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Enterprise Wireless: Trends and Developments in 2017 from Computer Weekly

Neil Anderson comments on the emergence of wireless standard 802.11ac Wave 2 and the potential benefits it will bring for users.

Posted by Computer Weekly in March 2017:

With an increasing number of new mobile devices being used to access corporate infrastructure, enterprise wireless networks are under increasing pressure.

More than half of mobile data is already carried over Wi-Fi, according to Gartner, which is expected to grow from 52 million terabytes (TBs) in 2015 to 173 million TBs in 2018.

To help the enterprise get to grips with these challenges, there are a number of important trends that IT professionals need to be aware of.

The convergence of Wi-Fi, an historically networking operation owned by the enterprise, with security, managed as a separate division in the enterprise, is set to continue in 2017, according to Ryan Orsi, director of strategic alliances at WatchGuard.

He says enterprises have adopted mobility initiatives for their employees and in the case of distributed enterprises where offering guest or public Wi-Fi is common and required to be competitive.

“Mobility is no longer just about un-tethering people from their desks, but it’s about applying network access and wireless local area network (WLAN) security policies to this traffic as well,” he says.

To do this, networking and security teams inside enterprises will share information more frequently. Orsi says he sees wireless intrusion prevention systems (WIPS) as one of the key functions of an access point (AP), which has caused the strong convergence.

“Security teams need visibility into rogue APs, honeypot, evil twin activity that the Wi-Fi WIPS system is detecting and, likewise, the networking teams’ jobs are made easier if the automated prevention can be enabled by the WIPS sensors so that malicious or un-authorised traffic is suppressed,” he adds.

802.11ac – another wave

The emergence of wireless standard 802.11ac Wave 2 potentially has major benefit for users, according to Neil Anderson, practice manager of mobility and access solutions at World Wide Technology. Alongside this is Wi-Fi assurance.He says 802.11ac wave 2 has a “a significant effect on performance and throughput of the wireless network that users will notice”. Features including multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) also allow more devices to simultaneously communicate with an AP.“

That alone can quadruple the performance and provide a much better experience for users,” says Anderson.

Orsi says enterprises are adopting 802.11ac Wave 2, which has been in many big-brand smartphones for some time, for better quality of experience.“

MU-MIMO being one of the primary reasons so that an access point can communicate with more than one client device at a time for better airtime use,” he says.

He adds that access points using 802.11ac Wave 2 are starting to become the de-facto standard for enterprises, with the future upgrade path being 802.11ax, which promises reduced channel contention by adopting some of the lessons cellular carriers have learned over the years.

Anderson adds that Wi-Fi assurance could tackle a problematic area for WLAN around troubleshooting and reactiveness to user problems when they have difficulty connecting or don’t get a good experience.“

Tools that proactively measure the Wi-Fi coverage and experience in real-time, from the user’s point of view, are emerging,” he says.

He adds that both of these technologies are emerging because the workplace is moving to Wi-Fi as the primary network.“

Cubicle offices are disappearing, employees want to be untethered and work where they want, how they want. That has created a need for IT to relook at the Wi-Fi – is it ready for a completely mobile office space? Can it support wireless voice and video? When problems do occur, how do I know or troubleshoot?” says Anderson.

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