"Unified Wireless" in the Air

DQI Bureau
New Update

The enterprise network infrastructure is evolving. Traditional wired

enterprises are now tasked to support wireless devices such as laptops, PDAs,

and VoWLAN phones. They are also expected to deliver advanced services, such as

greater security, seamless mobility and guaranteed quality of service (QoS).

Wireless access, one of the several factors driving these advanced services, is

currently provided as a separate overlay network on top of the wired

infrastructure. From an IT perspective, the need to manage two distinctly

different networks has always added to the complexity and proved to be a drain

on the resources.


By contrast, a single network would simplify management, deployment,

provisioning and security for all users. However, it must be engineered from a

blank slate for its peak performance.

Ubiquitous wireless access

Ethernet (802.11 or Wi-Fi) continues to improve in terms of performance,

security, scalability and manageability. The ongoing standards process has

addressed many of the most pressing concerns for enterprise customers, including

interoperability, security (802.11i) and quality of service (802.11e).

Compelling new applications like VoWLAN, using dual mode (cellular and Wi-Fi)

handsets, will further increase its appeal. In many cases, wireless is becoming

a preferred method for accessing enterprise resources. Therefore, companies must

provide wireless coverage throughout the enterprise.

E-nabling unified networks

A new, third generation approach is required to enable the mass deployment

of wireless access in the enterprise. Networking equipment must be based on

dedicated, purpose-built silicon to overcome the shortcomings of current

solutions. However, application-specific silicon should not simply be an

integration of standard components used in second-generation systems. To

effectively address the unique packet processing requirements of unified

wired/wireless networks, the silicon must be built using an architecture

designed from the ground up. Such purpose-built silicon must be capable of

switching wireless and wired traffic as well as supporting in-line/wire-speed

processing of various packet types, multiple encapsulations, different security

protocols, mobility standards and traffic management functions. Using a single

piece of silicon will also lower cost and provide the best combination of

price/performance, features, scalability and simplicity of design.

What CIOs

need to look at
The CIO faces

the unenviable task of managing the ever-growing expectations

of users, emerging technologies, and overall cost. The current

generation of wireless LAN infrastructure systems consists of

purpose-built embedded platforms, built around standard,

off-the-shelf semiconductors. Such systems typically include a

wired L2/L3 switch, network processor(s), security co-processor(s),

and a high performance control plane CPU. These semiconductor

components are not optimized to handle packet processing

requirements of a combined wireless and wired network. Here

are some of key aspects all CIOs need to address:


With the enterprise workforce becoming increasingly mobile,
the network infrastructure must deliver seamless network

connectivity. Enterprise networks should be able to transfer a

VoWLAN call from one access point to another. Similarly, a

laptop user should be able to move from one location to

another without having to re-establish user credentials.

Methods used for user authentication need to be harmonized,

regardless of whether the user is accessing the network

remotely over a broadband connection or wirelessly within the

enterprise or using traditional wired connection.
Advanced QoS

The need for QoS to support a variety of packet streams such
as voice, video and data is well understood in wired networks.

Access over a wireless medium, which is a shared and

comparatively low bandwidth medium, adds another dimension to

the QoS challenge. Next generation networks must support

delivery of different packet types from different connectivity

environments, without compromising the performance.

Perimeter Security

With the proliferation of wireless access points, the entire
LAN edge of the enterprise network becomes vulnerable. So

networks must evolve to address this security challenge. All

users trying to connect to the LAN cannot be assumed to be

legitimate users, and therefore, some form of trust-based

access policies ("wireless" or "perimeter"

firewall) must be implemented at the network (LAN) endpoints

inside the enterprise.

Total Cost of Ownership

With the increase

in services, network administrators must be able to control,

configure, manage and diagnose problems quickly and

efficiently. Unified architecture will allow centralized

control, reducing the overall cost of managing the network.

Advanced network services and wireless technology have pushed the limits of

current generation networking equipment. For enterprises to truly leverage the

benefits that combined wireless and wired networks provide, the network

infrastructure must move in the direction of one network edge with no limits on

performance, security, mobility and scalability.

Market dynamics

Wireless networking is here and growing rapidly. Enterprises have overcome

their early hesitation in embracing wireless networking. The desire for mobility

in the workplace-which is seen as a way to increase productivity -is driving

the demand for wireless networks and applications. At the same time, some

companies view wireless as the ideal solution for providing network access for

"greenfield" deployments. In addition, concerns about standards and

security have been met.


The need for unified wired and wireless networks has created a growing market

opportunity. Until now, enterprises were treating WLAN networks as overlay

networks, distinct from their wired networks. But network managers would now

prefer to work with a single, unified, seamless network. Users can then take

advantage of traditionally wired services, while accessing the network using the

mode that is most appropriate to their application.

OEMs are looking for ways to add value and improve profitability. While WLAN

device shipments have exceeded forecasts, average selling prices for devices

like wireless switches are falling quickly. OEMs need new, dedicated silicon

technologies that allow them to build more intelligence into their products and

improve performance, while maintaining their margins and lowering the overall

cost of production.

Today, the only silicon solutions in the market that meet feature-performance

requirements for unified network management are based on technology that was

designed for other purposes. These solutions are costly, and do not offer

compelling features or performance as well as require a long time to develop.

What is required is a ground up approach, especially targeted to resolve this




Wireless standards have been growing to embrace various issues like QoS,

security, mobility and interoperability. Many new standards have emerged in

these areas:

  • 802.11i-Security
  • 802.11e-QoS
  • 802.11p-Wireless in automobile
  • 802.16-WiMax
  • Capwap (standard between WTP and Edge network/WLAN Switch)

A lot of R&D activity is happening on how to percolate

unified networks into the enterprise at reasonable costs. Several startups and

chip vendors are working on the latest standards and technologies.

Anirudh Mathuria, Country Head, Sinett

Semiconductor India