As more and more smart mobile devices enter the workplace and attach to the enterprise Wi-Fi network thanks to the bring-your-own device (BYOD) phenomenon, it’s more than a security or management issue for the business. The No.1 issue with BYOD today, according to wireless infrastructure provider Xirrus, is the sheer number of devices proliferating on the network and the strain this puts on the Wi-Fi infrastructure. IT departments are thus scrambling to re-architect their networks to be BYOD-ready—opening a door for a consultative channel partner.
“Bring your own device is rapidly ushering in the mobile computing era,” said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. “While much of the industry has focused on issues such as access, mobile device management (MDM) and security, these are not the main issues when it comes to a successful IT strategy.”
Users frequently complain that Wi-Fi works better in the home than it does in the office, as guests, contractors, partners and employees are all showing up in unpredictable numbers and with multiple device types. Thus, channel partners should seek out functionality dedicated to managing user access, application access, device access and network requirements for BYOD deployments. The combination of performance and policy enforcement puts IT back in control and ensures the wireless network responds predictably under a heavy load.
It’s a business imperative for many enterprises and small- and medium-sized businesses. “The current generation of mobile workers demand a high-quality wireless experience all of the time,” said Kerravala. “They depend on it and when it’s not delivered, productivity drops, ultimately costing the company productivity, profits and possibly brand reputation.”
Businesses face a rash of new requirements in dealing with BYOD, Xirrus noted, starting with the first step: creating more wireless capacity to deal with more users and more devices—installing more access points and upgrading any aging systems to the latest 802.11n standard (and, in 2013, to the 802.11ac “5G” version).
“Users are massively frustrated that they get better Wi-Fi performance at home than they do in the office or public places,” said Shane Buckley, CEO of Xirrus. “BYOD has compounded this issue and brought it to the forefront of IT issues. This shift to BYOD has been so rapid and pervasive that a network build-out just to augment existing wireless bandwidth has become the highest imperative.”
But step two is to control the applications in use so the network responds predictably under a heavy load. Increases in video and VDI application traffic are creating greater strain on network performance than more traditional applications. In addition, the requirements of employee-purchased applications such as box.net, Evernote and iCloud are frequently unknown, as is their impact on the network.
A third step is securing the network to support unknown users and unknown devices. Specific types of devices may already be known and managed by IT, while others may be unknown and unmanaged and therefore affect the network in unpredictable ways. Complicating the challenge, new device types are being introduced at a rapid rate, which can make the existing network obsolete without a ‘rip-and-replace’ upgrade.
Network optimization comes next: Optimizing the network for specific devices and applications such as Apple Airplay and Airprint require network optimizations to work effectively in the enterprise, as do specific devices that have different types of radios, antennas, power levels and connection capabilities.
The network also must be optimized for high transaction density to ensure maximum throughput. Because IT doesn’t know how many devices will be connecting to the network or which applications they are running, sizing the network becomes orders of magnitude more complex.
The requirements are many, but the situation is dire, Buckley added. “In many organizations, fixed-bandwidth wireless APs put a damper on access times and introduce excessive latencies across the entire wireless infrastructure, choking mobile computing,” Buckley said. What’s required is a “360-degree view of the BYOD challenge, addressing both the performance and the control requirements that BYOD deployments are starting to face.”
Xirrus is addressing many of these areas with its portfolio, it noted, and is relying on its new Xirrus Alliance Network (XAN) partner program to empower channel, managed services, consulting services and technology partners of wireless network technology to deliver best-in-class mobile solutions for the enterprise. The XAN is built on a two-tier model, with resellers purchasing from Xirrus authorized distributors, gaining support and deal opportunities to increase their wireless networking business.