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Don’t let market noise paralyze you

Feb 19, 20033 mins
MobileNetwork SecuritySmall and Medium Business

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Wireless – and in particular, wireless LANs – is the fair-haired child of tech right now. I’m hoping, though, that the desperate vendor jockeying for user mindshare does not stall enterprise investments. By now, if you read this newsletter regularly, you’ve probably picked up on my mantra: “Confused customers don’t buy.”

For example, there is a host of wireless LAN start-ups that plan to deliver new form factors, many of which fall in the so-called “wireless switch” category. They want to get their names out and about in the marketplace but aren’t ready to announce products yet. (Look for a bunch of announcements at NetWorld+Interop in May, though.)

The enigmatic conversations I have with these companies go much like the old “20 Questions” game (a.k.a., “Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?”). Some swear that they are going to revolutionize the deployment of wireless LANs in the enterprise, but can’t yet say how. A company called Chantry Networks, for example, says it will do so by “not requiring changes to the wired infrastructure.” With all due respect, how can adding any new product to the network not constitute a change? I guess we’ll find out whether this claim has legs when the company emerges from stealth mode.

Even the incumbent enterprise-class wireless LAN vendors are evasive about the details of their new products. Proxim has changed its product line, strategy, and product managers so often that I tend to report less and less on the company out of fear that I’ll get their story wrong. (More on the company’s new Maestro wireless-enabled switch, which is still missing some details, in an upcoming report.)

Symbol, once it put out its initial announcement of its Mobius wireless LAN architecture last year, quickly disappeared into the night when it was asked follow-up questions on the exact nature of the switching and the form factor (and cost) of its power-over-Ethernet solution. And Cisco still hasn’t answered to my satisfaction what the technical benefits are of running its IOS software in its Aironet 1100 series access point.

Meanwhile, there are folks bubbling up Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology in their labs who jaw with me about how the multiple-hundreds of megabits per second and low power rate associated with this technology, combined with repeater technology, will usurp 802.11 in the LAN. Maybe. But if and when UWB is ready for prime time several years from now, your 802.11 investments will likely have depreciated anyway.

Bottom line: Does your organization have local mobility requirements or cabling challenges you’d like to address very soon? If so, identify the technical requirements you face now and evaluate the solutions available to you today. Yes, keep an eye on investment protection. But if you become overwhelmed by the avalanche of alternatives, you’ll likely stop dead in your tracks and miss the competitive opportunities afforded by the good stuff that’s already out there.