Many reasons why centralised wireless networks make sense for business, says Agile’s Richardson
17 October 2016 | 0
Some industries were faster than others to embrace wireless networking, but the technology has clearly passed the peak of adoption if we think in terms of a classic bell curve. When we surveyed our customers about their favoured networking technology this year, 52% said they use a combination of wireless and wired LANs. Just 48% said their premises were wired-only.
So, most people now use wireless networking in the office. Only 4% have pure wireless-only workplaces but this is evolving: 70% of our customers expect their wireless use to increase in the next 12 months. The remaining 30% expect usage levels to remain the same.
“The biggest barrier to adoption in the past has been the high cost of getting high-speed, business-class broadband to remote sites, but as connection speeds have improved and prices have plummeted, it’s more feasible than ever”
The trends driving this adoption are easy to identify: the latest laptops and mobile devices are wireless-first by default. Many of them aren’t even fitted with cable ports. Technology aside, we’re also seeing huge growth in mobile workforces that are no longer tethered to the same desk every day. Group collaboration and hot-desking are features of many work spaces, often involving virtual teams who need the ability to roam throughout their headquarters or branch offices and connect to the same corporate IT resources as everybody else.
Mapping these figures to our experience on customer projects, we’ve also noticed a difference in how people are deploying wireless networks. Many organisations are choosing a centralised model whereby the wireless controller and all intelligence for the wireless network is at the head office or in the data centre and then pushed out to the edge on the campus network.
The biggest barrier to adoption in the past has been the high cost of getting high-speed, business-class broadband to remote sites, but as connection speeds have improved and prices have plummeted, it’s more feasible than ever. The other barrier historically was concerns around security – however, our recent survey shows 78% of our customers have no major concerns about wireless security and the laggards in this are shrinking as customers realise a properly built wireless network is, in fact, more secure than a traditional wired one.
A centralised approach to wireless networking has many benefits, including relatively low cost and low risk. Cost savings include not having to invest in wireless controllers for every single site and lower licensing fees grouped across the entire network rather than on a branch-by-branch basis. In our experience, customers with multiple sites typically achieve a 30% cost saving with the centralised model compared to procuring the same equipment for every site. A further saving comes from removing the need to have skilled staff at each site, who ordinarily would need to maintain and troubleshoot the WLAN hardware.
Having ‘dumb’ wireless access points at the edge of the network also offers increased security compared to the distributed approach. Centralised management of wireless eliminates the possibility of users or branches implementing their own on-site WLANs, and all of the information risk that would result.
One of our largest customers is a pharmaceutical company that operates two wireless controllers at data centres located in Germany and Ireland to serve all of its users across Europe. We have also seen large adoption of centralised wireless networking in healthcare, education and hospitality.
An added advantage of this approach is that by buying two wireless LAN controllers in a cluster for a single site also provides redundancy and resilience, ensuring continuity of service if one of the controllers goes down.
From a networking perspective, wireless is the new normal. It’s no longer confined to canteens or walled off for boardrooms. Our survey shows that wireless is already installed throughout many offices. Users expect it, devices allow it, and once you know what the endpoint looks like, it’s time to start planning how to get there.
Darragh Richardson, CEO, Agile Networks