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Point/Counterpoint: Nortel's 'Unwired Enterprise'

NWC wireless technology analysts Frank Bulk and Dave Molta offer up differing views on Nortel's plans to integrate WLAN functionality directly into Ethernet switches.

Last week, Nortel announced its dream of the "Unwired Enterprise." In that announcement, the company described how it would integrate WLAN functionality directly into Ethernet switches. We asked our resident Wi-Fi experts, Frank Bulk and Dave Molta, what they thought. Turns out, they see things quite differently:

Frank Bulk:
I echo Chris Silva of Forrester Research when I say that Nortel comes in at a good time. First of all, the introduction of 802.11n offers a clean break for a vendor to get into the market. Nortel has made a lot of news about its MIMO work in WiMax, so to a certain extent this is a natural extension. Second, tied to the introduction of 802.11n is a reconsideration of the centralization of the data plane, and considering that Nortel has some switching gear, it makes perfect sense for the company to return the pendulum from the overlay network to the mixed-plane architecture and move toward the vision of a unified LAN architecture, wired or wireless.

I recently asked Trapeze about software development and its OEMs' (of which Nortel is currently one) participation, and David Cohen, the company's director of product marketing, said Trapeze's partners usually take a back seat and let Trapeze run the show, providing user interface customization as required, but little back-end technology.

Do I think that Nortel can compete effectively in the enterprise networking gear space? No, not really. Foundry and Extreme continue to trail Cisco and HP, so I don't see Nortel making any major strides, but it will prompt HP and Cisco to follow similar routes.

I also wonder if Nortel will allow existing Trapeze APs to be used via a software upgrade. This must be hitting Trapeze rather hard in the solar plexis, and there aren't any other large vendors to tie themselves to. Trapeze will really have to work the channel with its own brand to keep up with Aruba.

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