For other purveyors of wired and wireless gear, including Enterasys, Extreme, Foundry, Hewlett-Packard and 3Com, all of which partner with third parties for WLAN services, the level of integration is thin at this point. The reason for this goes beyond the challenges associated with integrating wired and wireless to reflect the complexity that's still associated with delivering enterprise-class wireless.
For technology professionals looking at wireless as a tactical service, either approach will likely meet your needs. For more strategic, pervasive deployments, the level of integration required will vary depending on your security policies and the nature of your wireless applications. Delivering enterprise hotspot service is getting a lot easier; implementing pervasive wireless VoIP, location services and granular multilayer security is not.
Last but not least, don't discount the very real possibility of finger-pointing between wired and wireless vendors when things go wrong. Purchasing best-of-breed technology for every network application sounds great in principle, but minimizing the number of vendors you deal with to maintain adequate service levels almost always simplifies operations. That puts Cisco in a clear position of market leadership. Yes, its gear may cost a little more, and you may need to navigate through the complexities of a mega-company for support. But when it comes to wireless, it's a safe bet you won't be giving up much for this added level of comfort.
Dave Molta is a Network Computing senior technology editor. He is also assistant dean for technology at the School of Information Studies and director of the Center for Emerging Network Technologies at Syracuse University. Write to him at [email protected].
WLAN Gear By The Numbers
Here's how the 2005 worldwide WLAN market shapes up:
52% Cisco Systems' share of overall market revenue
$1.07 billion Total vendor revenue, an increase of 18 percent over the $0.9 billion spent in 2004
74% Number of standalone access points shipped that were 802.11g. The breakdown of other physical standards: 12% for 802.11b, 14% for 802.11a/g
Source: Gartner Dataquest