In a November article by John Cox of NetworkWorld, he pointed out two very important facts about networks as we know them, or at least how we use them:
- In June WLAN vendor Meraki found that smartphones and tablets have overtaken computers on Wi-Fi networks.
- Colleges and universities have spent the last decade and lots of money running Ethernet cables to dorm rooms and now are discovering that 50% to over 90% of those wired ports are never used.
Our devices are now designed for wireless network access, and the younger generation rarely even considers connecting a computer to a wired port. Even for me, a guy who started his career before PCs (yes, old as dirt), I often find myself in a hotel room with a wired Ethernet port that I can’t connect to because I’ve stopped carrying a cable, so I need to rely on the wireless network (which usually performs much more poorly).
But that won’t be for long. With 802.11n, the latest evolution in WLANs, maximum throughput is increasing tenfold, enabling the dream of reliably streaming video and walking into our company headquarters and having our mobile phone automatically transition from the cellular network to the WLAN to take advantage of better signal strength.
So where does that leave LAN infrastructure and should you plan on investing in more LAN infrastructure when users’ expect wireless?
Do you imagine devices retrograding back to wired or do you see them progressing to wireless?
Actually, I don’t expect to see any significant changes. In the home, where wired ports never really seemed to catch on, even in new development, wireless will be king, and will most certainly grow in scope. Not only will your computer access be wireless, your TV, DVR/set top box and audio equipment will also be wireless, enabling new heights in shared media access. As for the corporate environment, it’s hard to imagine commercial construction without wired access. It may diminish somewhat, especially in large cube farms or “bullpit” areas, but closed offices will continue to be wired. Certain computing applications, especially those employing high performance computing, will still benefit from the wired connection, and commercial landlords don’t want to limit the applicability of their properties. Universities may be the exception to this status quo approach. With their young and mobile “customers,” wireless is the only approach that makes sense and the up to 90% unused wired ports in university dorm rooms have not gone unnoticed as an unfortunate waste of money.
Even though wireless seems to be stepping in the door while wired is stepping out, there is a state of limbo between the two and there will be for more years to come. And even though wireless is gaining ground, the backbone of every wireless network is wired, and this is not likely to change for a very long time, if ever. So where does that leave you, and how do you ensure that you are reaping the full potential of your wireless as well as your wired infrastructure?
The key is that your network is now a convergence between wired and wireless, and it must be managed accordingly. You need network management solutions that can handle both networks, simultaneously, because this is how your network traffic is delivered. Here are three key reasons for considering converged network management and troubleshooting:
- Elimination of multi-vendor, multi-product solutions, allowing for better management and cost savings.
- Better visibility into which network is causing network problems: wired or wireless. Issues can easily be on either side.
- Increased scalability. With both wired and wireless network getting faster all the time, it’s important to have a solution in place that’s been designed from the start with high speed networks (i.e. wired) in mind.
Wireless is starting to reach the throughput and applicability of wired networks with 802.11n, but increased capability leads to increasing user demands, requiring careful planning when implementing wireless network upgrades, including the ability to monitor your wireless and your wired network simultaneously. Converged network management is your only option for handling the higher throughput of improved wireless networks, allowing you to quickly monitor and analyze traffic regardless of the network it traverses.