2010 in Wi-Fi: the Year in Review - Page 2

By Lisa Phifer

December 21, 2010

Unite and conquer

According to Akin, partnerships and acquisitions became increasingly common this year as a way to expand and complement product line capabilities. Strategic partnerships announced during 2010 include Meru/Solarwinds (network monitoring), Aruba/Azalea (outdoor mesh), and Wildpackets/Ekahau (lifecycle planning and analysis).

Mathias also cited 2010 progress in unified wired/wireless networking, noting announcements from Aruba (AirWave), Meru (SolarWinds), and others. "The Juniper acquisition of Trapeze provides additional evidence that wire and wireless are merging," said Mathias.

In fact, wired/wireless unification was strikingly evident this year than at Interop, where WLAN products were largely displayed by traditional network infrastructure vendors. With a few noteworthy exceptions (most prominently, Xirrus), many pure-play WLAN vendors that had exhibited at Interop in 2009 stayed home this year. However, unified product lines do not necessarily imply bundled packages and pricing. "Larger infrastructure vendors have moved to a piece-meal licensing model that allows them to keep initial CAPEX low," observed Akin. While this trend can make it easier to initiate WLAN deployments, it can also make total investment harder to calculate and compare. Buyers need to become more savvy about what they really need - both today and tomorrow.

Expanded services

Mathias also saw accelerated emphasis on voice and video this year. "Voice is going to become a key driver of enterprise WLAN installations in 2011, and video in general will represent a larger share of all WLAN traffic than ever before next year," he said. "And it's not just YouTube and such - video will become a key corporate communications vehicle over the next few years."

One hot new product contributing to this trend in 2010 was Apple's iPad. As vonNagy put it, "Everyone wants an iPad, including executives. Their ease-of-use, mobile form-factor, and consumer mind-share have executive level management in most organizations pushing IT departments to support iPad access on the corporate network."

Half the iPad product line and many other new consumer electronic devices (e.g., e-Readers) rely upon Wi-Fi as their only method of network connectivity. As a result, wireless network engineers and IT security teams are being challenged to deliver secure Wi-Fi access to these devices. "Careful consideration of security policy changes, network and application security design, and mobile device management platforms have kept IT departments busy scrambling to meet this need," said vonNagy.

"In 2011, look for more enterprises to officially adopt support for consumer devices, owned both by the organization or by individuals, as well as implementation and market growth for mobile device management platforms to give administrators the ability to control access and storage of sensitive corporate data on these devices," vonNagy predicted.

According to Akin, one service expansion that still has not realized its potential is Real-Time Locationing. "RTLS is still expensive, complicated, and not yet mainstream," he said. "But other technologies are coming along to make it more useful, more accurate, and easier to deploy." One example that came along in 2010: hybrid locationing solutions such as that offered by NearBuySystems.

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