Bummers in WLAN Land

None of the following gripes are the industry’s biggest problems. At the same time, they are nuisances and occasionally rise to the level of major headache. Some of these apply to WLANs of all sizes, others are far more applicable to bigger wireless environments. The remainder? They’re just goofy. If any one of these were to be corrected or adjusted a bit, the wireless world we live in would be a little sunnier. In time, each and every one of these will “age out” and cease to irritate, but for now they are fair game to call out into the light  of day. I got me a license to bitch, and here it comes, in no specific order:

  • Why are those cheap bastards at the laptop factory still putting out 2.4 GHz-only capable computers? It can’t cost more than a couple bucks to provide a dual-band adapter in even the cheesiest laptop during manufacturing. Yet you have to look fairly hard, and often get into some serious upgrade dollars, to find a consumer-grade laptop (beyond Macbooks that come with dual-band 11n in all cases) that features both bands. It’s almost unheard of in the “Sunday Specials” that feature prominently in the BYOD demographic. We all suffer for the side effects, and it’s about time Acer, ASUS, Lenovo, and the other economy-class PC makers stepped up and became better citizens of the WLAN community.
  • What’s Up With Gartner’s Quadrant When It Comes to Wireless Vendors? Gartner has always been a bit polarizing in their analysis of various technology sectors, but they flat out blew it with eliminating the WLAN-specific quadrant in favor of including only “unified” vendors.  It boils down to these:
    • Sure, some vendors make Ethernet switches and wireless APs. But in many environments, switches do little more than provide PoE for APs. Big flippin’ deal.
    • When a company as radio and antenna savvy as Ruckus can’t make it into The Quadrant because they don’t have switches, there’s something seriously wrong.
    • A Unified Quadrant isn’t bad, but it’s incomplete and therefor a disservice to the industry. It’s time to bring back a WLAN only Quadrant, and a switching-only view IN ADDITION TO the unified Quadrant.
  • Apple really missed the boat by not including 11ac in their very expensive new iPhones. The Big A should be a better steward of the client device space’s future. If Samsung can do it, so can the Gods of Cupertino’s Mountain of Cash. Instead of breathing life and craze into early 11ac adoption, Apple cheaped out and disappointed the fans (and wireless admins) that were hoping for more out of Apple’s phone, especially for the money.
  • Apple’s Bonjour. Enough already. Fix it, and do your part to provide some pain relief to the wireless shepherds of the BYOD fields where your gadgets roam free.
  • Cisco’s Wireless Management System. It’s WCS! It’s NCS! It’s NCS Prime! It’s Prime Infrastructure! Whatever it’s called this week, it’s still buggy, slow, frustrating, and demanding of it’s own FTE staff just to keep it breathing at times. To think about putting switches into this same management framework as wireless on very large networks as “unified” gets deeper into the management paradigm is the stuff of horror- unless we see a major overhaul soon. Too much of the WLAN market relies on this sometime-train wreck to not improve it.
  • The Fallacy of Interoperability and Standards in the WLAN Space. Sure, we check our wireless devices for the famous Wi-Fi Alliance seal of approval that should mean all is well when devices need to talk with other devices, but there’s a lot more to the equation. Consumer-grade stuff often doesn’t play well in the Enterprise but nothing on the packaging explains the delineation. And… I can’t mix and match enterprise WLAN hardware or features like I can Ethernet switches. This is arguably the way it has to be, but its also a royal pain in the butt at times. Vendor lock is real, for better or worse.

We’ve all got things that steam our clams when it comes to wireless networking. These are on my short list this week. The world certainly doesn’t have to change on my say so, but at the same time time I can squawk about it, by golly.

7 thoughts on “Bummers in WLAN Land

  1. Veli-Pekka Ketonen

    Very relevant points! Nice blog Lee.

    My #1 of these is having only 2.4 GHz band supported in most laptops. That causes massive problems for end users (not to forget network managers) especially in education where consumer grade laptops are used in very dense areas.

    Maybe one of the first pactical actions from 802.11HEW standardization is to ban selling laptops with 2.4 GHz only radios. Industry clearly needs some practical guidelines to clean up the mess that’s getting worse all the time. I’m still really hopeful that IEEE 802.11 HEW work in collaboration with WiFi Alliance will result something practical in this ecosystem that helps quickly. Not only wider bandwidth and more complex modulation for products coming out in 2018. Another one in the same category would be to force manufacturers stop supporting 802.11b and in a few years -g/a should make company.

  2. A

    I sooooo much with you on 2.4GHz issue. One can spend $2000+ on a top-range HP/Dell/younameit laptop that will have 3D sound and 3D screen, but still only 2.4GHz WLAN card!

    (Everything else is also very well noted 🙂 )

  3. Just another IT guy

    I certainly agree with all of your points Lee, but the WCS, NCS, NCS Prime, Prime Infrastructure crap from Cisco…Holy Smokes what a PITA! Did those guys fire the entire QA department? There is no way someone took a look at this *final product* and said that “yep, it’s good to go…users will love it!”

      1. Just another IT guy

        I feel like they are trying to smash too many products together without spending the time to start from scratch and provide the “single pane of glass” product that they claim Prime is. You can’t take NCS and WCS (both crap BTW), smash them together and expect a revolutionary product. If you want an all inclusive management system, invest the time and come up with something that works! Don’t just reboot software that only worked marginally to begin with.

      2. wirednot Post author

        Agreed. And beyond just suck factor of the product, some customers could actually care less about unification of everything. Because its buzz worthy and works in some cases does not make it something we all automatically want or are ready to embrace, especially on the management side. And as you point out, you can’t build a new house on an old foundation made of turd.

  4. Pingback: Bummers in WLAN Land - Gestalt IT

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