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Enterasys Addresses Wired-Wireless Pain

Network equipment vendor Enterasys is tackling the growing problem of managing wired and wireless devices with the latest addition to its suite of fabric network management technology, the OneFabric Edge Architecture. The combined wired-wireless management fabric relieves a number of network management headaches, especially in situations where the wired network is often managed by one vendor and the wireless network by another, says the company.

Although network and edge fabric technology from these and other vendors is catching on, a recent survey of the people who buy networking equipment showed some caution about embracing new technology too soon. InformationWeek Analytics released a survey earlier this month that showed that IT buyers favored products built to industry standards over those with the latest innovation, including network fabrics.

The report noted "a general wariness of proprietary features, where many cutting-edge capabilities are in flux--either the standards aren't complete or are yet to be widely adopted."

Those kinds of reservations are warranted, but Enterasy says its approach to fabric computing is different from that of competitors, noting that it uses an open architecture based on networking standards and that its fabric offerings are compatible with other vendors' legacy systems, something fabric competitors can't always say.

The difference between Enterasys and competitors is also based on different definitions of the term "fabric," adds Mark Townsend, director of solutions architecture for Enterasys. Enterasys endorses the research firm Gartner's definition of a network fabric as "taking a collection of resources, such as a network, and [unifying] those under a single control plane to deliver an application," he says.

Other vendors define fabric in terms of a "topology," he adds, referring to the multipath connections between switches and routers designed to make networks run faster and more efficiently and to be flatter.

"If you look at our competition, they are looking at fabric as a topology and the topologies that they are talking about are based on proprietary protocols," Townsend says.

While buyers may be wary of fabric technology, this happens all the time when new technology is introduced, particularly in networking, says Mathias. "There's always a degree of risk when you shift from the old modes of thought to the new modes of thought," he says, adding that vendors need to better educate prospective customers to overcome their reservations.

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