Cisco & Intel Smarten Up
The move by two of the big names in the wireless LAN industry could indicate the beginnings of a shift towards standardized, "intelligent" 802.11 clients on corporate wireless networks.
The chipmaker has been working with Cisco to fine tune the forthcoming version of its Centrino wireless LAN chipset -- codenamed "Nappa" -- using the firm's "Cisco Compatible Extensions" (CCX) code (see Cisco Bolsters Its WLAN Hand). The pair are calling the new features the "Business Class Wireless Suite." The new chipset and CCX version 4 are both expected to drop next January.
Cisco envisages the technology being incorporated in new enterprise-level laptops. "This is really a technology primarily focused on business requirements," says Alan Cohen, senior director of product management for Cisco's wireless networking business unit.
So what is it all about, Alan?
The collaboration will give the wireless client more insight into the real-time working of the network, so it can select the best access point to roam to based on traffic information and neighbor lists among other things. "There's a handshake between the two," says Cohen.
This information can also be pumped to applications running on the client device, such as a Skype softphone. In this kind of situation, the client could scan for APs running 802.11e and other QOS upgrades for the best performance. Intel's wideband voice codec has also been implemented on the chipset for improved call clarity.
Farpoint Group analyst Craig Mathias says that giving business-class WiFi clients more smarts is one of the next logical moves in the evolution of enterprise WLAN networks, as it would help to improve network performance, security, and management. The next step is to get industry standards bodies involved.
"Why don't we bite the bullet and get started?" he asks.
Cisco's Cohen agrees that the industry needs clever clients as standard, while noting that some of this work is already going in task groups at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE).
"I think it has to happen," he says. "If you look at the way a cellular network works there has to be cooperation between the client and the network to make it work."
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung