• United States
by Vipin Jain

A unified WLAN approach is better than an overlay

May 10, 20043 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecuritySecurity

Two industry insiders debate whether Wi-Fi should be deployed as an extension of the wired LAN.

Adopting a unified strategy allows you to upgrade your edge switches using software while buying incremental hardware upgrades as needed to deal with future scalability and new application requirements.

Before embracing a particular wireless LAN architecture, buyers should consider the burdens the WLAN will place on the enterprise network, including security and management  needs. The best way to stay ahead of changes in enterprise networking is to adopt a unified solution that integrates the wireless and wired infrastructure at the network edge, where it can be effectively managed from one console.

The other side by Keerti Melkote

Face-off forum

Debate the issue with Jain and Melkote.

Adopting this unified strategy allows you to upgrade your edge switches  using software while buying incremental hardware upgrades as needed to deal with future scalability and new application requirements. Additional edge switches are easy to install incrementally. This unified approach to broadband provisioning – buying for now as well as preparing for the future – offers the most flexibility, simplicity and scalability.

By contrast, an overlay approach is shortsighted and inflexible. It locks customers into an inevitable and incessant upgrade cycle, resulting in multiple networks that are difficult to manage. These upgrades also lack complete security functions and necessary levels of reliability.

Many companies have delayed deployment of wireless networks because they’re daunted by the prospect of securing and operating separate networks for wired and wireless access. In an overlay scheme, multiple products from multiple vendors become overwhelming. Each requires specific equipment, which accelerates capital and operational costs, to address management, intrusion-protection and security issues.

The unified architecture approach to an integrated wired and wireless network reduces capital and operational expenditure because it eliminates the need for costly deployment of core and edge products. For example, in a unified environment, access points deliver radio frequency functions while power, security, access control and policy management are done directly in the edge switch. Combined with centralized networking intelligence, this level of simplicity dramatically increases cost-effectiveness.

Another important aspect of overall WLAN integration is security. The compounding effect of new applications and services, new employees, new equipment and new kinds of devices can turn security protocols into a dizzying maze. With the unified architecture approach, companies can use existing standards and provide the same high standards for security, intrusion detection and prevention, virus quarantine, resiliency and quality of service to their wired and wireless infrastructure. With an overlay approach – because of its piecemeal nature – companies have to deploy redundant technology at the edge as well as in the core with overlay appliances, and manage disparate standards and protocols. This opens the network to more security risks.

To meet future requirements and to support diverse, networked devices on the network, a unified architecture is the way to go. It cuts total cost of ownership by eliminating security, deployment and operations challenges.

Jain is vice president and general manager, LAN Access, at Extreme Networks. He can be reached at