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Distributed Intelligence – wireless now ready for primetime

01 Jun 2011

Over the past few years, we have seen exponential growth in the number of wireless connected users using corporate networks and data centres not only for simple applications like email, web browsing and document sharing, but also for high bandwidth applications such as video. This need for hyperconnectivity, coupled with employee demands to use a range of devices such as smartphones and tablets in the workplace, is forcing enterprises to re-evaluate new cost-effective means of guaranteeing necessary quality of service.Cloud computing has emerged as one such platform to lower costs while maintaining the reliability of business systems. But traditional network architectures often pose a challenge to networking wirelessly in these environments, as they often have central points of data flow which do not effectively support high bandwidth use. The most common hurdle in a wireless cloud environment involves finding a network infrastructure that supports a high degree of scalability, performance and reliability, particularly in an age where people are becoming all the more reliant on converged communications.The most common challenges are:Scalability There is rapid growth in the number of wireless devices attaching to corporate networks and the type of bandwidth and latency sensitive applications being accessed. This requires the network to easily scale to accommodate the growth in a cost effective manner.Reliability Wireless enterprise users need to log onto a network that is capable of maintaining predictable LAN-like speeds no matter where they are. They also require a network that is highly reliable and provides several levels of redundancies and failover mechanisms to provide continuous network services in case of outages. Management of distributed networksBusinesses need networks that can easily cater to a distributed environment; one which contains headquarters, branch offices and multi-building campuses, for example. As is often the case, each arm of a business has its own network which requires dedicated IT personnel. These challenges are particularly difficult to solve when reliant on a traditional network deployment that tends to follow ‘hub and spoke’ architecture. This design forwards all network traffic from access points to a single controller, which acts as a central point of data flow. While this architecture has worked well in sectors such as retail, which traditionally did not rely on bandwidth-hungry applications, network reliability is now often being compromised as all traffic is required to travel back through a centralised controller before being routed to its targeted destination – increasing likelihood of traffic bottlenecks or complete network failure.Distributed, WirelessThe growing reliance on voice, data and video, coupled with the inevitable move by many businesses to cloud computing, has made it necessary to consider distributed intelligence architecture models that not only take advantage of the 802.11n standard, but also push wireless networking into the cloud.Distributed intelligence architecture allows for the optimised routing of data on the network or on the internet without having access points forward the traffic to the controller, thereby distributing the data directly along optimal paths and removing choke points.This new model for wireless networking allows the controller to sit comfortably in the cloud, as intelligence is built into access points at the edge which can communicate with each other. This decentralisation decreases latency issues, which in turn allows for the smooth running of mission-critical latency sensitive applications.A key aspect of this design is that it allows a number of access points to continue to function even if they lose communication with the controller, which enables the access points to continue to enforce quality of service while still bridging traffic. For wireless networks in a cloud environment this ensures increased reliability and survivability, and more predictable connectivity.Another advantage of this architecture is that the system becomes highly scalable, as a single controller can supervise up to eight times the number of access points compared with a hub and spoke design. This frees the controller to focus on large scale network and policy management and other services, resulting in a more efficient design.The act of distributing intelligence to the edge of the networks allows IT budgets to stretch further, eliminates bottlenecks and allows for greater scalability and reliability. It ensures security policy enforcement and network assurance by enabling real-time troubleshooting and spectral analysis, in addition to reducing maintenance costs.New revenue streamsDistributing intelligence to the edge also guarantees a person connecting a tablet to a cloud network can get the same connectivity as the person logging in via a desktop computer. This next-generation architecture offers resellers new revenue streams to maximise the move by companies to the cloud while redefining how a network is mapped out in the era of hyperconnectivity.Motorola Solutions is working with channel partners and supporting them with the necessary webinars, training sessions and network design tools to help meet the needs of their customers. Whether these customers are enterprises running campus networks or coffee chains trying to attract customers with an enterprise-class wireless network, wireless connectivity is now ready for prime time, and resellers are perfectly placed to take it there.

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