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Market Analysis: Enterprise Wireless LANs: Page 9 of 13

Lab Tested: Cisco Unified Wireless Network

Cisco Systems sent key elements of its Unified Wireless Network to our Syracuse University Real-World Labs®. These appliances, controllers and APs blur the lines between Cisco's market-leading wired network gear and the enterprise WLAN. (See "Picking the Pieces" , for a rundown of components.)

The Unified Wireless Network is based on the products and technologies Cisco picked up when it acquired Airespace. Cisco says standalone IOS-based APs will still be supported, but companies looking for superior management tools and advanced functionality, such as fast roaming, mesh services and location capabilities, should consider phasing in UWN devices. Click here for info on migrating from autonomous wireless networks to the newer architecture.

Those planning new Cisco controller-based networks, or expanding existing ones, will need the WCS (Wireless Control System). For testing, we entered a floor plan of our lab with an aerial map view, specified the type of APs and antennas we wanted, whether to optimize for coverage or capacity, and our throughput expectations. While WCS provided an educated guess at how many APs we should deploy, its features are not as comprehensive as those found in some third-party planning tools.

We also evaluated WCS' monitoring and reporting capabilities. We quickly saw an aggregate view of network health from a dashboard that provides data on controllers, APs, rogue APs and client activity, and we could drill down to specific devices and events. We generated canned reports on items including client counts, transmit power and channel and AP activity, based on historical data from the previous seven days. While the reports are elementary, they provide trend information. Overall, the built-in security-monitoring and reporting capabilities will meet the basic needs of enterprises without specific compliance or regulatory requirements; others may want to consider a wireless IDS/IPS system.