The speed for a 802.11ac wireless access point continues to accelerate. That’s good news for everyone, from wireless and cellular users to IT departments. But, for the latter group, it means that they have some serious planning to do.
Cisco highlights the specs of the two flavors of 802.11ac as well as earlier versions of the 802.11 standard.
That’s all great. It does, however, raise a fundamental question with which enterprises must deal. 802.11ac Wave 2 is such a potent standard that in many cases it will overwhelm the wired infrastructure that supports it. This won’t happen right away, but enterprise planners should be aware that the implementation of this technology could have significant ramifications oh god lol thats aloin the medium-term future.
Nemertes Vice President and Service Director Irwin Lazar, writing at No Jitter, looked for – and found – potential vulnerabilities in each element of the underlying enterprise LAN. For instance, the 1 GigE switch ports that were fine in an earlier era could become a weak link in 802.11ac Wave 2 operations.
This is not a crisis, however. The sense is that enterprises that have upgraded to 802.11ac Wave 1 are not nearing capacity and in most cases won’t have to upgrade to Wave 2 in the near future.An upgrade to 10 GigE is an obvious answer. But this isn’t as straight forward as it sounds. Lazar writes that 10 GigE maxes out at 100 meters over Category 6e or 7 cabling. Thus, significant redesign – and perhaps even deployment of fiber -- may be necessary. Lazar added that vendors are starting to offer 2.5 and 5 GigE options, which will alleviate some of the distance issues. Standards are not set for these interim GigE speeds, however. The bottom line is that the road from the AP to the wiring closet could be a rough one.
This means that enterprises have time to plan. Organizations or the consultants with which they work must determine how much wireless capacity they need both to support wireless and cellular devices and for wireline replacement. This is not a given of course: There will be new applications and new devices that will render predictions at least somewhat inaccurate. Over provisioning clearly is called for. At some point in the future, all that capacity will be used.
All of the intricacies described by Lazar, including distance limits on current cabling in a 10 GigE environment, the costs of switching to fiber-based LANs and the status of 2.5 GigE and 5 GigE standards – must be considered.
It also becomes very feasible – and even preferable – to start migrating from wired to wireless connectivity for things that aren’t mobile. In other words, planning doesn’t simply involve guessing how much cellular and WiFi traffic there will be. It includes transitioning to full wireless mode if new office space is created, if the current space gets more densely populated by employees or if there is a desire to put printers and other stationary devices in places that are not accessible to the wired network.
On the conceptual level, something important is happening with the release of 802.11ac Wave 2. It makes the current assumption that wireless connectivity is structurally inferior to wired a thing of the past. That’s a big deal.
Carl Weinschenk is a freelance writer and owner of Weinschenk Editorial Services (www.weinschenkeditorial.com).