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WLANs Make Connections at N+I

The NetWorld+Interop show began as a melding of the NetWorld exhibition, which was created by Novell in the early 1980s to promote its proprietary offerings, with the Interop event, which emphasized open standards and interoperability. Today, the show has morphed into a Vegas-style megashow that highlights whatever network-oriented technology the organizers believe will fill the convention halls. This year it was the wireless LAN.

WLANs are perfect for the N+I crowd. The Interop techies can engage in lively debates about mutual authentication, fast handoff and RTS/CTS protection. The NetWorld suits, on the other hand, couldn't care less about the technical issues. They just want technology that has compelling ROI, is easy to use and can be "seamlessly integrated" into their networks.

This year's show probably was the most significant event yet for the WLAN market. Although 802.11 Planet and similar conferences are devoted to the topic, N+I caters to a broader set of technologists and businesspeople. When you're No. 1 at N+I, you may have a bright future; the others may vanish by next year.

Aruba Wireless Networks was designated the Official eNet Wireless Provider this year. Vendors hope such a label will convince IT buyers their equipment can scale. Aruba has many significant start-up competitors, including Airespace, Chantry Networks, Legra Systems and Trapeze Networks, all of which have intriguing new multitier, centrally managed WLAN offerings. While the upstarts were bragging about superior technology and high-profile beta sites, Symbol, which beat them to market with a similar architecture a year ago, was touting its customer wins while apologizing for fewer features.

Vivato, Extreme Networks, Nortel Networks and Cisco systems also bragged of their latest WLAN breakthroughs, and the WLAN chip vendors were slugging it out for recognition. With intense competition comes innovation and lower prices. I can hardly wait to see what's in store for next year.

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