Protecting 802.11b investments

As I discussed last time, faster flavors of business-class wireless LANs are coming, and several versions are contending for status as the next 802.11x standard. To protect yourself from expensive upgrades, you could hold off making wireless LAN purchases till year-end, when the status of 802.11a, 802.11g and HiperLAN/2 become clearer. Or you could lease equipment under a 2-year contract. In addition, some vendors have attempted to future-proof at least part of your wireless LAN gear so that you don’t have to throw it all away when standards change and your speed requirements increase.

That was one of the design principles behind Proxim’s Harmony line, for example. Lynn Chroust, director of Proxim’s commercial business unit, explains that the company separated the management and security aspects from the radio capabilities of its 802.11b-compliant Harmony LAN so customers could " deal with multiple wireless technologies in a sensible manner. "

Here’s the rub: You actually purchase an extra piece of equipment, called an access point (AP) controller, which sits in the wiring closet and has a multiple-year shelf life. Then, you purchase traditional (but less expensive) APs for mounting throughout the enterprise, as well as traditional 802.11b LAN cards. The strategy is that if you decide to upgrade to a different technology, you can continue to leverage the investment you have made in management and security functionality, as well as the learning curve of your IT staff. You still have to buy new APs and PC cards at some point, but at least you get to keep some of your investment.

Proxim cited the following list prices for its Harmony equipment:

* AP controller: $1,495

* AP: $599

* PC card: $199

This story, "Protecting 802.11b investments " was originally published by Network World.

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