By Galen Gruman, editorial director, IT Wireless
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HP: Advice on Wireless Deployments
This one in an occasional series of interviews with system integrators and consultants.
"The 802.11 part of the network is the no-brainer an IP packet will carry anything," says Bob Simmons, global director for enterprise mobility solutions at Hewlett-Packard. The complexity in deploying wireless networks involves integrating the gateways, platforms, and applications that use the wireless LAN. Going beyond the campus or building into regional or national cellular or paging networks managed by carriers and other service providers adds even more complexity for organizations that "mobilize" field and sales forces using Research in Motion BlackBerry, Pocket PC, or Palm handhelds.
Simmons finds that the typical enterprise adopter today "is mobilizing one application. But when you mobilize the next application, you probably need to work with another ISV [independent software vendor]," which can lead to multiple systems. To prevent that fractious heterogeneity, "you really have to take an architectural approach and think through where you think you are going to go in the future."
While it should be obvious to IT and business management, Simmons underscores that "you always have to start with the business problem you're trying to solve." His experience is that "the best return for wireless aren't where people think they are. The first thing they think of is that they'll deploy an email solution with BlackBerry or iPaq. That's great, but what's the real business return on that? Email is obviously part of the deployment, but it's not the point of it." Simmons recommends that enterprises ask themselves questions like the following: For mobile field service, can you do more timely repairs? Do you gain more time with call management? Can you order parts more efficiently?
Enterprises also face the challenges of any relatively new technology: a plethora of small vendors with uncertain staying power. "Enterprises are concerned whether they will stay in business," Simmons says. At the same time, "the major ISVs are slower to respond [in delivering on newer technologies such as mobile and wireless]," he says, citing Microsoft's backpedaling on MMIS, its mobile information server, that has been made a component of Microsoft Exchange rather than the originally envisioned platform. Simmons recommends that enterprises avoid basing their mobile and wireless platforms on individual ISVs' solutions. "Go instead with a general platform for the architecture, so you can replace it if necessary in the future."
With an architecture in place that isn't locked into one vendor, Simmons recommends that enterprises next invest in "a good radio site survey" for their wireless LANs. "It's amazing how many folks don't check to see if antennas' signals spill into the parking lot." Worse, "companies don't even turn on basic security functions. We're dumbfounded." With VPN overlays, encryption, device management, and authentication "a multilayered approach" security should not be an issue, he says.
Simmons notes that IT organizations are rightfully concerned about provisioning wireless and mobile networks. "While there are good tools like Xcellenet's, there is no real end-to-end management consoles for LANs, wireless LANs, and WANs. There's no way of doing that today."
Wireless LANs using 802.11 technology have gotten the most attention in the last two years, after initial enthusiasm for cellular-based mobile connectivity waned in 2001. Now, mobile systems are gaining a bit more attention as carriers indicate more interest in them. For mobile connectivity, Simmons expects the first full-scale, broad deployment will be in the sales and services industries. "That's still an extremely nascent area. [Even ERP market leader] Siebel really hasn't gotten its act together on mobilizing its software." A big barrier to full-scale sales and services deployment is that "the coverage of the wide area networks is not there. It's spotty, and there's latency. It's very modem-like. You're talking about sipping versus surfing," Simmons says. "Plus, this stuff's expensive. The first month I had my VoiceStream SIM card [for mobile data access over cellular networks], I had a $600 bill. The average IT manager is not going to expose his company to that kind of bill and vulnerability." Simmons says that the offering of $99 unlimited-use plans are a big step by carriers to address that adoption barrier, "but prices are still too high. Companies won't pay all those access charges."
Got deployment experience and lessons to share? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE ESSENTIAL WIRELESS
PRODUCT AND SERVICE GUIDE!
A subscriber exclusive! IT Wireless's Winter 2003 Essential Products Guide is now available to subscribers. The 10-page PDF file contains a listing of key vendors and service providers, with summaries of their offerings and contact information. Categories include wireless network and client hardware, network and client software, and IT services. Download the directory now!
THE ESSENTIAL WIRELESS
PRODUCT AND SERVICE GUIDE!
One of the complaints of 802.11 technology is its fairly small range which is great if you want to keep the signal confined and unavailable to snoopers, but not great if you want to enable campus-wide or public access. Vivato has now released its 2.4 GHz Outdoor Wi-Fi Switch, which it claims is the first Wi-Fi system designed for outdoor deployments. When mounted on an adjacent building, the Vivato switch can penetrate exterior and interior walls to provide Wi-Fi coverage throughout an entire structure. From a rooftop or tower mount, the Vivato switch provides outdoor coverage for up to four kilometers, turning hot spots into what the company calls "hot zones." The antenna is shielded in a box that measures about 3.25 feet by 3 feet by 0.5 feet. The company says its three radio beams directs up to 33Mbps of Wi-Fi capacity to active clients through an electronically controlled phased array antenna.
A significant trend in recent announcements was to make roaming easier, through both client software and provider agreements:
Several recent developments are also noteworthy:
Got a great product or technology tip? Send it to email@example.com.
A surprising adoption trend for 802.11 last year was the fact that consumer-oriented providers such as D-Link and Linksys were gaining significant adoption in the enterprise, although typically for small and non-mission-critical wireless networks, as well as for satellite-office and work-at-home deployments. The consumer-oriented access points, client adapters, and routers were typically notably less expensive than the enterprise-class ones offered by companies such as Cisco Systems, but with just basic security and few or no management options. So it's perhaps not surprising that Cisco Systems has now acquired Linksys.
A recent Jupiter research reports shows that small businesses those with less than $10 million in annual revenue are the 802.11 deployment leaders, with 83% either supporting 802.11 networks today or planning to in the next 12 months. By comparison, 71% of U.S. large businesses (those generating $100 million or more in annual revenue) are supporting 802.11 networks or will do so in the next 12 months. "Nearly half (49%) of all U.S. businesses have fewer than 20% of their employees connected. Small and medium-sized businesses in particular are much more likely to have their employees connected via an 802.11 network," notes Jupiter Research senior analyst Julie Ask. Along these lines, a survey of 7,000 "white box" computer makers companies that put together nonbranded PCs for clients found that 51% see wireless connectivity as a significant client demand in 2003. Only lowering IT costs, at 55%, was a higher customer issue. The survey by the National Systems Builders Association also found that more than half of white-box sales go into small and medium businesses.
A tidbit from Meta Group may help enterprises plan their wireless priorities: By 2005, the research firm predicts that 95% of new corporate notebooks will have built-in wireless capabilities.
Hot-Spot Network for Truckers
The transportation and logistics industries are early adopters of
mobile and wireless technologies, so it's an obvious market for 802.11 hot-spot
services. Until now, most hot-spot efforts have been aimed at business travelers.
But now, Columbia Advanced Wireless (CAW) will offer high-speed wireless Internet
access at more than 1,000 truck stops throughout the country. According to studies
by CAW, more than 25% of the 3 million truck drivers in the U.S. carry laptops.
Truck drivers average 25 days a month on the road, so the abilities to quickly
locate and negotiate loads, to transact banking, to maintain contact with their
business partners and employers, and to track weather and road conditions should
prove attractive, CAW says. The CAW network will use prepaid access cards that
act like prepaid calling cards. The service is limited to laptop-based users.
For security, CAW will deploy the Rocksteady NSA Network Sharing Application
and IBM eServer xSeries systems running Linux as the platform for the new Internet
access points. Rocksteady NSA selectively determines whether the truck driver
can enter the network and dynamically manages their Internet session based on
their credentials. Additional capabilities, such as dynamic bandwidth shaping
and metering, help provide a high level of network performance by allocating
and prioritizing bandwidth usage in real time on a user-by-user basis.
From IT Wireless
As an IT professional, you know that wireless technologies such as 802.11 promise to provide significant benefits to your organization. Before you go full steam ahead, you need answers to your critical concerns about wireless LANs. Questions concerning security, compatibility and best practices, to name just a few. The IT Wireless Insider email newsletter is now here to help you figure it all out. And coming later this year, IT Wireless magazine!
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