What big wireless questions remain?

Interop trade show to examine outstanding mobility issues

One of the technology tracks at this week's Interop conference and exhibition in Las Vegas will address the biggest trends and issues in wireless networking.

Among the burning issues open for discussion at Interop conference sessions this week are the following:

* Nailing up a system for mobile device management (MDM) and security.

PLANNING GUIDE: Virtualization, cloud computing to dominate Interop

Enterprises need to soon implement a strategy for creating and enforcing security policies in an environment where both employee- and corporate-owned wireless devices attach to the corporate network. Why the urgency? There's an onslaught of smart phones and tablets infiltrating the network and an incoming generation of workers accustomed to always-on connectivity regardless of device type.

At a minimum, enterprise MDM strategies at this point in time should include a BlackBerry Enterprise Server and "something else." Whether you need one additional MDM and security supplier or several depends on the vendor tools you already have in place, what they cover and what kinds of policies you'd like to build. Some MDM systems, for example, can virtually divide a mobile device so that it functions both as a personal and corporate device, each with separate rules, billing and remote wipe capabilities. Others don't.

* Large-scale voice and video WLAN deployments.

Wi-Fi is spilling out of conference rooms to become a bona fide, default access network. Now what? As scale changes, so must RF management and monitoring tools, and QoS becomes a bigger factor. Video, of course, is predicted to explode. And while voice over Wi-Fi (Vo-Fi) has been running in enterprises for some time, large-scale deployments are few and far between. Running mission-critical, latency-sensitive voice traffic requires a far different design than data-only WLANs, and enterprises have long been flummoxed about how to test their designs under real-world conditions at scale.

One option might be en route from Integer Wireless, an integrator in Newport Beach, Calif. The company today announced the Wireless Experience Center, to open later this year, which CEO John Clarey describes as a "vendor-neutral, technology-agnostic" 10,000-square-foot facility running a number of wireless vendors' infrastructure equipment, mobile applications, and wireless clients. The idea is to provide a venue for IT to experience more of a real-world aspect to network interoperability and performance beyond vendor spec sheets. Enterprises can bring in their own gear and software to test, too. For example, enterprises could test the efficiencies of putting all mobile voice calls on a Wi-Fi network versus an in-building cellular system using a distributed antenna system (DAS) or other approach.

* Are WLAN controllers in or out?

Determining the appropriate role of the wireless LAN controller going forward will be something for all Wi-Fi-enabled enterprises to contend with. Many of the controller-based WLAN vendors are pushing data forwarding and other capabilities out to the APs for better efficiencies. Others advocate getting rid of the controller altogether, while still others suggest using their unique WLAN controllers as a security overlay in other vendors' Wi-Fi networks. Meanwhile, virtualization technology is allowing WLAN controller functions to move to public cloud services, negating the need for controller hardware on your premises.

These issues form only the tip of mobility iceberg. But they are among the most pressing to address quickly.

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