Wi-Fi

Analyst believes 802.11n is "good enough" to replace wired Ethernet

The controversial title of Paul DeBeasi's recent report-<i>802.11n: The End of Ethernet</i>-is enough to create a stir among network professionals. DeBeasi believes people's expectation of mobility and wireless technology advancements will fuel 802.11n's erosion the wired Ethernet market within the next 24-36 months.

The controversial title of Paul DeBeasi's recent report-802.11n: The End of Ethernet-is enough to create a stir among network professionals. A September 11, 2007 Network World article examines the report and DeBeasi's belief that 802.11n wireless technology will start eroding the wired Ethernet market within the next 24-36 months.

DeBeasi, a Burton Group senior analyst, believes the "the mobility piece" will be the driving force behind the wireless shift. "I have a 21-year-old, and an 18-year-old, and they have never plugged [a computer] into anything in their lives. And I have wired Ethernet in my home," DeBeasi said. "They all expect ubiquitous Wi-Fi," DeBeasi continued. "That's the unstoppable force that's pushing us forward." It's easy to understand this viewpoint. Ask someone to give up their cell phone and watch their reaction.

DeBeasi offers several benchmarks that businesses should use to determine if 802.11n is an adequate replacement for wired Ethernet:

  • The number of notebook users is increasing
  • The business uses mobile applications
  • Fast Ethernet throughput is good enough (especially noteworthy)
  • Ethernet cable installation is difficult
  • Moves/adds/changes to network nodes are frequently made
  • VoIP is deployed
  • The threat from RF DDoS attacks is low or non-existent

DeBeasi readily admits that there are circumstances when 802.11n is not a good fit. For example, backbone networks and data centers require throughput bandwidth and network speeds that 802.11n devices cannot provide. DeBeasi also admits that we must address new challenges specific to 802.11n and WLANs such as security and RF management.

In a follow-up commentary to his report, DeBeasi addressed both issues. "802.11 networks provide authentication, data privacy, and data integrity," Debeasi wrote. "If you use best practice wireless security (802.1X + WPA2 + AES encryption) you can deploy a wireless network with authentication/privacy/data-integrity that is just as good as a wired network." DeBeasi also wrote that the following advancements will greatly improve wireless stability:

  • MIMO technology
  • "Dense deployment of lightweight APs (& controllers)"
  • Use of the "5 GHz spectrum and modern Wireless LAN systems (controller + APs)"
  • "Ratification of " 802.11k (radio resource management) and 802.11v (station control).

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22 comments
harry12345677
harry12345677

this is the example of a closed minded person due to the fact that wired Ethernet is used for a purpose and that is reliability that wireless cannot beat and speed of 1000mbps with CAT 6 bot only this but security and response time. in gaming their are few that would use wireless due to its lag time the only place fore wireless is in the need for wireless obvious or the standard home user that has a laptop or desktop and doesn't want a cable running through their home!

P K Pal
P K Pal

Much has been written and also discussed on the above technology. But as of now, wired ethernet is the best option in either Home/Office or pure Home Envoirment. The only place where wireless scores over the wired ethernet is "being wireless" and this is a big advantage. However, it loses out on every other aspect of connectivity - configuration is a hassle, speed is no where near wired ethernet(Gbit anyone?), actual connectivity is at times a pain in the neck (due to temporary obstructions, dislocation, etc.), evesdropping (due to lack of proper security) on the network (especially in the 'home networking' front, etc. amongst other things. Many of the '802.11n' equipment available have in-built 'routers' which can also act as DHCP Servers as well. Having 2 or more such 'wireless' equipment in close proximity is a potential hazzard for those computers which rely on DHCP servers. Connectivity in such cases can go for a toss. Of course, a serious Net Admin can configure such connections with minimal problem; but an average user might not have the proper knowledge and the ability to solve such problematic situations. A similar problem will also arise if there are 2 or more 'routers' (wired and wireless or a combination of both) connected to the same network and configuring these 'routers' is no easy task except for the perfect net savy administrator. Perhaps, in the near future, wireless network will work at the same speed as wired network with less security and connectivity hassles.

STHKOne
STHKOne

I think it's a bit premature to be saying that this latest version of 802.11 is stable enough in the wireless spectrum that it will eventually replace current wired infrastructure. Yes, wireless technology has progress at a even more rapid rate than network technology to some extent, but it should be realized that its stability (e.g. the wireless spectrum itself) can and does become suspect when affected by the natural forces that occupy the airwaves it is using. The reason I say this is because prior to all of my recent IT training, I worked for 5+ years in commercial radio, three of which as an apprentice broadcast engineer. The parallels between analog and digital signaling and the effects that the air space that the signaling in both respects are very close to how they react under an upset atmosphere around them. The atmosphere had with analog and now with digital signaling are influenced much by the conditions and wireless signaling is effected much the same as analog was 20 years ago. One can use some of the current cell phone technology as a means for comparison (at least for those of use who remember the analog signaling that previous devices used before the digital spectrum took effect). Another way to think of this is to also draw comparisons to your local telephone service. The cabled version of the phone service continues to be one of the most stable means to communicate. During a thunderstorm, the telephone that is connected by a wire to another is going to be much less susceptible to atmospheric changes. My cell phone continues to be plagued by the occasional "No Service" label even though it is through a major provider. This is one reason why we will never go completely wireless. The security that would have to be implemented into a wholly wireless system would also require much more planning to protect intellectual property and therefore add to higher cost(s) on all spectrum. I am still and will continue to be unconvinced that a wireless network will completely supersede a arguably more stable wired network infrastructure. The two can compliment one another, but not overtake each other. This would be the best plan when considering a network upgrade, because the wired to the wall service would need a major catastrophe to stop working versus being influenced by the air and atmosphere.

jimmya1_97
jimmya1_97

It is a step in the right direction definitely. As anything else, fine tuning is necessary, and there are future enhancements available. It would be nice to have the 11n certified.

rabear
rabear

some data shouldnt be available to wireless aside from huge size: SQL data, financial. if they are, air traffic must be encrypted so wireless access goes down despite increase in wireless speed. so i bought 1Gbps switches and have wifi only for browsing and email (unsecure).

PGS-AU
PGS-AU

Don't like wireless & don't trust it. Giveme the security & speed of a wired network any day.

Displaced IT Tech
Displaced IT Tech

I don't buy his arguments at all. It may be close, or good, but it does not address all of the issues. My concern is not just security, but perception of security. This is important to such fields as the legal community as well as the financial community and the medical community. I speak of Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA specifically. Also, the legal community has its own rules which are inviolate. The courts, regardless of the opinions of IT industry professionals tend to be slower to adopt new technologies than most other professional communities. In the case of court cases, courts are in control of what evidence they admit. If evidence is touched by technology that the court does not trust, it probably will not admit the evidence. This will undoubtedly affect other fields. Replace wired ethernet? Sure it will. I have some swampland in upstate New York that I would like to unload. Go ahead and send me a check, and I will mail you the deed.

wabob1
wabob1

I believe the increased bandwidth will encourage more use of wireless laptops and devices, but I cannot see a total elimination of wired ethernet, not for at least another decade. It may never happen at all. Wireless networking is for convenience, while wired networking is for superior bandwidth, security, and connectivity.

stoneyh
stoneyh

Its easy to see who talks about networking for a living and who deals with the realities of it everyday. The comments of everyone who has posted so far are right on the mark consistent with the "this is what really happens and what really matters" world that I live in. No reason to repeat the excellent points everyone else has already made; I will just say that if DeBeasi means to say that Wifi in any form will supplant physical media in the secure corporate space, (in my opinion) he is about a decade quick. Even then, many will not be willing to expose their data stores to the airwaves.

toangreat04
toangreat04

I partially disagree with the author's opinion that the 802.11n can replace Ethernet in 2 or 3years next. In my opinion, every technologies always exists and new technologies gradually swap out old ones. In each specific circumstance, the comsumer will choose the best fit technologies. So pls wait and see my guess.

Fregeus
Fregeus

There are still a lot of things that can disrupt the wave signals of a wireless device. There isn't all that much that can beat the reliability, security and simplicity of wired networking. Although i do believe that wireless IS the future, i wouldn't declare Ethernet dead just yet. There are still a lot of issues that needs to be addressed with wireless before we see it truly erode the cable market. Also, weather we like it or not, I'm not sure there will ever be a better way to connect access points to the core than with Ethernet or fiber. Either way, cables are still in the picture for a long long time.

simon_mackay
simon_mackay

I had observed the previous posting that was put up by an analyst regarding that 802.11n wireless networking should supplant wired-Ethernet networking for most deployments and reckon that there is still a place for wired Ethernet in most network setups and that 802.11n wireless networking doesn't need to supplant Ethernet. Most current wired-Ethernet deployments are based on a "switched" metaphor where each node has full bandwidth at the best speed available to it and the nodes receive only the traffic that is relevant to them, similar to the modern telephone service where each subscriber receives calls destined to them only. Contrast that to wireless, HomePlug, HomePNA and cable Internet where the bandwidth available on the medium is shared by all the nodes on the segment and that all the nodes receive all of the traffic that flows along them, in a manner similar to a "party-line" telephone setup. I also have noticed that, even though we are thinking more of notebooks with built-in WiFi abilities, there will still be the desktop computers and the servers. This class of equipment will often use Ethernet, especially Gigabit Ethernet, because it is part of the standard motherboard and because of higher pure data throughput. In most cases, most equipment of this class is installed with a view to have it stay in one place and the wired-Ethernet setup would still be considered the preferred network media for this class of equipment. I would still regard 802.11n wireless as being suitable for equipment that is portable or transportable in nature, like laptop computers, wireless VoIP handsets or computers installed on mobile carts for use at locations where they need to be used. Here, these devices will expressly benefit from this kind of technology. There is also the issue of wireless-network performance that comes down to RADIO! Dense or metallic materials can place limitations on radio performances - think of single WiFi networks or cordless phones underperforming in older brick houses as the thick brick wall comes between the base station and the mobile device. I have mentioned in my blog about the deployment of a multi-access-point WiFi ESS with a HomePlug 1.0 Turbo backbone in an older brick house with a newer extension because the brick wall had come between the laptop which was in the new extension and the wireless router which was in the older brick house. 802.11n's MIMO technoloty and "constructive multipath" may mitigate this problem but this problem will still exist. I often think that the only solution would be to use a wired backbone, whether to connect directly to nodes or as part of an multi-access-point ESS, to pass over RF barriers With regards, Simon Mackay http://homenetworking01.spaces.live.com/

tad1214
tad1214

No, while it is a novel idea, and we are almost there, I have a hard time believe they are going to give an entire corporation wireless VoIP phones. If you don't put VoIP on ethernet, you better have a UPS on every desk, otherwise when the power goes out, no one makes phone calls. Versus just having 1 ups in the wiring closet. Plus, Fast Ethernet is fine for web surfing, so maybe at small Law Firms, Telemarketing, Help Desk and any corporation that doesn't need to transfer large files, but I know that having Gig ethernet is wonderful for pushing/pulling anything over 10 mb in our network. Good luck doing backups over wifi too, you would eat up the entire 108mb link with one computer. Plus you never get a true 108 mb through put, even if you are the only one on the network it is more like 70 mb. Throw 10-15 people on there pulling big files, try closer to 5-6 mb per person. I don't think N will, maybe a future revision will, when they get closer to 500mb through put I think we will ber closer.

uma_testing
uma_testing

how to communicate from one laptop to another in mobile adhoc network

Fyrewerx
Fyrewerx

.. which is not scheduled to happen until 2009 anyway. I have been testing various manufacturer's "N" devices, and have found extremely poor quality (even when compared to "G" and Super "G"). Linksys -- when it connected at all, it was flaky - often needed to be re-connected manually upon a PC reboot. Netgear -- instead of connecting at the 240 - 270 Mbps, it only connected at 1 Mbps, and caused interference and weird interuptions to MP3 playing in all of the various PC players tested (not any specific player, like MS Windows Media Player, as example). D-Link -- first tested USB adapter connected at 270 Mbps "to the router" -- but NOT to the Internet, nor could it see other PC in the same workgroup. Tech support insisted that if it could see the router, nothing was wrong with the device -- would not RMA it. Went to store for a second unit -- connected OK (approx. 200 Mbps). These manufacturers, their Tech Support, and the "World", are not ready for wireless "N" yet. It may be slower, but I'll take "G" in combo with wired any day.

pdtpatrick
pdtpatrick

Like Stoneyh mentioned.. its easy to tell who works with these technologies and those who just want their opinions heard. As long as wireless remains a radio wave or RF, its going to be very hard to have that replace a wired ethernet. Think about security. Yes you can can mirror an ethernet by using WPA and AES with other forms of authentication and encryption but with the right tools and intent, all that can be broken into sooner or later. Wireless is meant for one think only, mobility. You loose all the strengths and security that ethernet provides for the flexibility of moving around without tripping on a cable. Who wants their corporate network to transmit highly valuable data over a wireless network? As much script kiddies and trigger happy so called hackers out there, it would be a game to see who hacks into the network first. Its going to be a while before wireless supplants ethernet. We still dont have technologies fast enough to use the whole bandwidth offered by fiber. So until then, its a day to day market. There are many rules that govern wireless: IEEE, FCC etc and if you read more into detail, you get an idea of what wireless can really do. Wireless is based on clear sight technology, so imagine working on an important file and soon as you try sending it, you lose connectivity and that information is either lost or now corrupt. Would drive anyone nuts. Yes wireless technology is a booming market no doubt but not to the point where it completely replaces the current technology. I'm yet to wait for the day that thought flies by me. It was a good idea to get your opinion across but understanding the facts is a lot more soothing than giving random opinions thats based on self assumptions. Over and out..

Doug-in-buckley
Doug-in-buckley

Even though it is fast and has better security, it is still shared bandwidth. It is also subject to all of the problems due to building infrastructure, Environment, etc. We have been watching wireless for several years and have found that when we look at the equipment costs, and all of the other factors, a wired environment is still unbeatable. Two years ago we installed new Cat5e wire (250 drops) in a three story building that was built in 1910 and it was much cheaper to wire than it was to install a wireless network. We are looking at wireless access points in conference rooms, etc for meetings, but so far this has not been a priority. For now we will be staying with a hard wired network.

P K Pal
P K Pal

I entirely agree with tad1214. For casual users on the move and with small files being uploaded (speed is still a criteria) and downloaded, 802.11n seems to be currently an OK proposition. However for downloading/uploading heavy files and streaming, nothing at this stage beats wired lan (fibre optics preferred). I hope the wireless mode matches the speed of wired lans sooner than later.

stuoutlaw1
stuoutlaw1

I would agree that wireless can be convenient when running wires is way too much hassle but... I would love to see someone setup a large WAN with many(more than 100) users and have enough 99.999 availability and throughput to be able to keep up with even a fast Enet network of the same size the key here is the 5 9's availibility! I have a 3 host WAN at home where the hosts never move and are only 30 ft away from the router with a standard interior wall in between and I still some times have interference and connectivity issues especially when downloading or moving large files around to and from other machines on the network So no way I would put mission critical apps or data on a wan of any kind on a daily basis Don't get me wrong I love the freedom my net work gives me to join friends or whatever to the network without having extra jacks but not in an enterprise network

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

along with hard wired. I do think that eventually they will move farther away from wired networks, but none too soon. However, new small companies may look more deeply into this option instead of cabling a new office. But, Hardwired LAN's are not going anywhere just yet. Wireless has come a long way in a short time, and at this rate, it may be the preferred network coming up. But there are still hurdles to jump through before it kills a wired net.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

If you are using IR or some other direct unubstructed LOS network, then yes, you are correct. But using 802.11 it can get by some interferance easily. Besides, there should be a little redundancy between access points. Personally I prefer wired, but I do understand the need for and use wireless as well.

pcrx_greg
pcrx_greg

This will happen more in the home network situation much faster than is even small businesses. When I consult on a small business network that is inquiring about wireless, I just lay out the pros and cons of wired vs. wireless, and almost every time they choose wired networking. All the author has to do is have a wireless connection at the edge of the network and have someone stand between his PC and the access point while transfering a large file, loose the connection and have to restart the downloads several times to know why most IT professionals prefer wired networks.