• United States

Wi-Fi architectures could finally shift

Jan 09, 20062 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecurityWi-Fi

* Synergy sees centralized Wi-Fi nets moving in

Though they have been trickling into enterprises for years, controller-based wireless LANs with centralized radio frequency and access point management are poised for hockey-stick growth next year, according to Synergy Research Group’s latest worldwide forecasts.

The research firm predicts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 59% in sales through 2009 for thin APs that are dependent on a WLAN switch, or controller, for operation. The thin-AP growth includes an expected 500% spurt in the number of units shipped in 2007.

Synergy also expects the worldwide sales CAGR for WLAN switches to increase 66% during the five-year period and to see a 95% CAGR in unit shipments.

During the same time period, however, sales of traditional, stand-alone APs will likely fall nearly 33%, according to the company. These figures are a clear indication – if Synergy is on target – that the thin-AP/switch combo is finally settling in as the replacement WLAN architecture.

Why has the trend suddenly become clear? After all, the first WLAN switches and thin APs were announced way back in September 2002 (by prominent WLAN vendor Symbol Technologies) with the promise of lowering the total cost of ownership of large enterprise WLANs. A slew of start-ups followed with innovative variations on the theme.

The answer, of course, lies with Cisco, the enterprise WLAN market share leader.

It’s been a year since Cisco acquired Wi-Fi switch start-up leader Airespace, effectively reversing its position about the “best” WLAN management architecture for enterprises. Until now, according to Cisco resellers, most Cisco customers using Cisco’s traditional, intelligent Aironet APs paid scant attention to the noise made by the companies in the centralized management architecture business. Now that Cisco has begun educating its massive customer base and announcing a migration path and products, significant numbers of enterprises may begin to take notice.

Cisco continues to sell both its traditional Aironet and newer, centralized offerings. A spokesman says the reason is that smaller businesses might wish to run just a few APs. He adds that some Cisco customers wish to operate completely separate wired and wireless networks.