Vendor Interest in SMB WLANs Continues to Grow

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This very long and comprehensive look at wireless local-area network (WLAN) gear for small and medium-sized businesses at Network Computing suggests that as recently as a year ago, companies had to either spend too much on enterprise-level gear or run out to CompUSA or Best Buy and deploy equipment that lacked the features and security that a business of any size needs.


That, the writer says, has changed radically. His first order of business is a discussion of the options an organization faces in rolling out and managing services. The heart of the piece is an extensive battery of tests run at the Syracuse University Real World Labs. Products assessed were Bluesocket's BSC-600; D-Link's DWS-3227P; Motorola's WS5100; Netgear's WFS709TP; Ruckus Wireless's ZoneDirector 1000 and 3Com's 24-port Unified Wireless Switch.


What emerges from the facts and figures is that SMB WLANs have come a long way in a short time and that powerful and secure tools are available (the charts accompanying the piece are especially useful).


SMB WLANs appear to be moving into the spotlight. This Q&A at Forbes (via bMighty) with Selina Lo, the CEO of Ruckus Wireless, mostly focuses on the company's history, but what is intriguing is Lo's point that SMBs tend to be a very diverse group. Many people, she says, think solely of offices in relation to WLANs. But SMBs use WLANs in a wide variety of non-office environments, such as schools and hotels. This can affect precisely which features are necessary. It is also important to remember that large companies' branch and remote offices may not technically qualify as SMBs, but tend to use equipment geared for this market. Lo's pitch is that SMBs are overlooked by the big WLAN vendors, who focus on large deployments.


This may be changing. A recent example is Siemens' introduction of the HiPath Wireless C20 Controller. The idea is to offer smaller companies fixed mobile convergence (FMC) -- the seamless integration of wireless and wireline services -- in a way that previously was beyond the scope of smaller companies. The controller is designed to offer SMBs end-to-end quality of service (QoS), virtual LANs (VLANs) and Virtual Network Services (VLS) and improved scalability and throughput, the company claims.


Linksys, a division of Cisco that caters to residential and small business users, late last month introduced the Wireless-G Access Point with Power over Ethernet (WAP2000). Linksys says the product offers features not generally available for small business WLANs. The release says the WAP2000 includes RangeBooster technology that can double network size and increase throughput by 35 percent, though it doesn't clearly state the product to which the comparison is being made. The introduction suggests that key vendor Cisco is enfranchising this market segment.


This Granite Peak Systems blogger describes a client who wants to deploy a wireless LAN that is split between customer and internal use. The latter, of course, must be far more secure. The writer speculates that the need for such an option will grow due to the growth in demand for public Wi-Fi and the apparent failure of municipal Wi-Fi projects.


The writer suggests a scenario in which a router plugged into a cable or DSL modem creates the public and private network. An Ethernet port could securely connect to the organization's wired network. This is a good idea. It seems likely that such a system exists, though the blogger apparently thinks it doesn't.


During the past couple of years, big vendors have begun paying much closer attention to the SMB market. The WLAN sector is among them. The attractiveness of this market makes it likely that the interest -- and vendor investment -- will continue to grow.