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).