Wi-Fi-array leader Xirrus has rolled out a new product line that features a unique approach to Wi-Fi modularity, offering both 450-Mbps performance and greater cost-effectiveness for high-density WLAN deployments. If you've not looked at a Wi-Fi Array before, I find it convenient to think of this innovation as either a super AP with a lot (up to 16) of radios, or a collapsed-backbone wireless-LAN switch/controller designed for the deployment of high-density capacity. The capacity part is critical, and I've argued for some time that a focus on throughput alone is insufficient in most enterprise-class deployments. The Wi-Fi Array is really all about capacity, and Xirrus has a unique position in the industry in providing this class of product.
What's particularly interesting here is that Xirrus' latest announcements, the XR-series Wireless Arrays, include 8- and 16-slot models, with each slot capable of integrating a radio module of up to 802.11n 3x3, or 450 Mbps (yes, that's up to 7.2 Gbps total!). Modularity means both more cost-effective purchasing, in that only the number of radios required need be bought, and upgradeability, meaning the need over time for a major-unit upgrade is reduced as only radio modules need be added or upgraded. Each radio can operate in either the 2.4 or the 5 GHz. bands, and sufficient capacity is provided in the array's controller for both upgradeability to 802.11ac/ad and to support externally-connected radios.
As I've written many times, capacity is well on its way to becoming the major challenge across the enterprise WLAN landscape. Given increases in the popularity of Wi-Fi connectivity and the increase in both the number of connected devices and the amount of data these clients move, provisioning (really, overprovisioning, a standard network-operations technique) capacity will be critical to success. And it's not really a challenge just in locales that are certain to have a lot of users (conference facilities, auditoriums, etc.), but really across any given provisioned area. The array approach, then, is going to become a lot more popular beyond the venues where it has built its reputation to date. And, as Xirrus' latest innovations change the economics of installing an array, it is very likely that many who have not considered an array before will be taking a new look.
Mathias is a principal at Farpoint Group, a wireless advisory firm in Ashland, Mass.