Cisco's 802.11n Wireless Network Strategy

Michael Vizard

Now that the official 802.11n wireless standard is a year old, it is a good time to consider the state of our wireless networks.

According to Chris Kozup, Cisco director of mobility solutions, we're already well on our way to seeing 802.11n wireless networks becoming the primary network in the enterprise. Forecasts now call for somewhere in the neighborhood of 7.5 billion devices attached to 802.11n wireless networks by 2015, and Cisco has already shipped more than a million 802.11n access points.

As the number of devices on the network expands, so too will the way we manage those networks, said Kozup. Today most 802.11n networks rely on central controllers to manage traffic on the network. But the industry is engaged in an active debate over where intelligence on the network should reside, with many vendors arguing that more intelligence needs to move out to the access points and end points.

Kozup says that as 802.11n wireless networking evolves, customers will see intelligence distributed evenly across controllers, access points and end points. A big factor driving that trend is the interest in bandwidth management that carriers have in pushing data traffic off their networks and onto a corporate network.

It's not likely, Kozup says, that 802.11n wireless networks will eliminate the need for wire networks entirely. But a huge amount of traffic will be shifting to 802.11n wireless networks in the months and years ahead.

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Sep 30, 2010 2:09 AM Devin Akin Devin Akin  says:
The bottom line on Cisco's comments regarding an intelligent edge is that they have to protect their Ethernet switching business while they're also trying to sell Wi-Fi. Given that Cisco's Ethernet switching BU is many times larger and more business-critical within Cisco, the Wireless BU is never going to do anything that jeopardizes that revenue stream - even if it's in the best interest of the customer. For this reason, they will stay behind the curve on architecture for a while to come, just as they are behind every other player in the Wi-Fi market today. They move in small increments, making sure not to put their switching market at risk, so it wouldn't surprise me at all to see something like a new controller dedicated to H-REAP mode APs. :) Rather than fixing the problem by pushing the intelligence into the APs, they'll likely just put a giant band-aid on it by selling yet another controller. I actually hope they do something like that because it means that Aerohive (and others who follow in our footsteps of a fully-distributed architecture) will continue to take their market share in the Wi-Fi market, as our Wi-Fi infrastructure will scale much better, be more reliable, and cost much less. If you want to see what the future holds, check out Matthew Gast's recent blog post here: Reply

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