European wireless investment overtakes wired

Large enterprises are now spending more on wireless infrastructure than on wired infrastructure, according to the latest research from Motorola.

The Vanson Bourne research study entitled ‘Cutting the ties that bind’ looks at wireless trends in Europe during the past year. The Motorola commissioned report surveyed 400 IT directors at companies that have 1,000 plus staff across the U.K., France, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain and Nordics.

It found that spending on wireless infrastructure has overtaken spending on wired infrastructure in over half of large enterprises. 54 per cent of IT directors across Europe said they had spent a greater portion of their budget on wireless equipment than wired equipment.

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What you need to know about 802.11n

But surely this is down to the fact that enterprises already have their wired infrastructure in place and see no reason to upgrade? “Well that is one of the reasons,” admits Angelo Lamme, Wireless director at Motorola’s Enterprise Mobility Business. “But the other is the actual cost of a wireless network over wired.”

“The cost of installing a new wireless network is between one fifth to one tenth the cost of installing a wired network,” Lamme told Techworld. “Wireless networks are a valuable alternative in these tough economic times.”

“We are at a tipping point at the moment, where wireless is really now a viable alternative (to wired) because of 802.11n and alternative architectures,” said Lamme. “You are not hearing that from network vendors, and you can imagine why. Their economic cash cow is disappearing.”

But Lamme admits that security on a wireless network remains the top issue for enterprise CIOs and CTOs, alongside performance and reliability. When asked for the issues holding European companies back from making their LAN completely wireless, 63 per cent admitted they were concerned about security; 41 per cent owned up to performance worries; 38 per cent reliability, 35 per cent speed; 31 per cent cost; and just 16 per cent scalability.

“Security is a concern that can be addressed, it is just a matter of being well educated about it,” insisted Lamme. “It surprised me that security was top of the list, as the technology exists to secure wireless networks.” He pointed to the advent of 802.1x authentication, plus encryption, as well as WPA version 2 or 802.11i.

“Enterprises need to monitor their airspace,” said Lamme. “They need to know what is going on around their network, and make sure network is compliant with their security policies. They need to make sure rogue users are not plugging into the corporate network, they need to be aware of denial of service attacks. They need a solution to identify where these rogue users are, who they are, and they need to have a solution in place to fix that. That is the reason we acquired AirDefense.”

“Security concerns can be addressed,” Lamme insisted, “It is just a matter of educating the end user.” He pointed to the retail industry, where financial transactions are carried out over the air, on wireless networks. “They have a set of rules they must comply with, rules set down by the credit card companies etc. In healthcare, different rules or policies apply.” Policies such as these can be checked by AirDefense he said.

So what about performance and reliability concerns? “802.11n really offers us the bandwidth to replace high speed links in the network,” said Lamme. “We see wireless crawling deeper into the core of the enterprise network.”

“The ability of mesh networks is also important, as meshing really offers redundancy and load balancing, which incidentally deals with those reliability concerns,” he added.

The Motorola survey found that demand for wireless was being driven by a number of factors. 57 per cent cited the strategic need for employee mobility; 43 per cent said it was demand for wireless coverage from common areas; 36 per cent said it was upgrading/replacing part of existing wired LAN; 35 per cent cited a connectivity need in remote areas; and 21 per cent said guest access/hotels.

Looking forward, the survey found that over two thirds of IT directors plan to make their LAN completely wireless by 2010.

69 per cent said they would go totally wireless in two years time, while 31 per cent said they would stick with their wired infrastructure.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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