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Wireless LANs just a feature

Aug 28, 20032 mins

* How having wireless LANs as a feature in most LAN equipment changes things

Just about every major Ethernet switch vendor is now on board with wireless LAN technology.

As Network World’s Phil Hochmuth reported early this week, Foundry Networks next month is expected to unveil products that support three kinds of IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN technology, in WLAN access points and management capabilities:

Foundry isn’t the first vendor to embrace WLANs, and it may in fact be the last major vendor to sign up. WLANs are now inextricably linked to wired LANs. It’s a feature, a check-off box in a list of features enterprise companies are looking for.

This is a far cry from just a few years ago, when WLANs were proprietary things, only connected to a wired network in a standard way through an Ethernet connection. This is the power of standardization, and you can think about mixing and matching wireless/wired network equipment just as you would wired-only switches.

But this may not stop here. To me, this development also raises the question of whether everything in the LAN will eventually go wireless – or at least, the factors in the decision of whether to go wireless may change.

For instance, conventional wisdom says you use a WLAN for a couple reasons – it’s difficult or prohibitively expensive to run cable to a particular device, or you need the mobility. Conventional wisdom also says you definitely run cable if you need high bandwidth, or there’s too much interference for wireless.

However, the bandwidth issue may start to recede. There still isn’t a crying need for Gigabit Ethernet to most desktops, and frankly, the 54M bit/sec (or even less than that) that wireless LANs can pull off looks just fine for most applications.

Logically, you would think interference could become less of an issue as well, as the growing wireless business puts resources toward solving interference issues.

Rather than tearing their hair out over what type of wiring to deploy to each desktop, network managers could instead worry about just wiring the access points.

What do you think? Is this scenario still far in the future? Or close at hand? Let me know at