Gartner: Big challenges lurk in building enterprise wireless networks

Staff knowledge, network capacity and reliability, governance issues can stare down best laid mobile plans

ORLANDO - When you start off with this bit of information from Gartner: By 2015, 80% of newly installed wireless networks will be obsolete because of a lack of proper planning - you understand the challenges enterprises face in ramping up mobile environments.

"The rate of mobility changes is faster than most enterprises can adapt and change," Paul DeBeasi of Garter told attendees at this week's Gartner Symposium IT/Expo.  And the challenge is only beginning as mobile communications traffic will continue to grow exponentially, he said. 

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"This growth in traffic will strain wireless networks and will require that enterprises and mobile communications service providers invest capital to improve network capacity, reliability and manageability," DeBeasi said.  "End users expect pervasive mobile communications and seamless mobility between WLANs and mobile cellular networks. This change in expectation has serious implications for the enterprise. WLANs will need to improve coverage, density and reliability."

So what could go wrong in moving whole hog into wireless? DeBeasi offered a number of challenges including:     

  • IT organizations often do not know how to properly install the WLAN.
  • Not only will IT organizations have to deal with each user sometimes having three to five devices, machine-to-machine communications will ultimately exceed the number of connections that people are using.
  • While the technology will continue to get better, the race is to see whether the exponential curve of required capacity will cross the linear line of network capacity growth from a theoretical standpoint but, more importantly, in a poorly implemented wireless medium.
  • A higher than expected 3G connectivity attach rate in consumer devices is making access to a mobile cellular network easier for employees.
  • In addition, the increased use of mobile devices to access cloud services, Web-based applications and real-time applications will drive the need for higher bandwidth, lower latency/jitter and fewer dropped packets. These trends raise serious issues that may derail an enterprise's mobile strategy. Enterprises must take action to mitigate these issues.
  • Enterprises are focused on many complex issues, such as mobile device management, "bring your own device" (BYOD) policies, information security, expense management, end-user support, mobile application development and mobility governance. As a result many enterprises neglect to consider the readiness of the wireless infrastructure to support their mobile strategy.
  • WLAN service levels will increasingly become unacceptable as the number of mobile devices attempting to connect to the enterprise wireless LAN grows. Many WLANs were not designed to provide a mission-critical service.
  • The design, management and diagnostic capabilities of enterprises are often not sufficient to meet the everyday demands required by a burgeoning, increasingly sophisticated wireless network.
  • Enterprises often find that they have difficulty finding and retaining wireless staff with sufficient training, certification and experience. This problem is exacerbated by the growing complexity of WLAN design requirements and radio frequency (RF) issues.
  • Enterprises do not adequately fund the investment in WLAN management tools.

While that list is daunting DeBeasi said there are three major things enterprises can to address many of the problems. First get the basics down and do a site survey.  Then design for performance and coverage as well as design for strategic sensor placement which includes an intrusion protection system and the spectrum monitoring system, he said.

Another technology that can help is beamforming that concentrates wireless or Radio Frequency to bolster the signal-to-noise ratio and improve performance and predictability. Enterprise WLAN vendors are now beginning to integrate beamforming technology into their Access Points, he said.

Wireless WAN technologies such as the use of use of distributed antenna systems or WAN optimization technology can improve WWAN predictability.

And setting up wireless governance -- processes, policies, staff actions - improves user experience and wireless manageability DeBeasi said.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  and on Facebook

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