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WLAN Issues Exposed

Question: What do you get if you put 200 qualified purchasers of wireless LAN systems together in one room?

Answer: A lot of serious questions about how to go about securing 802.11 networks and how to implement applications like voice-over-WLAN once everything is up and running smoothly. [Ed. note: Those of you who thought the answer was "200 pony tails" are clearly very bad people].

That was the scene at Unstrung's first-ever live show last week. The day-long event -- called "Wireless LANs: Business Plans" -- was held at the Marriot Financial Center in New York City.

Attendees from organizations as diverse as Colgate-Palmolive, Columbia University, JPMorgan Chase, MetLife, The New York Police Department (NYPD), The New York Stock Exchange, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, UPS and many, many more gathered for presentations, panel discussions, and demonstrations -- all of which were focused on the realities of building business-class WLAN networks.

Presenters included speakers from AirFlow Networks, Aruba Wireless Networks, Azimuth Networks, Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), Symbol Technologies Inc. (NYSE: SBL), and Trapeze Networks Inc. -- as well as Bob Mandeville, Ethernet project director for Light Reading. [Ed. note: Dan was there too, but mainly for the free booze and nibbles.]

Security was a hot topic at the conference, with attendee questions ranging from the best way to implement additional security measures on their current networks to whether it would be prudent to wait for hardware that is compatible with the coming 802.11i security enhancements before starting a big rollout. (Existing 802.11b PC cards cannot be upgraded to handle these security enhancements.)

And most of this happened before our good guy hacker scared everyone half out of their wits! (See Look Before You LEAP.)

But people were also looking beyond security to see what could actually be done with the new freedoms offered by 802.11, many expressing interest in voice services for wireless LAN. One service provider type, who didn't want to see his name in lights, expressed the opinion that VOIP could be a "big deal" for both carriers and the enterprise. This was the consensus among the users that Unstrung spoke to.

All in all, more than 460 qualified purchasers of 802.11 equipment registered for the show -- which, is good news for us, because it means we'll be jetting over to the West Coast to a couple more shows in L.A and Seattle (or Vienna and Salzburg as we now prefer to think of them) next February. In other words, we'll be back. [Ed. note: That's enough Arnold jokes now, thank you very much.]

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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