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Why no Wi-Fi at Fenway? – Missed Opportunity to Show Off

It is true I have become so dependent on having wireless access everywhere, that when I don’t have it I feel completely disconnected and no longer know how to socialize with my friends. Last Sunday I went to my beloved Fenway Park, one of the oldest baseball parks in America, and its age is showing.

Let me explain. For Father’s day I took my two-year-old son to Fenway Park for the first time, a pinnacle in any Boston Father’s life. To my surprise the opening ceremony included the new “Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins” driving around the park in the locally famous “Duck boats”. A Duck Boat is an amphibious vehicle used to tour Boston on the road and in the Charles River. But over the last 11 years their secondary purpose has been to support the parades of Boston and New England’s championship teams.

Now one thing you need to know is I am NOT a Hockey fan, but I have several friends who live and die by the Boston Bruins. Many of them went to the celebration parade the day before and couldn’t get closer than 20 yards from the Stanley cup. And here I was about 15 feet from it. Here is my view.

So there I am with my phone snapping pictures away and generating some really thought provoking e-mails about how my friends are missing out on an opportunity of a lifetime and I WAS THERE!!!

I sat in the stands, expecting the jealous responses I was bound to get (some not fit for publication!), but one thing stood in my way. Poor cellular network coverage and no Wi-Fi! Boston is notorious for having patchy cell coverage, and when an open wireless network wasn’t available my plans were foiled. I appreciate that the Red Sox management wants to maintain the old-time feel of baseball, but it’s times like these I realize just how dependent we all are on being connected. While sharing a moment with my friends may not be the most important use of the network, the ability to share them is powerful. If for nothing else than to support a dedicated fan, maybe Fenway should look into our Connected Stadium solution!

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Bringing the Cellular Roaming Experience to Wi-Fi

Today marked an exciting milestone in the continuing convergence of Wireless LAN (Wi-Fi) and cellular technologies as the Wireless Broadband Association (WBA) and the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) co-announced  that the industry’s first HotSpot 2.0 (HS 2.0) trials are scheduled for later this summer and the HS2.0 certification test beds will be available in mid 2012.  HS 2.0  is an industry initiative to develop standards-based interoperable Wi-Fi authentication and handoff.  In a nutshell, this enables a seamless handoff between cellular and Wi-Fi networks that allows mobile handset users to roam between the two networks without the need for additional authentication — much as you experience roaming between cellular networks while using your cell phone.

Industry organizations and standards bodies working on the HS 2.0 initiative include the WFA, focused on interoperability; the WBA, the industry group organizing the field trials; and the Global System for Mobile Communications Alliance (GSMA) that ensures the HotSpot 2.0 spec is aligned with the 3GPP framework.

Cisco is a strong supporter of the HS 2.0 initiative and is participating in the upcoming trials with its SP Wi-Fi Carrier Solution.  I will continue to provide updates as we move forward with this timely and critical initiative. In the meantime, take a look at this white paper, “The Future of Hotspots: Making Wi-Fi as Secure and Easy to Use as Cellular,”  which explains the technology behind HotSpot 2.0. 

Sarita Kincaid
Twitter: @saritakAR

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Increasing Your Network Tolerance

As organizations look to improve operations through centralized control, they often need to take into account what would happen if an area of the network fails. In many cases, having a centralized controller-based wireless architecture in organizations with multiple branch offices has prompted the question, “What happens if the WAN is slow, or even worse, goes down?”

Many organizations have been reluctant to implement a centralized wireless controller located in the data center or private cloud due to this concern. Without centralized control, these organizations have two deployment strategies available to them:

  • Implement wireless controllers at each branch site. This approach is perfectly fine for an organization with many Access Points per branch, or those that require high throughput for applications such as Video. However, many branches only require a few Access Points per location or require simple applications such as bar-code scanning and printing. For these organizations, local controllers become less cost effective, with the capital expense becoming prohibitive.
  • Implement access points running in autonomous mode. This approach eliminates the benefits of having any kind of centralized control such as the ability to centrally configure wireless policy and security setting on access points, WIPS capabilities and advanced mobility services like CleanAir, leaving the branch vulnerable and opening the corporate network to attacks.

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10 Million Access Points — And Going Strong!

This month marks an impressive milestone for Cisco:  we shipped our 10 millionth enterprise access point. To remind you how we got here, here’s a quick walk through our wireless history…

Cisco shipped its first wireless access point in 1999, when it acquired Aironet.  At that time, wireless access was limited to hotspots in conference rooms, lobbies, coffee shops and other areas where people tend to congregate.  (Remember that?  I used to have a little device on my keychain that helped me find wireless hotspots.)  Access points operated standalone, loosely grouped through management software, and most of us plugged a PCMCIA card into our laptops to connect wirelessly.  Those were the 802.11b days.

The obvious benefit of connecting without wires caught on, laptops began to ship with native Wi-Fi capability, and wireless deployments expanded to cover whole buildings.  This expansion required more capacity in the form of 802.11g in 2003, and a more centralized approach to managing and controlling the hundreds of access points installed in a building. Wireless controllers grew in popularity, allowing IT administrators to more easily keep their APs on a consistent firmware version, control security, and regulate spectrum usage. We discovered security holes in Wi-Fi, and Cisco pioneered the CCX program with every major silicon vendor to harden client devices.  This evolved into the WPA standards in use today.

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A strong Q3 for Cisco wireless networks

As someone supporting the Cisco Wireless Networking Business Unit, I have it easy:  great technology to evangelize, and well positioned in the marketplace.  Even with majority market share, we continue to break our own records each quarter, with larger deal sizes, higher growth rates, and award-winning new technology.  As Cisco executes on John Chamber’s prescriptive plan, wireless has a lot to offer – a star alongside collaboration as the top two growth areas in Cisco, with 32% growth this quarter.

In case you missed it, in our Q3 earnings transcript you’ll see that John affirmed what we in Wireless already know:

“Starting with the current environment, as we make these changes, we will stay very focused on five Company priorities; leadership in our core, i.e. routing, switching and services, which includes comprehensive security and mobility solutions; second, collaboration; third, data center virtualization and cloud; fourth, video; and fifth, architectures for business transformation. These five Company priorities are the key drivers of the future of the network and core Internet.”

Network Access, however you choose it – wired, wireless, VPN  or ? – will be a primary focus for Cisco for as long as, well, there are networks.