The debates over bring your own device (BYOD) to work rage on, but many companies who are in favor of BYOD are struggling with the increased demands these devices bring.
One of the biggest blind spots for BYOD businesses remains Wi-Fi deployment—ensuring that wireless networks can maintain the onslaught of consumer devices.
The introduction of the iPhone in 2007 can be seen as the genesis of the BYOD movement because of the incredible technology advances it exhibited. The iPhone carries enough computing power to run business applications and enable robust, simultaneous voice and video communications.
These devices, paired with their inherent computing power, and ease-of-use spurred all new use cases for smart devices and drove Wi-Fi adoption by consumers, who began bringing them to work and demanding to use them to become more productive.
Additionally, commercial enterprises began to realize that leveraging virtualization on these low-cost devices would allow users to securely and reliably run mission critical operations. As a result, we’ve seen enterprises with “Apple-only” policies continue to grow.
In fact,Research has shown that Apple's devices accounted for 71 percent of new device activations in the enterprise in 2011.
This in turn, gave birth to the iEverything Enterprise—organizations run exclusively with iPads, iPhones, and other Apple devices.
These types of enterprises have some inherent strengths including reduced workforce computing costs, increased mobility, increased security, and their ability to easily share information between devices.
The unforeseen issue for many iEverything Enterprises is the effect these devices have on wireless networks.
Applications being run on “iDevices” are robust, real-time, and mission critical.
A March 2012 study indicated that by 2016, the average mobile user will be browsing six times as many web pages and downloading 14 times as many megabytes of applications on their handset as in 2011. When that statistic is translated into the enterprise Wi-Fi realm, it can spell trouble.
For many companies, the initial reaction to the increased Wi-Fi burden of iDevices will be to curtail the applications that run on employee devices.
Unfortunately, dialing back on employee app usage may limit their productivity and mobility. As mentioned earlier, Apple devices are an incredible asset to companies, so limiting their functionality will have a negative effect on their overall value they bring to the business.
In order to get the most benefit out of iEverything Enterprises, companies need to both embrace and prepare for the data traffic evolution.
There are currently three kinds of wireless LAN architectures available today, which attempt to deal with the architectural challenges of the iEverything enterprise:
• Hybrid: Some functions are centralized and some are distributed to the network edge
• Distributed: No central appliance and control functions are distributed among a grid of edge devices
The controller-based, centralized model for enterprise Wi-Fi systems was developed in the late 1990s and popularized around 2003. This model enabled companies to deploy hundreds or thousands of access points (APs), without requiring manual administration of every device.
A single, centralized device known as a “controller” handled wireless and network configuration, Quality of Service (QoS) and security management. It was an innovation for network management.
In 2003, when enterprise Wi-Fi usage began to be driven by laptop usage, the 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi standards supported data rates reaching a theoretical maximum of only 54 Mbps per device.
As a deployment architecture, controllers delivered sufficiently high performance and network bottlenecks were rarely noticeable because data was relatively low per client.
Wi-Fi was only available in laptops, and wireless was not heavily used for delay-sensitive applications like voice or video.
Additionally, application demands were low and video communication was non-existent.
Today, three forces have combined to make this centralized model a severe architectural limitation:
• Faster Speed: Wi-Fi can now achieve data rates 833 percent faster than in 2003.
• Distributed Access: Access to enterprise applications is increasingly distributed among devices, end users and locations.
• Powerful, Smart Devices: Smart devices sport dual-core, faster processors with graphics co-processors and increasingly use the latest video and voice applications.
Some Wi-Fi vendors have built colossal controllers to keep up with increasing throughput demands.
However, these super-controllers do not address the limitations imposed by the increasingly distributed nature of users connecting to applications. The combination of massive growth in wireless usage and the increasingly distributed nature of work prohibits the centralized model.
In order to get the most out of Apple-only networks, and successfully operate an iEverything Enterprise, organizations should adhere to the following principals:
• Develop a BYOD policy for app usage.
• Avoid network bottlenecks by architecting today for very high-speed, time sensitive applications and devices and move processing close to the point of need for the best user experience and productivity.
• Ensure guest Wi-Fi access doesn’t affect internal Wi-Fi performance by employing an architecture that is user context aware and sets user policy not only by their identity and device type, but also by location within the enterprise as well as the applications needed.
Joel Vincent is the director of product marketing at Aerohive Networks, the pioneer in cloud-enabled enterprise networking infrastructure. Aerohive has introduced several advancements in wireless networking to aid enterprise deployment of Apple devices. Most recently, the company announced a new feature that enables management and control of Apple’s® “Zero-Configuration Networking” technology called Bonjour®, to make services such as AirPrint™ and AirPlay® usable across large, multi-subnet networks regardless of the underlying topology. Prior to Aerohive, Joel led product marketing and management teams at Meru Networks, Cisco, CopperCom, Netgear and Lucent where he successfully brought over 65 products and services to market worldwide, garnering awards ranging from Comdex best-in-show to a nomination for the Computerworld Smithsonian award.