Don't give in to irrational exuberance over the latest Wi-Fi standard. Cold, hard calculations are called for.
In most enterprises, Ethernet plus a little Wi-Fi equals network access. Sure, some industries thrive on wireless LANs, but more commonly, Wi-Fi is a convenience, deployed to provide mobile access to information in public spaces.
Proponents of the emerging 802.11n standard say that dynamic is poised to change. They argue that the speed and range improvements in 11n will let organizations relegate wired Ethernet to the core and distribution layers of the network. Wi-Fi will emerge as the main access medium. And of course, this newfound mobility will forever alter the way people work, increasing productivity.
If Ethernet is a conventional org structure, they say, Wi-Fi is the matrix.
The big question for IT: Is this a compelling vision of the future or just another round of industry hype? Upward of 200 million Wi-Fi chipsets were sold in 2007, according to InStat. If you care to bet that those numbers will decline in coming years, you'll find plenty of action. Meanwhile, the 802.11n standard will likely be ratified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in mid- to late 2008, and 11n will soon make up the vast majority of Wi-Fi chipset and system sales. You do the math.
Still, time marches on. At issue for most enterprises is not whether they'll deploy 802.11n, but when and how.
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