Monday, May 27, 2024

Wi-Fi Abuzz In The Enterprise

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This week’s Wi-Fi Planet Conference and Expo in San Jose will underscore what industry watchers have been saying for years: Wireless is a powerful technology and business asset.

But unlike previous years, Wi-Fi has moved out of the hypothetical to become a reality for many. More than previous 802.11-related shows, this year’s four-day production is primed to let upwards of 100 vendors introduce their latest products, show business users where to make strategic investments and where the industry is headed.

This year’s show will also be bigger than ever, being presented at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center with scheduled keynotes by Cisco Systems general manager Steve Nye, Intel executive vice president Les Vadasz, Hewlett-Packard vice president and general manager John McHugh, IBM generalmanager Scott Stainken, and Proxim vice president of project management and R&D Kevin Duffy.

Most eyes will be on Intel, Cisco (through its Linksys subsidiary) and Atheros. Intel has mentioned that its next mobile chipset, code-named “Grantsdale” will include a software-based wireless access point as part of next year’s Prescott processor. Linksys recently launched its 802.11g wireless print server, an 802.11g USB adapter, and its first Bluetooth product.

Atheros, which filed IPO paperwork Monday is expected to discuss its advanced Wi-Fi technologies such as Super G and Wake-on-Wireless. The San Jose, Calif.-based company’s chips are found in PCs from HP, IBM, NEC, Sony and Toshiba as well as Wi-Fi gear manufacturers D-Link, IO Data, Linksys and Microsoft.

Another companies expected to make announcements is Nomadix, whose CTO, Joel Short, is scheduled to discuss the “Evolution of Standards, Protocols and OSS.”

WildPackets will demonstrate a new release of the AiroPeek NX Expert Distributed WLAN Analysis Solution with the RFGrabber probe. Bluesocket, NETGEAR, and Propagate Networks are expected to talk about a cross-promotional deal that promotes enterprise-class Wireless LANs based on NETGEAR’s new ProSafe line of business-class access points equipped with Propagate’s AutoCell self-organizing RF (Radio Frequency) environment and administered by Bluesocket’s wireless security and management tools.

Overall, analysts see 2004 as a watershed year for the 802.11 chip market, as silicon vendors try to move beyond the small office/home office scene, coffee houses and airports and into the enterprise, cell phone, and DSL markets.

“Next year will certainly be a defining year in terms of volume and where the market is going beyond the home,” said Forward Concepts analyst Will Strauss. This will especially ring true for Multimode chipsets, single-chip systems and the integration with DSL gateways.”

However, despite the anticipated boom for the 802.11 chip market and Wi-Fi technology, security issues continue to hamper some enterprise adoption.

According to a recent Jupiter Research report “802.11 Security: Who’s Listening to your Wi-Fi?” only 48 percent of enterprises use technical solutions to secure their networks from all known attacks today. The study, released earlier this year, also said a mere 28 percent of enterprises surveyed are using point-to-point user VPNs to secure their WLANs and only 29 percent are using 802.1X – a subset of the new 802.11i standard expected to be ratified later this year.

“Many enterprises rely purely on “off-the-shelf” solutions with basics such as WEP with either manual or automated rotation of keys, restricted SSID access or MAC-based device authentication” observed Jupiter Research senior analyst Julie Ask. “Larger enterprises are more likely to rely on VPN’s and 802.1x while enterprises of all sizes are equally likely to rely on WEP and restricted access available in most off-the-shelf products. Smaller enterprises are both less concerned about WLAN security and are taking fewer measures to ensure WLAN security.”

Wi-Fi Alliance Managing Director Frank Hanzlik told IEEE standard 802.11i is scheduled to be ratified in June with products to debut at the same times. Until then, he says Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) will have to do.

“WPA is bridging the gaps between WEP and 802.11i,” Hanzlik said. “There were loopholes before because there were no all encompassing certification program. Now we are closing the loopholes through our Wi-Fi Alliance certification program and we are seeing results. We are seeing an increase in enterprise spending to about 16 percent year-over-year in areas like security and 802.11g.”

Editor’s notes: The Wi-Fi Planet Conference and Expo is produced by Jupitermedia, and parent company of
this Web site. Jupiter Research is owned by the same parent company as this Web site.

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