It's the time of year for looking ahead and predicting hot IT trends for next year. But rather than tell you what I think will happen next year in the WLAN industry, I'll share my wish list for 2017. This WLAN architect and administrator is looking forward to next year, and I have high hopes for a number of things that would make life better for both me and the clients that I support. I have a feeling I’m not alone with some of these.
Less code bugs. I’ve spent a fair number of hours in 2016 dealing with code issues on my network equipment. Some of these have resulted in days and weeks of debug and working with various vendor support groups. That time could have been better spent advancing other projects, and I’m hoping for fewer buggy products in the coming year.
Consistent support. When those bugs do show up, it seems that far too often tech support tells a different story than the vendors’ online community of Champions, Whizkids, and Experts in customer support communities. Talk about the bug with a VAR buddy or another customer suffering your pain; the same vendor often will provide them with another take on the same problem that you’re dealing with! This has to improve.
Dial the hype down. If you have a talent for marketing and a wild imagination, you might want to work for a WLAN vendor. This is the realm of fantastic claims where everyone is the “industry leader” in this or that, has the “industry’s first” or “best” of whatever new thing just came out. PR folks have no qualms about touting theoretical performance numbers that those of us in the trenches chuckle at for their absurdity. Maybe a little relief here? The non-techies in the business hear this stuff, and we are left holding the bag trying to explain why a technology falls short of its promise.
Space those conferences out. There are so many excellent wireless-related conferences to go to these days; we’re really fortunate. At the same time, many of us have real jobs and commitments and can’t hit every event out there. We have to pick and choose carefully between the likes of Interop ITX, Aruba Atmosphere, Cisco Live, Wireless LAN Pros Conference, CWNP, and many others. These conferences sometimes are bunched one week after another, which makes it especially difficult. Since 2017's conference schedule is mostly set, this is really a 2018 wish.
An affordable cloud-managed security appliance. Companies like Cucumber Tony and Open Mesh did well in 2016 by providing dirt-cheap cloud managed WiFi products. Open Mesh even added cloud-managed switches to their license-free portfolio. Now if we could get a cloud-managed security appliance/edge router kind of thing in this space, it could be extremely disruptive to even the small enterprise market by providing a complete network solution managed in one place (like Meraki on the cheap). I’d love to see this in 2017.
A native “virtual client” for performance testing. Regardless of what WLAN gear is in play, we’d all benefit by being able to use an installed AP as what I call a virtual client. It would emulate a real client device and perform 802.1X or PSK authentication, DHCP, DNS, and some battery of connectivity tests with reporting on all via my network-management system. Yes, I could buy 7signal or NetBeez for this capability, but I want it built into my WLAN system.
Modern client devices. Whether we’re talking printers, medical devices, or display mirroring products, device makers have to realize that everything makes it way to the business wireless network. They also have to realize that we’re no longer living in 1998. Drivers, radios, certificate support, and authentication capabilities all need to be modernized. It’s hard to squeeze cutting-edge 11ac Wave 2 performance out of client devices that can’t let go of 11b/g mindsets.
Expose CPU utilization. I don’t care what the device is or whether it’s cloud-managed or locally configured; every device on the network should tell us what its CPU is doing at any given time. Too often we have no idea if APs, switches, and security appliances are CPU-constrained because the vendor has chosen to hide that detail. It’s an important little nugget, and we should have access to it for devices that we purchased.
I could go on, but these are my top wishes for the wireless year ahead. To me, these are all realistic and in some cases way overdue. Let's hope for the best in 2017!