Cisco's Speculative Spec
Although Cisco engineer Glenn Zorn's name is on an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) memo promoting "dumb" 802.11 access points, no one should expect that the company will turn these ideas into actual hardware, a spokesperson says.
In other words, it could just be an exercise in intellectual freedom. [Ed. note: a.k.a. 'nut-scratching'?] This would not be unusual. In the whiteboard jungle that makes up the world of vendor R&D labs, engineers with large foreheads (five-heads, really) frequently vie to outdo each other in publication of IETF drafts. Generally this is not a pointless exercise, as the dialectic produced by different specs often really does result in stronger standards.
Zorn (who, disappointingly, does not actually hail from the planet Tharg) is one of the authors of the IETF paper describing the methodology for a lightweight access protocol for "thin" (a.k.a. "dumb") APs – units from which most of the intelligence has been stripped, making them (theoretically) cheaper and easier to install. These boxes would be used in conjunction with a dedicated wireless switch, or "brain," which would provide most of the network smarts (see Access Point Tiff Simmers). However, the involvement of Zorn [ed. note: take me to your leader!] doesn't mean Cisco itself will necessarily follow that path, according to Ron Seide, product line manager for wireless LANs at the company.
"Cisco has long supported the idea of intellectual freedom for its engineers," says Seide. "But there's a big difference between exploring ways of solving a problem and actually developing a product."
There has been plenty of speculation over Cisco's approach to the wireless LAN switch market (see especially Cisco’s LAN Switch: Build or Buy?), but so far the company has shown little inclination to concentrate intelligence at the center of the network. Instead, it claims that the benefits "thin" APs are designed to deliver – including simpler interoperability and tighter security – can be accomplished using their current model: "We've been delivering quite a lot of those features already," says Seide.
— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung