The future of WiFi mobility
By Martin May, regional director, Enterasys Networks
Today, WiFi networks are all-pervasive. Once limited to the home or business, WiFi networks have invaded hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, coffee shops and sports stadiums, catering to growing armies of mobile device users.
Consumers, who are buying mobile devices in record quantities, replacing sales of traditional PCs and laptops, are now demanding consumer-style flexibility and ease-of-use in the workplace too, thanks to the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon.
Strategically, the ongoing - and accelerating - evolution of mobility and WiFi technologies is set to further impact the enterprise, while also transforming carrier strategies around the world, says Martin May, regional director of Enterasys Networks.
With network speeds and BYOD adoption rates increasing in tandem, data consumption is escalating. This presents an attractive proposition for carrier companies, which continue to explore ways to monetise WiFi, thereby encouraging a further increase in the uptake of mobile devices.
One of the challenges faced by organisations in this climate of 'IT consumerisation' is how to remain responsive - rather than reactive - when managing WiFi usage and costs.
As a result, enterprises are now looking at WiFi from a strategic perspective, rather than the tactical standpoint of just a year or so ago. IT managers are now tasked with implementing appropriate device policies along with suitable cost controls.
The typical enterprise wireless LAN (WLAN) has become almost carrier-like in functionality, delivering mobility services to many different users, devices and locations.
In this light, organisations must now keep pace with advances in enterprise mobility while leveraging any potential benefits from the technology going forward. For many, this is daunting. Do they have the in-house resources and immediate access to levels of know-how to be able to design, deploy and manage competitive, secure, high-performance WLANs that enable true enterprise-wide mobility?
Uncertainty around this question has opened the door to a number of opportunities for managed service providers (MSPs) to help organisations deploy end-to-end mobility solutions tied to a range of value-added services, which can be included with little effort.
Their sales pitch highlights the predictable-cost models that outsourcing can bring to mobility services, while assisting organisations to derive greater value from current investments in IT and network infrastructures.
Research group IDC estimates that 10% of WLANs are currently being provided as 'managed mobility services', and expects this market to grow at more than 20% annually. In the US alone, the need is creating a $1 billion market for MSPs.
To address the requirements of both corporates and MSPs, Enterasys Networks has partnered with PCM, a technology solutions provider, to develop a cloud-based WiFi service offering designed to provide a cost-effective option to address current WiFi mobility trends and keep pace with their evolution.
According to Enterasys, cloud-based WiFi services are key to the future of WiFi mobility, and are set to meet demands from companies of all sizes, from SoHo operators to larger organisations looking for WiFi solutions at remote branches.
The Enterasys solution is based on the vendor's IdentiFi wireless access points (APs) and the company's OneFabric management software, and designed to give businesses a cost-effective way to address WiFi mobility and BYOD practices.
One of Enterasys' objectives is to eliminate the complexity associated with traditional wireless services while simplifying deployment, eliminating day-to-day management challenges, and ensuring round-the-clock data security.
Looking ahead, mobile device users can expect new-generation technologies associated with WiFI mobility to deliver up to 10 times the WiFi connection speeds of current offerings, together with a host of new management features such as 'instant APs' that allow wireless LANs to continue functioning even if a WAN link fails.
Enterasys and PCM are on record as identifying their joint goal as 'taking the worry and work' of management out of customers' hands, giving these tasks to third-party providers instead.
While some organisations have the technical ability to provide hosted services themselves, Enterasys' fully-managed service eliminates complexity and the security risks associated with having to manage their own cloud environments.
With the Enterasys service, costs are also contained as there is no need for customers to purchase hardware, as the networks are installed (and managed) by third-parties. In addition, businesses can scale and adapt their WiFi networks to fit their particular needs, now and in the future, without having to make strategic infrastructure decisions.