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It's the Architecture, Stupid

2:40 PM -- OK, so I’ve been talking with every manufacturer of enterprise class WLANs about their .11n deployment plans. We’ve already seen a whole bunch of vendors with announced products, and all of the others will, I believe, announce and ship products no later than the first quarter of next year. I’m just about to begin testing a bunch of WiFi-certified residential/SOHO-class routers and clients, but preliminary data seems to suggest that peak (short-range) Layer-7 throughput of 125-130 Mbit/s will be common, and sustained rates of 80-100 Mbit/s at reasonable distance is quite likely. And, of course, the enterprise-class vendors will be using these same radios.

Well, then, the question isn’t who’s going to have a ripping fast .11n AP, but rather who’s going to have an overall solution that supports such amazing throughput. A number of end-user clients have asked me whether their current products will be able to handle .11n. Well, maybe, but we’re already seeing announcements of controllers designed to provide the capacity to complement .11n APs.

But -- is a direct-forwarding architecture, a la what Colubris Networks Inc. , Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE), and Trapeze Networks Inc. are selling, a better approach? In this case traffic is forwarded or routed directly by the AP and need not go through the controller. In fact, what role should the controller play going forward? Is it going to devolve to a management appliance as the AP assumes more control-plane responsibilities? Are we on the road back to plump APs? And what of those firms that put in .11n and forget that they’ll really require Gigabit Ethernet for full performance? D'oh, indeed.

I’ve written a Farpoint Group Tech Note on this topic that you can find here. And I’ll have more to say on this issue in the coming months. For now, more questions than answers. So what else is new?

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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