ditto 68. Throughput-Constrained to Throughput-Rich:Almost ten years ago, George Gilder started predicting “bandwidth will be free.” But he was talking about fiber optics, not spectrum. Increasingly, however, as Moore (versus Gilder)’s Law embraces the WLAN world, new RF paradigms like 802.11 and UWB will provide a rapid uplift in throughput, from today’s 11/54 Megabits per second (Mbps) systems to 100Mbps or even 1000 Mbps.I am passionate about the pending spectrum crisis at 2.4, and much like today’s alternative energy evangelists, i think we need to better conserve the free airwaves through continuous improvement in RF management as well as take advantage of the addtional bandwidth available in the UNII band at 5 Gig (i.e., the oil sands of free spectrum). We love the coming capabilities promised by 802.11n, but it is later than the hype but definitely on the horizon9. WEP Problem to Rogue Problem:The first stage of the WLAN industry was characterized by a serious security flaw in the link layer, the failing of the WEP protocol. The advent of WPA and AES look like they will address this problem. The bigger problem most network operators face today is the Rogue problem, where evildoers and your own employees ( with no malicious intent) can now access the network by plugging in a $59 AP into the nearest Ethernet jack, hence punching a security hole into your network and computing environment Darth Vader could fly into to.Sure enough10. Data Apps to Voice and Data Apps:Most WLANs today either support general office applications (email, file transfer, etc.) or some productivity applications in specific verticals (patient records in hospitals, supply chain in distribution). Increasingly, next generation WLAN platforms will also carry voice applications. Business-critical WLANs, we believe, must underpin real-time applications like voice (and video) on the same infrastructure.The next wave of Mobility Applications are driving the market Check out Ben Gibson’s Voice-Ready Wireless Webinar with Abner Germanow and partners from Intel and Nokia. http://tools.cisco.com/cmn/jsp/index.jsp?id=51155&redir=YES&userid=(none)

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8 Comments.


  1. This self-promotion is rather ill-suited for senior leaders at Cisco. Reads like a proudful TME. Also all too ironic for on the very same day, the New York Times has a leading article on the failures of WLAN in it’s core market (home) to scale performance and solve complexity, which is leading to wiring comebacks for electrical networking aka HomePlug”".”

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