March 31, 2003
By Galen Gruman, editorial director, IT Wireless
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HP: Advice on Wireless Deployments

This one in an occasional series of interviews with system integrators and consultants.

"The 802.11 part of the network is the no-brainer — an IP packet will carry anything," says Bob Simmons, global director for enterprise mobility solutions at Hewlett-Packard. The complexity in deploying wireless networks involves integrating the gateways, platforms, and applications that use the wireless LAN. Going beyond the campus or building into regional or national cellular or paging networks managed by carriers and other service providers adds even more complexity for organizations that "mobilize" field and sales forces using Research in Motion BlackBerry, Pocket PC, or Palm handhelds.

Simmons finds that the typical enterprise adopter today "is mobilizing one application. But when you mobilize the next application, you probably need to work with another ISV [independent software vendor]," which can lead to multiple systems. To prevent that fractious heterogeneity, "you really have to take an architectural approach and think through where you think you are going to go in the future."

While it should be obvious to IT and business management, Simmons underscores that "you always have to start with the business problem you're trying to solve." His experience is that "the best return for wireless aren't where people think they are. The first thing they think of is that they'll deploy an email solution with BlackBerry or iPaq. That's great, but what's the real business return on that? Email is obviously part of the deployment, but it's not the point of it." Simmons recommends that enterprises ask themselves questions like the following: For mobile field service, can you do more timely repairs? Do you gain more time with call management? Can you order parts more efficiently?

Enterprises also face the challenges of any relatively new technology: a plethora of small vendors with uncertain staying power. "Enterprises are concerned whether they will stay in business," Simmons says. At the same time, "the major ISVs are slower to respond [in delivering on newer technologies such as mobile and wireless]," he says, citing Microsoft's backpedaling on MMIS, its mobile information server, that has been made a component of Microsoft Exchange rather than the originally envisioned platform. Simmons recommends that enterprises avoid basing their mobile and wireless platforms on individual ISVs' solutions. "Go instead with a general platform for the architecture, so you can replace it if necessary in the future."

With an architecture in place that isn't locked into one vendor, Simmons recommends that enterprises next invest in "a good radio site survey" for their wireless LANs. "It's amazing how many folks don't check to see if antennas' signals spill into the parking lot." Worse, "companies don't even turn on basic security functions. We're dumbfounded." With VPN overlays, encryption, device management, and authentication — "a multilayered approach" — security should not be an issue, he says.

Simmons notes that IT organizations are rightfully concerned about provisioning wireless and mobile networks. "While there are good tools like Xcellenet's, there is no real end-to-end management consoles for LANs, wireless LANs, and WANs. There's no way of doing that today."

Wireless LANs using 802.11 technology have gotten the most attention in the last two years, after initial enthusiasm for cellular-based mobile connectivity waned in 2001. Now, mobile systems are gaining a bit more attention as carriers indicate more interest in them. For mobile connectivity, Simmons expects the first full-scale, broad deployment will be in the sales and services industries. "That's still an extremely nascent area. [Even ERP market leader] Siebel really hasn't gotten its act together on mobilizing its software." A big barrier to full-scale sales and services deployment is that "the coverage of the wide area networks is not there. It's spotty, and there's latency. It's very modem-like. You're talking about sipping versus surfing," Simmons says. "Plus, this stuff's expensive. The first month I had my VoiceStream SIM card [for mobile data access over cellular networks], I had a $600 bill. The average IT manager is not going to expose his company to that kind of bill and vulnerability." Simmons says that the offering of $99 unlimited-use plans are a big step by carriers to address that adoption barrier, "but prices are still too high. Companies won't pay all those access charges."

Got deployment experience and lessons to share? Let us know at news@it-wireless.com.

From our editors
 

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PRODUCT SCAN:
The Latest in Wireless Products and Tech

One of the complaints of 802.11 technology is its fairly small range — which is great if you want to keep the signal confined and unavailable to snoopers, but not great if you want to enable campus-wide or public access. Vivato has now released its 2.4 GHz Outdoor Wi-Fi Switch, which it claims is the first Wi-Fi system designed for outdoor deployments. When mounted on an adjacent building, the Vivato switch can penetrate exterior and interior walls to provide Wi-Fi coverage throughout an entire structure. From a rooftop or tower mount, the Vivato switch provides outdoor coverage for up to four kilometers, turning hot spots into what the company calls "hot zones." The antenna is shielded in a box that measures about 3.25 feet by 3 feet by 0.5 feet. The company says its three radio beams directs up to 33Mbps of Wi-Fi capacity to active clients through an electronically controlled phased array antenna.

A significant trend in recent announcements was to make roaming easier, through both client software and provider agreements:

  • The two largest hot-spot networks — that of T-Mobile and the collection on independent hot spots that permit single-account roaming through Boingo Wireless — have agreed to develop a common access applications that will allow single-account roaming between the two hot-spot systems.
  • Three of the nation's largest fixed wireless Internet service providers — NextWeb, SkyPipeline, and SkyRiver Communications — have established a unified wireless carrier network throughout California, creating what they call the broadband wireless industry's first intercarrier interconnect agreement. The three carriers says the agreement will bring a cost-effective broadband alternative to small and medium-sized businesses now accessing the Internet through cable and telephone service providers. The service will cover more than 150 cities in California.
  • Padcom has added iDen and GPRS modules to its Connectivity Suite, which lets clients roam across different wireless and cellular networks, including CDPD, 802.11, and CDMA2000 1XRTT.
  • PCTel has released a Pocket PC version of its Segue client software that allows roaming across 802.11 networks.

Several recent developments are also noteworthy:

  • ViewSonic, best known for its line of monitors, has released Airsync, software meant for use by the developer community to provide remote device management capabilities for installation, management, and quick updating of embedded devices over Wi-Fi networks. ViewSonic offers tablet PCs, Pocket PC handhelds, wireless monitors, and wireless attachments for monitors that use the Airsync software.
  • Extended Systems has added RSA Security's BSafe Crypto-C Micro Edition software to its XTNDConnect Server to meet the industry's stringent FIPS 140-2 Level I standard, a federal security standard. XTNDConnect Server lets users synchronize Palm, Pocket PC, SyncML, Symbian, and Research in Motion mobile devices with corporate servers, including Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino, and OLE DB and ODBC databases.
  • Research in Motion has licensed to manufacturers the technology to equip their cell phones, wireless PDAs, and other mobile devices with the ability to connect to BlackBerry Enterprise Server using the same secure, push-based wireless architecture that carriers use.
  • Qualcomm will distribute Sun's Java 2 Micro Edition technology for cell phones and handhelds to those developing for Qualcomm's Mobile Station Mobile chip set, Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless operating environment, and its CDMA cellular technology.
  • Intermec Technologies has made available a beta version of its first developer libraries for the Microsoft .Net Compact Framework, Microsoft's application development framework for smart mobile devices. The Intermec libraries let IT developers use .Net Compact Framework with Intermec handhelds.
  • Berkeley Varitronics Systems has released Wolf, a calibrated multiband receiver for the Hewlett-Packard iPaq that performs full spectrum sweeps including channel/compare, adjacent channel, best servers, and scan table measurements.
  • Verizon Wireless expects to launch a commercial data service, with rates of up to 2.4Mbps, based on CDMA 1XEVDO cellular technology. It's the next step after the 1XRTT in the multiple levels of CDMA2000 standards; most CDMA-based carriers to date have been deploying 1XRTT networks, which have a maximum rate of closer to 1Mbps. Actual performance is typically a quarter the maximum rate or less.
  • BRC Communications' Faxport unit has launched SMSport, an in-house, bidirectional Short Message Service (SMS) Server that sends and receives SMS messages directly from and to corporate email systems, such as Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes Domino, and Unix and Linux mail servers. SMSport is independent of cell providers.
  • SMC Networks has released the new SMC2532W-B 2.4GHz 802.11b High Power Wireless PC Card, which has two to four times the signal power compared to competing client access cards. The company says the greater power increases the wireless access range.
  • A-propos has released the TileMaster System, a cellular-based application that lets office-based construction managers and contractors monitor in-the-field tile setters' work progress and hours.
  • Wireless-Jobs has debuted a site for wirelessly skilled IT and development professionals. The service is at www.wireless-jobs.com.

Got a great product or technology tip? Send it to news@it-wireless.com.


MARKET SCAN:

The Latest in the Wireless Marketplace


Adoption Trends

A surprising adoption trend for 802.11 last year was the fact that consumer-oriented providers such as D-Link and Linksys were gaining significant adoption in the enterprise, although typically for small and non-mission-critical wireless networks, as well as for satellite-office and work-at-home deployments. The consumer-oriented access points, client adapters, and routers were typically notably less expensive than the enterprise-class ones offered by companies such as Cisco Systems, but with just basic security and few or no management options. So it's perhaps not surprising that Cisco Systems has now acquired Linksys.

A recent Jupiter research reports shows that small businesses — those with less than $10 million in annual revenue — are the 802.11 deployment leaders, with 83% either supporting 802.11 networks today or planning to in the next 12 months. By comparison, 71% of U.S. large businesses (those generating $100 million or more in annual revenue) are supporting 802.11 networks or will do so in the next 12 months. "Nearly half (49%) of all U.S. businesses have fewer than 20% of their employees connected. Small and medium-sized businesses in particular are much more likely to have their employees connected via an 802.11 network," notes Jupiter Research senior analyst Julie Ask. Along these lines, a survey of 7,000 "white box" computer makers — companies that put together nonbranded PCs for clients — found that 51% see wireless connectivity as a significant client demand in 2003. Only lowering IT costs, at 55%, was a higher customer issue. The survey by the National Systems Builders Association also found that more than half of white-box sales go into small and medium businesses.

A tidbit from Meta Group may help enterprises plan their wireless priorities: By 2005, the research firm predicts that 95% of new corporate notebooks will have built-in wireless capabilities.

Hot-Spot Network for Truckers

The transportation and logistics industries are early adopters of mobile and wireless technologies, so it's an obvious market for 802.11 hot-spot services. Until now, most hot-spot efforts have been aimed at business travelers. But now, Columbia Advanced Wireless (CAW) will offer high-speed wireless Internet access at more than 1,000 truck stops throughout the country. According to studies by CAW, more than 25% of the 3 million truck drivers in the U.S. carry laptops. Truck drivers average 25 days a month on the road, so the abilities to quickly locate and negotiate loads, to transact banking, to maintain contact with their business partners and employers, and to track weather and road conditions should prove attractive, CAW says. The CAW network will use prepaid access cards that act like prepaid calling cards. The service is limited to laptop-based users. For security, CAW will deploy the Rocksteady NSA Network Sharing Application and IBM eServer xSeries systems running Linux as the platform for the new Internet access points. Rocksteady NSA selectively determines whether the truck driver can enter the network and dynamically manages their Internet session based on their credentials. Additional capabilities, such as dynamic bandwidth shaping and metering, help provide a high level of network performance by allocating and prioritizing bandwidth usage in real time on a user-by-user basis.


For advertising information, contact Manny Sawit at (510) 583-0855 or msawit@it-wireless.com

 

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