Networking

Interop '07: Roundup of WLAN, municipal wireless, and WiFi developments


Wireless, WiFi, and WLANs were everywhere at Interop Las Vegas 2007. It's clear that a major wireless build out is in progress, and a lot of vendors are jockeying for a piece of the action. Here is a roundup of wireless product news, updates, and developments from the show.

  • It's notable that of the nine "Best of Interop" awards that were handed out, a third of them went to companies that specialize in wireless.
  • Xirrus provided the WiFi access for the show, just as they did at Interop New York last fall when I wrote about how great the wireless was. The wireless Internet access was not quite as smooth this time around, but much of the problem appeared to be tied to back end issues that were out of Xirrus's control. The wireless typology for the show demonstrated the simplicity and effectiveness of the Xirrus solution, as Xirrus was able to cover the entire show with just 12 of its arrays, while the competing vendor bid would have needed over 80 access points. At Interop, Xirrus also unveiled Power-over-Ethernet features and new arrays that can be upgraded to 802.11n with modular cards.
  • From the perspective of managing WLANs, AirMagnet continues to roll out award-winning products. Its VoFi Analyzer won the VoIP and Collaboration category of the Best of Interop awards. However, what impressed me most was its Laptop Analyzer. I could see a lot of IT pros using this as a deployment and troubleshooting tool.
  • Aerohive Networks generated plenty of buzz with its innovative Cooperative Control Access Point (CC-AP), and went home with the "Best Startup" award. The CC-AP -- called "HiveAP" in the actual product name -- creates more of a peer-to-peer topology among access points and is meant to simplify deployment and provide a more effective infrastructure for voice traffic.
  • Municipal wireless is definitely moving beyond political promises and hype. There were multiple vendors selling equipment and services to help cities and towns get hooked up. I spoke with BelAir Networks, which provided the WiFi equipment for London (which now has 95% municipal wireless coverage), Toronto (which is in the midst of completing its municipal wireless rollout) and Minneapolis (which could be the first tier 1 city in the U.S. to have comprehensive municipal wireless by the end of 2007). The significance of the Minneapolis case is the fact that it is a public/private partnership with a business model that could be emulated in other cities, as the city itself is becoming a customer of the new network for its own traffic. Minneapolis citizens will get a very competitive broadband rate (likely two tiers at $20 and $30 per month), bandwidth over 1 Mbps in both directions, and the ability to use their Internet connection from anywhere in the city at any time.
  • Senior Analyst Paul Debeasi at the Burton Group was at Interop talking to wireless vendors about their preparation for new developments in wireless. Earlier this year, Debeasi published a report Wireless LAN Systems: Ready for the Future? in which he questioned whether the current WLAN technologies and topologies are ready to handle the new challenges that 802.11n (greater bandwidth) and VoIP (potential quality issues) will present. "I struck a nerve with some of the vendors," said Debeasi, "and some of them are very irritated with me." What he did in his report was to show that the various centralized and decentralized WLAN topologies have different stress points that could be exacerbated by 802.11n and voice. You can read Debeasi's paper here, but you'll have to register at the Burton Group's site.

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

4 comments
andrewking
andrewking

You mention the number of AP's, 12 Xirrus vs. 80 other (Cisco/Aruba?) AP's, but don't do the math. If I remember correctly the middle product in the Xirrus line, XS-3700, is $8k, the high end XS-3900 is $12k. A Cisco 1200 series is $600-$650. So a Xirrus solution is $96k - $144k and a Cisco solution is roughly $52k in hardware cost. Don't get me wrong the Xirrus is great, we own a XS-3900, and it continues to impress us with its range, capacity, and ease of management. You make it sound like rolling out 12 of the Xirrus units is a no brainer, when in reality not many conferences have the budget for 12 of these units.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Xirrus is not a low-cost option, although it might save a little money in a few large deployment scenarios. The savings is more likely in time savings for deployment and management. Also, from what I've seen, Cisco isn't quite as cheap as what you're quoting, especially if you're trying to match it up with the features of Xirrus.

georgeou
georgeou

Someone had the cooperative AP stuff 3 Interops ago. They even got their stuff embedded in to some Netgear stuff but it never really took off.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

The rise of voice over WLANs could make this the right time for a more cooperative AP topology. Backhauling a lot of voice traffic to centralized controllers could lead to quality issues, which is already one of the big challenges with VoIP. I think that could be the biggest opportunity for Aerohive to find a niche in the market, or at least force some of the bigger vendors to change their approach to topology.

Editor's Picks