The recent approval for Yahoo to build a massive campus in the heart of Silicon Valley is the perfect example of how wireless networks can grow and evolve. The sprawling campus will consist of thirteen six-story buildings across 3-million square feet. As a result, the 12,000 Yahoo employees will likely become much more dependent on wireless access, demand it from more locations and expect to have the performance and reliability characteristics of the wired network. There are several issues to consider in a wireless campus environment. As new standards come into play like fast roaming, capacity will become even more of an issue. As more people try to access the network in one area, density will increase and put significant strain on the access point resource. Security is always an issue but in a wireless network environment, it’s more about the nature of those on the network and their desire to cause harm. Besides coverage, capacity, density and security issues, below are some key considerations for Yahoo and other enterprises that have distributed wireless worlds.
1. Take advantage of a single vendor’s access point management system
These management systems are key in a distributed world. Before, there were wireless monitoring vendors called overlays, which offered additional sensors to access points deployed in the network. However, they were costly in terms of power, equipment and network drops. With access point management systems, companies have access to software that can control channels and power on the fly. Depending on the amount of traffic and people accessing one particular point, the power can be adjusted appropriately.
2. Keep an eye on the spectrum
There are still several interferers out there. 802.11n uses an unlicensed spectrum meaning a lot of other technologies share that same spectrum including Bluetooth, cordless phones, video cameras and microwaves. It’s important to be aware of interferers, know what they are and how to manage them.
3. Don’t forget about troubleshooting
Monitoring the network through access point management systems isn’t enough. It only indicates trouble – it doesn’t troubleshoot and solve problems. Being at the scene isn’t always effective with campus wide networks, especially when you have satellite offices or are spread across acres of land. Enterprises need an analysis and troubleshooting capability on top of management that can be distributed. This can be done through purchasing additional software probes with wireless adapters. Another option is to leverage the network that is already in place by switching thin APs into promiscuous mode, where their only purpose is to receive and collect packets to be analyzed. Lastly, enterprises can equip network USB hubs with wireless adapters that plug into the Ethernet network. This makes the network transparent and businesses can access adapters to use along with their network troubleshooting software anywhere on the network.