LAS VEGAS—The demand for wireless connections shows no signs of abating for enterprise and small-business customers alike. Some of the growth in the industry was evident Wednesday on the floor of the annual Interop infrastructure show here, as vendors demonstrated a wide range of wireless add-ons and services.
Still, there was room for advances in wired networking, including refreshed lines of 40 Gigabit Ethernet hardware.
“Users are going mobile, and wireless needs to be ubiquitous,” said Sunil Dhar, director of product management at Firetide Inc., a leading maker of mesh networking products.
“Users want broadband and video over wireless,” he said, “and they want voice over wireless IP.” Dhar said that his company and those who make WiMax and other wireless technologies are working as fast as they can to meet the customer demand.
This sudden surge in demand is affecting all parts of the IT industry, from makers of infrastructure to companies that produce products providing security, network management or design.
“You have to go back to what happened with Ethernet,” said Bruce Van Nice, vice president of Trapeze Networks. “There was a groundswell of deployments.”
He explained that in most cases, companies did not have a clear benefit from choosing that standard over others, but that there was a strong belief that there would be a benefit.
He said the growth of wireless is happening the same way—companies believe that they will benefit from using wireless technologies, so they adopt the technology.
The explosion in wireless demand has brought new levels of interest to companies new and old, from new antenna designs supporting every wireless technology to applications that make the broad spectrum of wireless technologies possible to handle.
PCTel Inc., a decades-old manufacturer of antenna products, is bringing new antennas designed for new wireless applications.
TeleCommunication Systems Inc. meanwhile has created a new management tool for handling all of those new wireless devices. In between, everyone seems to have a wireless offering of one sort or another.
Firetide showed its new line of indoor mesh networking access points, designed to allow companies to create full, unrestricted coverage for employees.
The company says that their design uses wireless communications for the “backhaul” (the communication with the network head end), which makes deployment a simple process of finding a good spot for the access point and plugging in the power.
Trapeze, meanwhile, announced a series of partnerships with 3Com Corp., Enterasys Networks Inc., D-Link Systems Inc. and Nortel Networks Corp. to provide its wireless switches and wireless switch technology to increase security and management capabilities on wireless networks. Trapeze was featured in the exhibits of six different companies at Interop.
PCTels Antenna Products Group showed a new multiband, multiservice antenna that lets users combine functions. It can be used for 2.4GHz and 5GHz communications, including Wi-Fi, WiMax and public safety communications. Previously, such installations required separate antennas, leading to visual clutter and to some operational problems that the new antennas solve.
TeleCommunication Systems is providing a new service to deal with the explosion of wireless devices and services within companies. The new service, called Mobeo, is an outsourcing suite for wireless enterprise users. The goal of the service is to give enterprise managers a single point of contact for all of their wireless needs, anywhere.
Mobeo would present a single bill, a single help desk and the means to handle different requirements in different locations. The service would support everything from phones and BlackBerry devices to wireless data.
Yankee Group analyst George Hamilton said that until now, the difficulty of managing diverse wireless requirements has led to companies denying some productivity improvements to employees. “This management platform means you can benefit from the productivity, rather than limiting it,” he said.
Enterasys Networks showed its new RoamAbout secure wireless switches. The new switch can manage endpoints and access points on the network, and alert managers to noncompliant and rogue devices on the network. It can also shut those devices out of the network.
About the only thing missing from the exhibits was commercial-quality wireless VOIP (voice over IP). There was a smattering of products, but not everyone saw what they needed. According to network manager Steve Tanguary, from Silver Star Communications, of Freedom, Wyo., what he most wanted to see was wireless VOIP.
“Were getting ready to roll out VOIP in the next few weeks,” he said. He added that he also wished there had been some customer service outsourcing providers at the show. “We need 24-by-7 tech support,” he said.
The wireless explosion does not mean that the wired network has vanished, however. Ample Communications Inc. relaunched its 40 Gigabit Ethernet hardware. According to vice president Marek Tlalka, the product was originally launched in 2003, but market conditions werent right. He said that now, buoyed by strong interest by the U.S. government and by carriers including Deutsche Telekom, his company is starting to see commercial demand for 40-gigabit networking.
“Were the first commercial product on the market,” Tlalka said, noting that while Cisco Systems Inc. has been working on a similar product, its not currently available on the open market. He said that he expects the first volume purchasers will be the test and measurement industry and makers of 40-gigabit routers. “Systems for testing will be available within twelve months,” he said.