Controller-based wireless networks might be the norm today, but Motorola is challenging the conventional wisdom of big wireless control boxes. With wireless devices spreading like weeds and the rise of 802.11n, Motorola's interesting new WiNG 5 framework just may be a sign of things to come in the WLAN market.
Remember- vendors are touting the fact that fat 802.11n wireless pipes
and a boatload of new
client devices (and applications) bring an order of magnitude more
traffic to the network
than 11a and g ever did. To bring all of this traffic back to a central
controller can result in congestion and other network issues, and
scaling the central controller model to branch offices can be
challenging and costly.To get what WiNG 5 is all about, we need to take a quick look at other solutions in the market. A company called Aerohive Networks does intelligent 802.11n wireless without controllers. To simplify the Aerohive model- if you can eliminate the controller but keep the overall functionality that controllers provide by employing extremely capable access points, you can save serious coin on both purchasing and system operation. Aerohive is a small player in the market, and the solution's ability to scale is often questioned.
Then there are Cisco, Aruba, Bluesocket, and even Motorola itself before WiNG 5. In each vendor's solution, the APs are largely worthless without a controller, as the controller is both brain and heart of each system. And WiNG 5? Think somewhere in the middle. You may or may not need a controller with WiNG 5, and complex new magic that minimizes the vale of the controller makes for an interesting approach.
WiNG 5 is a software upgrade for existing Motorola customers, and will be rolled out with new shipping products. WiNG 5 works on existing access points and controllers, and does not introduce new hardware, only operational features. Here's where things get different: the same operating system on the controllers is on the access points with WiNG 5. Put another way, each AP can act as a controller. If that's not weird enough for you, up to 24 access points in a given environment will dynamically elect an AP to act as a controller, and the group is capable of smartly performing all of the same functions as a controller-based system. All Motorola APs can participate, including mesh nodes. So far, we're sounding a bit like Aerohove, right? Motorola's CTO Amit Sinha, and Global Product Marketing Manager Alon Lopez spent some time educating me on the rest of the WiNG 5 story.
Whether the environment is large or small, WiNG 5 deploys pretty much the same way. Whether we're talking about a large campus deployment or hundreds of branch offices, traffic optimization is the big promise of WiNG 5 by not requiring every packet to find it's way to the core. Motorola describes it as collaborative packet routing, and it feels akin to wireless mesh methods that magically know how to find the best path through a given topology, and how to sense and detour around problems.