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Users Speak Out on 802.11

Corporate IT managers are cock-a-hoop happy with their wireless LAN networks but still require ongoing support from vendors in managing deployment, according to the latest edition of Unstrung Insider.

The report -- “Corporate Wireless LAN: The Users Speak” -- draws on interviews with 15 corporate networking professionals across 10 industry sectors in an effort to establish end user perception of enterprise 802.11 networks.

Author Gabriel Brown finds that recent deployments have been well received in the enterprise world. “Users that have deployed new-generation, centrally-managed systems are generally very satisfied with their vendors and products.”

Despite the early success, it’s a little too early for vendors to rest on their laurels. A lack of staff dedicated to wireless projects means corporates are dependent on vendor support in managing the networks.

“Management is the area that has the greatest impact on the total cost-of-ownership calculations that underpin the wireless LAN business case,” opines Brown. “It includes management of devices such as access points, switches, and controllers, as well as network monitoring and troubleshooting.”

In light of such challenges, Brown argues that vendors offering “visualization tools” -- graphical representations of what all those radio signals are actually doing -- for ongoing management of the organization’s wireless environment are well positioned for future success.

Companies such as Airespace Inc., Aruba Wireless Networks, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Trapeze Networks Inc. talk of “self-calibrating” wireless systems (see Aruba Airs New Software and Airespace Adds an Appliance).

The idea is that a central controller, or switch, monitors the power settings and receive-sensitivity of the access point radios without human interference (geddit?). If an object weakens the radio signal (a rack of metal filing cabinets, for example); if demand in one sector of the network increases; or if an access point fails, then the network can adjust itself and continue providing service.

(Of course, a centrally controlled network is just one take on the "self-calibrating" idea, and Propagate Networks Inc. and Strix Systems Inc. may well have some different ideas about "self-calibrating" standalone access points that work together to form a network.)

“Planning and managing the wireless environment is a new challenge for most IT managers who would otherwise never have to think about radio signal propagation, channel overlap, interference, or any other RF-related networking issue," notes Brown.

“For vendors this is the point: Invest in support for your customers and you’ll make them happy and content.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

The new report – Corporate Wireless LAN: The Users Speak – is available as part of an annual subscription to the monthly Unstrung Insider, available for a special introductory rate of $899 through April 12, 2004, after which the rate will increase to $1,350. Annual subscription includes 12 monthly issues. Individual reports are available for $400 through April 12, 2004, after which the price will increase to $900. Corporate Wireless LAN: The Users Speak may be previewed here.

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