WiMax: How Far Ahead of the Curve is Too Far?

Network News Break: Alvarion's pushing a WiMax implementation out the door to a lot of fanfare, but the standard's not soup, and that raises some questions. Also: There's a keylogging worm to look out for, is Microsoft's patch policy to blame? And Sun pushes ahead on identity management, despite gloomy early predictions.

By Michael Hall | Posted Jun 3, 2004
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Just two weeks ago we took a big picture view of WiMax, which promises to solve a lot of last-mile problems when hanging an antenna off the Empire State Building simply isn't an option. As WiFi is to 802.11 -- the friendly marketing name of a standard, WiMax is to 802.16, a two-year-old standard still in the process of being finalized.

There's a lot of promise in the budding standard: a WiMax base station could cover a ten mile radius, with connections possible at a distance of 31 miles, bringing broadband speeds to all sorts of remote locations.

As with any standard, though, it's taking some time for all the details to be hammered out. With the first certification tests still unavailable, and not expected until the end of this year, hopping into WiMax is a little risky.

That's not, however, stopping Alvarion from getting into the game a little early with its BreezeMAX platform, which has seen trial deployments in Europe and Asia:

"It's not your grandmother's telecom market any more," Alvarion's VP of Marketing Carlton O'Neal says. "Guys are out there under a lot of pressure to deploy, to sign up customers, to meet their business plans, and people are taking forward-looking risks."

O'Neal is also fairly sanguine about the prospects of BreezeMAX in the long term, but he moves past the very real risks that when the standard does come together, it might involve a new investment in the kit that drives BreezeMAX now:

"We're out there deploying right now," O'Neal says. "The worst case scenario for the customers is, it's a next generation box that's cheaper, faster, and better--and then you still have the WiMax benefit."

Nothing wrong with being ahead of the game, but if Mr. O'Neal's assessment of the standards process is correct, and a final standard along with certification isn't going to happen until next year, that puts BreezeMAX way ahead of the curve. He might be right about the business case for some telcos, but that makes it a much less certain bet for enterprise operations.

Elsewhere:

» A worm called "Korgo," which takes advantages of the same exploits that drove Sasser forward last month, is on the loose. At least one variant is known to be an aggressive keylogger, which means information filled out in web forms is transmitted to the authors. It also opens assorted back doors in the victim machines. So if it spreads by a known exploit Microsoft patched in mid-April, how is it that there are still many machines left to be victimized despite Sasser's notoriety? Like the editor of NTBugtraq noted last week, the patch Microsoft provided was huge, and it broke enough systems that admins were leery of deploying it.

» Sun's been blitzing the PR airwaves this week with a broad array of announcements in hardware, software, and licensing. In the midst of it all, some information pertinent to networkers: consolidation of its identity management offerings. Three products bundle up previous Sun efforts:

  • Identity Manager provisions and manages individual user accounts, whether the end user is accessing the network by email, phone, device or PC. It also synchronizes user accounts.
  • System Access Manager provides the support for entering the network using the federated ID standards of the Liberty Alliance and Security Assertion Markup Language 1.1 specifications.
  • System Directory Server - the database repository for all the identity policies and information, featuring load-balancing, security and integration with the Microsoft Active Directory.
The Week in Network News

» Tuesday: Network News Break: No WLAN On Your Nets? Wi-Fi Security's Still a Concern

Even if you don't even have a WLAN operating on your nets, the combination of cheap, consumer-friendly Wi-Fi gear and lousy security interfaces can cause problems. Also: AT&T says it can see DDoS attacks from a mile off, Intel releases Centrino drivers for Linux, and anti-virus vendors report there are still viruses in the world.

» Wednesday: Security Drives Cisco's Self-Defending Bottom Line

The razor business is about razor blades, and the router business, apparently, is now about services: Cisco's unveiled a new price structure for the previously no-cost Firewall Services Module. Also: A popular piece of wireless gear from Linksys is sporting a moderately severe security hole, Google's updating its search appliance, and Nortel says VoIP and 3G are driving sales higher than expected.
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» FaceTime Makes IM as Safe as Talking Face-to-Face

With IM use at critical mass and growing, security and privacy challenges abound. FaceTime's enterprise-grade server suite monitors, archives, and analyzes IM traffic for thousands of users without requiring thousands of admin hours.

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Network News Break is CrossNodes' daily summary of networking news and opinion, served up fresh daily. Please send your comments and suggestions to the editor.

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