The Design Evolution of Wireless LAN Solutions

When it comes to wireless LANs, today’s businesses have a choice — implement a solution with on-premises physical controllers or deploy a cloud-based wireless managed by a service provider. Many companies face this choice, especially those looking to upgrade their legacy networks, as well as companies deploying greenfield wireless networks. Ultimately, the decision will depend on the company structure, current network design and mobility requirements.

Here’s a brief look at the evolution of wireless network design:

  1. Originally, enterprise WLANs were designed so each wireless access point was independently configured and managed. Companies would designate hotspots, such as conference rooms and lobbies, where few wired ports existed.
  1. When wireless access demand started to grow drastically, businesses needed to upgrade their infrastructures. Wireless networks expanded to cover entire buildings and campuses. In this early configuration, access points could not communicate with each other. As a result, technical issues surfaced, including interference.
  1. Enter the wireless LAN controller. The controller was designed to solve the network issues by configuring the access points so they could communicate together and enforce policy. The controller became the brains of the entire wireless network. The controller solved many issues and allowed network administrators to configure it to:
  • Modify wireless channels to deal with interference
  • Change wireless signal strength
  • Switch clients among access points
  1. Now, the latest wireless innovations have moved to the cloud. The physical hardware controller has been eliminated and replaced by a virtual controller that resides in the cloud. Each controller solution manages the traffic flow differently. In on-premise solutions, both control (i.e. management) and data-plane communication is routed back to the controller. In virtual designs, the control and data planes are separated – data-plane information is off-loaded before it arrives at the network.

The right design for your business depends on a number of factors. How much available budget do you have to invest in wireless network implementation? Do you have sufficient IT staff with the necessary expertise and time to manage an on-premises solution? Are your business mobility demands growing? How many locations do you need to support? Answers to these questions will help you identify the best choice for your situation.

To learn more about wireless LAN solutions, download FairPoint Communications’ latest white paper titled “How Managed Wireless LAN Solutions Transform Business Operations.”

Bob is the Product Manager responsible for Hosted PBX at FairPoint Communications, a leading provider of advanced communications technology in northern New England and 14 other states across the U.S.