Wi-Fi

Xirrus gets cocky about 802.11n and tells IT pros to "Ditch the switch"

At Interop Las Vegas 2008, Xirrus tried to convince IT pros that it was time to ditch their switches and replace them with the Xirrus 802.11n wireless arrays. See photos of the gimmicky props at their Interop booth and learn why the whole idea is pure fiction at this point.

At Interop Las Vegas 2008, Xirrus tried to convince IT pros that it was time to ditch their switches and replace them with the Xirrus 802.11n wireless arrays.

From its inception, Xirrus has been about trying to bring the reliability of the traditional wired LAN to the wireless LAN space, so this whole "ditch the switch" gimmick didn't really surprise me, but I couldn't help but scoff at it because it's an idea that is still way ahead of its time.

There's no way that 99.9% of companies could get rid of their switches and go all wireless. You still need the switch infrastructure as the backbone of your network, even in small and medium sized networks. Otherwise, where are you going to plug in the Ethernet cables from your printers? Those don't have wireless built-in. How about your NAS storage boxes? I haven't seen many of those with built-in wireless adapters. And don't tell me that you could always jury-rig this by putting a wireless bridge near this type of equipment and then just plug in the Ethernet cable to it. That's kludgy.

There's also the fact that 802.11n is not even enterprise-ready yet -- despite what Xirrus, Cisco, and others will tell you -- since the 11n standard hasn't been finalized. No enterprise wants to deploy 11n and then have to mess with firmware upgrades at some point in the near future, even if it means that the current equipment is perfectly compatible with the forthcoming standard (which I'm skeptical about).

Take a look at the photos below to see the Xirrus pitch at Interop. You can see the rest of the photos in the gallery Xirrus tells IT pros to "Ditch the switch."

Bottom line for IT leaders

I've previously given some positive ink to Xirrus in both 2006 and 2007 and I still think they have one of the strongest WLAN solutions on the market, but the "Ditch the switch" campaign is pure fiction. This is really just a cheap marketing ploy. I'll give Xirrus credit for drawing attention to their booth at Interop with this campaign. You have to do something to stand out among 500 other vendors at a big show. However, this is an idea that is ahead of its time and trying to sell the concept to IT pros before the network is really ready for it is not smart, although I seriously doubt many IT pros were fooled by the smoke and mirrors.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

34 comments
joseph1616
joseph1616

I was once skeptical like the rest of you until I did a little bit of research on Xirrus and had them come out to do their free site survey. This company did amazing things for our network and every array has a built in Wi-Fi threat sensor along with a Wi-Fi firewall. Our information is secure, our coverage is better than ever, and the complaints about network problems have completely stopped. I couldn't be happier that we switched to Xirrus and I think if the rest of you took the time to do your research you'd realize that this is the future... everything else is simply outdated and not good enough to keep up with our ever changing society.

spacemanvic
spacemanvic

Wow, you guys totally missed the point. The xirrus looks to replace "workgroup" switches. I looked them up, they have a program to give you x$ per workgroup switch in credit towards a purchase of an "array". So no, they are NOT looking to replace datacenter switching, only workstation side switching.

natx
natx

Obviously everyone knows servers and data centers need to be wired. Obviously gigabit is faster than current and future 802.11n standard. By simple deduction, ditch the switch is referring to end user workgroup switches. Frankly it sounds like a lovely and cost effective alternative.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Even with the phone card it was an immediate connect with no dial up.The dial up/FSK stuff was mostly a wave file---

mc68h08
mc68h08

we can even change every toilet in our offices with portable chemical WC.

OldMarine
OldMarine

I would love too. Just think no more cable problems or moving workstations. That would be great. But when I think of our notebook brigade, could I deal with everyone getting their work done in a wireless environment. I don't think so.

verelse
verelse

The best wireless is still unreliable. Besides, I LIKE high speed (as in Gigabit) as opposed to S-L-O-W speed, expensive wireless with high maintenance and expensive hardware. It's like asking me to give up my natural teeth for a set of green dentures. Ain't gonna happen.

raynebc
raynebc

I'm not pretending to be a wireless expert, but on a shared wireless frequency band, I don't see how the shared bandwidth wouldn't cause problems at the access layer of even medium sized networks. At the building where I work, I don't believe that having a hundred users on the same channel would result in speedy network operation.

jdfree02
jdfree02

Jason the assface strikes again. Do you know he forcasted the demise of the laptop in 1995 when Toshiba shipped their first true notebook - he used the same word "cocky" in that review too. This Xirrus Array is clearly an edge device and a damn good one from what I see. Jason must have flunked out of third grade. We love you Jason, but please get some sun!

wratholix
wratholix

$50 per Antenna and get rid of that wifi! Wifi should stay in homes, boardroom's and disconnected off your enterprise network. It will never replace the stability and low latency of any wired connection. To think i was eating my breakfast when i read this.. i almost choked

svasani
svasani

Would be nice to get all Users Wireless. Still need wires for Servers. Getting Wireless Printers doesn't sound like a bad idea either.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...questionable throughput, spectrum shared with who-knows-what-else, interference, and possible in-security. If the wires are available, why would anyone consider wireless?

kevinkfred
kevinkfred

...not. I have a very deep and broad background in the wireless world (not just LAN / WAN but also HF through microwave as well fiber optics communications) and beyond security issues, the simple fact is that there is ALWAYS a trade-off of some sort when comparing wired verses wireless communications.

computeach247
computeach247

It's just a publicity move on Xirruss' part. I don't think tethered and wireless are truly competing for the same clients, at least not at this stage in the game. There are perfectly good uses (scenarios) for both, wired and wireless.

tkroll
tkroll

Anyone who thinks this is secure hasn't been to SANS training. You better research this before you listen to some salesperson and open your network up.

masonm
masonm

I can't really see this happening. Even if you went all wireless with your end users, you are still going to want (and need) wired connections to your servers. Can you imagine copying your backups from a server to your backup server over a WLAN? Sure 11n has more bandwidth than 11g but it still isn't even close to gig ethernet. (Or 10gig) And what about large networks (like mine) where you have multiple buildings that are connected by fiber? Can you really see linking those buildings with wireless access points? Some of the buildings on my campus are hundreds of yards away from the main building where we have our core switch. Even down the road I don't think wireless will ever take the place of wired for your network backbone. Even if we get to the point where every user connects to the network wirelessly you will still have a fiber backbone linking the servers and switches.

david.haczynski
david.haczynski

And exactly what would I do with all of my Cisco IP phones? Go back to a traditional PBX and the associated MAC cost? NOT!

jmacsurf
jmacsurf

The notion of having less wires is down right futuristic but I'm all aboard the "Enterprise" if this is plausible. Wires, pure and simple, create clutter... now matter how well designed the Enterprise Data Centers are. But if you can figure out how to have have complete wireless power (i.e. never ending battery life) - now you're on to something. Plutonuim powering my data center - awesome!

jdfree02
jdfree02

multiple radios all on different channels.... Jeezzzz - are you Jason's cousin?

Mycah Mason
Mycah Mason

Although all of the points that have been brought up are true and relevant, I don't think that anyone (even Xirrus) expects that ALL wired networking would be replaced by wireless. As with any technology, it will have it's positives and negatives. I think there is definately a potential market out there for this type of thing ...for some companies this could make sense.

catseverywhere
catseverywhere

Thank you. I don't care what encryption, authentication etc you do, the fact is you are broadcasting your critical data. Why on earth would anyone want to do that, and bathe themselves in the additional microwaves to boot. Wireless is way overblown. I'd almost put money on the fact tat somewhere down the road cell phones and wifi will go bye-bye because of the health hazard they are. There are new studies on cell phones, the original studies paid for by the industry were quashed, but some of the scientist involved are duplicating the work. I think you are going to see news fairly soon about the health hazards, big health hazards. Not in the mainstream media, though, unless the cell industry doesn't care for some reason.

BOUND4DOOM
BOUND4DOOM

I agree, wireless is convenient sometimes but when you really want to work you need a wire. Speed and reliability are in the wire not the wireless. If wireless was as fast as a wire and as reliable then I would definitely consider it. However even my Tivo in the back bedroom which is fully capable of being wireless got a cat 5 ran just for it. My Brother just built a house and while he has wireless there are still cat 5 jacks in every single room.

BlackKris
BlackKris

I agree with David, with over 700 student computers and even with about 30 office systems, it just wouldn't be effective.

salmonslayer
salmonslayer

Jeez, I can't believe that I just read that. We have had never ending battery life for years. All ya gotta do is plug your UPS back into itself ;-)

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

I seriously doubt all the controls, computers, and gadets lining the bridge of the Enterprise were interconnected wirelessly. Actually, weren't some of the ships in one of the later Star Trek series networked with some kind of bio-gel interface? That certainly wasn't wireless.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'd gladly run a cable six inches thick if I could get Captain Kirk's voice interface.

pepoluan
pepoluan

There *is* an upper limit to how fast a single wireless channel can deliver data. No wireless can beat the sheer bandwidth of a DWDM Optical Fiber   And Captain Kirk? As I remember it, his communicator is strictly voice. That's manageable. Talking-head video is also manageable. Heck, the technology exists even today: 3G (and upwards)   But let's see if you try to shoehorn a datacenter with multi-Gigabit (even Terabit) requirement over wireless. Not physically possible, IMO.  

enduroktm300
enduroktm300

Even RF has it's limits in frequency spectrum regulations, transmitable distance/power, EMP etc.... I am sure the technology will come a long way, but it is still limited.

jabendanio
jabendanio

If you look at the direction of the industry, wireless is the future. I don't see Captain Kirk with his communicator with a fiber optic cable coming out the back plugged into some base unit. That being said, the current wireless technology, even extrapolated out several generations is not the answer. There will have to be a quantum leap in wireless communications technology for us to see this in our lifetime. I believe true wireless in the distant future will involve some sort of satellite transmission. Convergence of technologies will eventually combine all communications, media, into some sort of satellite extreme broadband. I designed/built Enterprise data centers for 25 years. The tons of fiber optic and copper cable required for a single mainframe system with all peripherals and redundant equipment is just mind boggling. Wireless definitely will be the future, but we have yet to see what form it will take. Wireless truly is still in its infancy. People resisted the transition from horses/wagons to cars and eventually to air planes, but the natural progression could not be stopped. Wireless technology, including wireless power transmission, is the future...it cannot be stopped.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

"If you're not starting from scratch and already have the wired infrastructure, it doesn't make sense to replace it." With a switched network, everyone gets 100/1000 Mbps time sliced... so effective full bandwidth. how many access points do you need to ensure all 50 users would get 100Mbps duplex? Wireless is still a "hub" technology in terms of bandwidth use...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Speed, security, reliability. Wired has them, wireless currently doesn't. If you're not starting from scratch and already have the wired infrastructure, it doesn't make sense to replace it.