March 29, 2005, 12:38 PM — This Week's Highlighted Research:
Radicati Group, "WLAN infrastructure, security and management market, 2004-2008"
META Group Research, "WLAN security: Is it safe yet?"
Dell'Oro Group, "Dell'Oro Group Quarterly Wireless LAN Report"
In-Stat/MDR, "China's WLAN market analysis and forecast 2003-2008"
My readers know by now that I usually start out my columns with some sort of personal story or recollection. I'm writing this week's newsletter from Burma, one of the few places on earth where Internet is forbidden by law, so there are, regrettably, no technology stories here to relate, although I did enjoy seeing a beautiful, huge blue lizard outside my hotel door. There is, however, no conceivable way I can relate the issue of WLANs to my present location, so I'll just dive right in.
There are some technologies that take a little while to catch on. We first had our doubts, due to the lack of standard protocols and serious concerns over security, but it would seem that's being sorted out. The Radicati Group indicates that enterprise WLAN is making some significant headway, both through improved security, and integration with wired networks. The study predicts that by 2008, there will be 120 million WLAN users, making this a very significant market indeed. Radicati cites ease of use and roaming capabilities to be the biggest draws in decisions to deploy the technology at the enterprise level.
Is it safe? META Group answers that question in their report, noting improvements over the older, weaker Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) security model. These improvements are at least partly responsible for the recent acceptance of WLAN in the enterprise and the number of increased deployments. The new WiFi Protected Access (WPA) protocol does go a long way in making WLANs safe for the enterprise. However, META notes that the improvements still only cover basic authentication and encryption, and enterprise users of WLAN are still advised to integrate their WLAN security with LAN security.
In addition to enhanced security, the next generation of WLANs delivers higher throughput, longer range, and greater capacity, according to Datacomm Research, all contributing factors to Datacomm's bold prediction that WLAN equipment shipments will triple within five years. Datacomm agrees that enterprises have been cautious due to the security factor, but notes that the popularity of notebook PCs will force the hand of enterprise managers to offer wireless connectivity, and to ensure that those notebooks have been secured.