As far as performance, 802.11n delivers the throughput to satisfy everything but the most extreme, and rare, bandwidth-hogging applications. Meanwhile, even those enterprises with 802.11a or .11g are generally satisfied with throughput. This returns us then to the original question posed by this article: Are you ready for the all-wireless workplace? The answer? Not quite yet.
“There’s still work to do,” Farpoint Group’s Mathias said, “but it’s not a lot of work. In three to five years, you’ll see most of the major issues figured out.”
The problems aren’t trivial, though. They range from the need to support existing investments in legacy wired and wireless infrastructures to authentication issues to device control. All of these issues can be solved, but they take careful planning, and often require complementary technologies. For instance, in many industries auditors require that WLANs have separate monitoring networks installed as an overlay.
“The vendors hyping 802.11n are the ones coming to us with lists of network analysis questions,” said Jay Botelho, director of Product Management at WildPackets, a provider of network analysis solutions. In the near-term most 802.11n adoption will show up at the fringes of the enterprise. 802.11n will find its way into branch offices, or it will extend existing LANs into places that have no current coverage.
802.11n will also catch on in certain verticals like health care and education, but it will take longer to penetrate the horizontal, generic enterprise, which will act with more caution, waiting to adopt 802.11n as part of hardware upgrade cycles.
“For large enterprises, 802.11n represents an investment they aren’t ready for,” Botelho said. “They’re looking at 802.11n. They’re interested, but in tough economic times, they’re not ready to jump.”