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Market Analysis: Enterprise Wireless LANs

Ethernet is holding its ground, for now, by virtue of being fast, cheap and relatively secure. But wireless will eventually become the default method of connecting to enterprise networks, and Ethernet will assume a secondary role as a distribution, rather than an access, technology. When that happens, will Aruba, Symbol, 3Com or any other WLAN player be able to keep Cisco from extending its wireline dominance to wireless?

 
 

That depends on whether enterprise IT pros see going with a smaller vendor as a gamble or a smart bet. We have time to contemplate this scenario, of course--the wireless play won't happen overnight. In fact, in our reader poll for this article, only about 8 percent of respondents saw Wi-Fi displacing Ethernet as the most common form of network access during the next three years

. But a wise strategist plans five or 10 years ahead, and by then a new generation of Wi-Fi gear will be broadly available, offering 10, even 100 times the performance of today's technologies.

Lots of No-Shows

Although we track developments continually, Network Computing takes an in-depth look at the enterprise WLAN space about once a year. Our evaluation in February 2005 proved interesting because we tested Cisco and Airespace gear side by side and concluded that Airespace had the better offering. Unbeknownst to us, Cisco was performing the same evaluation and agreed with our assessment. By the time our review went to press, Cisco had announced its acquisition of Airespace. Since then, the company has been busy doing what it does best: assimilating superior technology.