Motorola Rolls Out Enhanced WLAN Architecture

Motorola unveils its Wing 5 wireless LAN architecture, which puts more intelligence and services into the access point to make the architecture more scalable and resilient.

BOSTON-Motorola officials are looking to bring greater reliability and scalability to enterprise wireless networks by adding greater intelligence and services to access points on the edge of the network.

At an event here Oct. 5, Motorola unveiled it Wing 5 wireless LAN 802.11n architecture, which is designed to enable IT departments to provide a better user experience for users in mobile data, voice and video services.

Where some WLAN solutions put all the services and intelligence in the WLAN controller, Motorola is putting the same code and services that are found on the controller onto the access points. The self-healing Wing 5 architecture allows for greater flexibility and resiliency to the wireless network, according to Motorola officials. Access points will now have security capabilities, ensure QoS (quality of service) levels, and offer rerouting of traffic if there is a slowdown due to overloads or other problems.

"We saw a wonderful opportunity to reinvent the wireless network to avoid those bottlenecks," Bob Sanders, senior vice president and general manager of Motorola's Enterprise Mobility Solutions business, said during the launch event.

The result is better application performance, security and scalability on the network. Motorola officials offered demonstrations of the technology, showing how videos streamed over the network can continue running even when the controller is taken down.

They also demonstrated video streaming to 84 laptops through a single AP 7131N access point, setting the record in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most powerful access point. A Motorola spokesperson said this was the first entry into the world famous list of records for the most powerful access point, setting the baseline for others to follow.

"What we are doing essentially is making access points as intelligent as the controller," said Amit Sinha, CTO of Motorola's Enterprise Wireless LAN business.

Wing 5 also helps cut costs for enterprises by reducing the number of access points and controllers needed, and making its easier for businesses to right-size their wireless networks.

The technology is available now in Motorola's RFS 4000 controller and AP 650 access point, and will be phased in to the RFS 6000 and 7000 controllers and AP 6411, 7131 and 7181 access points. That will be completed in the first quarter of 2011, according to Motorola.

This type of flexible and resilient architecture is becoming increasingly important as wireless devices-from laptops and netbooks to smartphones and tablet PCs-proliferate, according to Motorola's Sanders. Enterprises are increasingly turning to wireless technology, and that trend will only continue. Last year, more than 2.4 billion mobile applications were downloaded, according to Motorola.

Joe Griffin, CTO of the Keller Independent School District, said officials in the Dallas, Texas, school district voted in 2008 to spend $23 million to upgrade the IT infrastructure, and the decision was made to focus on wireless technology. The district has 33,000 students and 3,686 employees spread out over 38 campuses, and school officials wanted to make it easy for students and faculty to be able to use whatever mobile devices they had to access the network.

"Students pull out whatever device they have, whatever they have from home, and they connect," Griffin said during the Motorola event.

Motorola technology is enabling school district IT workers to make this happen, and Wing 5 will go a long way in helping ensure that students and faculty get access to the wireless services they need.

"[Wireless connectivity] is not a luxury anymore," he said. "It's a necessity."

Craig Mathias, an analyst with the Farpoint Group, said the trend toward mobile is inevitable.

"You name it, everybody is going to be wireless," Mathias said during the event.

Given that, scalable, secure and flexible wireless architectures are going to be critical going forward, and they must address a host of issues, from throughput to capacity to total cost of ownership, he said. And how vendors build their architecture will help differentiate their offerings from those of competitors, particularly since many of the architectures share common components.

Motorola's Wing 5 architecture, with its more intelligent access points, is an interesting approach, Mathias said.

"You don't want everything to be done in the controller," he said. "Access points can have a lot more intelligence in them."

In an interview with eWEEK after the event, Mathias said that currently, most vendors have the bulk of the intelligence in their controllers, while some have it in their access points. Motorola's approach has merit.

"I'm intrigued by this," he said. "I can't tell you it's absolutely the right thing to do, but it's very interesting."