CrossNodes Product Briefing: WLANs
A Network Manager's dream come true -- time to sell that Ethernet cabling for scrap! CrossNodes Product Briefings provide an overview of what you need to know before purchasing a specific technology, and include round-up listings of current products from each of the major vendors.
The market for wireless networks (WLANs) has taken off since the technology has become more available in the last two years. According to a report by Cahners In-Stat Group, the worldwide WLAN equipment market will grow $3 billion in 2002. Other research says that the U.S. should account for over $1.6 billion of revenue by 2004. New products from several prominent network equipment and wireless vendors, including Cisco, Nortel, 3Com, Intel, Nokia and Ericsson, has driven WLAN gear into wider acceptance, and demand for the technology will continue, according to Cahners, as faster and cheaper products enter the market. In-Stat also forecasts improvement in WLAN security, a concern among critics of the technology.
It's rare, in this industry, that small and medium-sized businesses adopt a technology first, but they represent the major install-base for WLANs. According to Sage Research, more than fifty percent of 150 small- to medium-sized companies surveyed will have installed WLANs by 4th quarter. Most organizations use WLANs as an extension of their wired LANs, and approximately 10% of network-attached nodes already run over WLANs. The real beauty of WLANs for network managers is their installation--it's so much easier than a traditional LAN--and that is one reason that the SOHO market and companies with branch offices find them so attractive.
Who's the best bet to benefit right now from WLANs? The highest interest is shown by businesses with employees that work in satellite offices, temporary offices, and home offices. Companies with employees that travel frequently also are investigating the technology.
As for the enterprise, it may be a good time to look at WLANs as well. The biggest enterprise bug-a-boo was security--all that data floating around in the air really makes network managers uneasy. Earlier this year, however, Cisco tightened security in its Aironet 350 Series, and most hardware vendors will need to follow suit if the market is to reach it's potential. WLAN management and monitoring also were a problem, but new software may relieve that enterprise headache away.
The presence of the big vendors in the market is convincing more large companies to try wireless networks. Although the market is undergoing changes--Cisco acquired Aironet Wireless in March 2000, and Agere Systems was formerly the Microelectronics Group of Lucent Technologies--most of the big vendors are shipping parts for the WLAN, including networks cards and access points. That competition is driving the price down of WLAN networks, and lower prices will help the market grow.