July 1, 2011

WLAN Management Moves to the Cloud

While wireless and mobile topics have been central to any discussion regarding IT strategy for some time, an element that goes hand-in-hand with mobility is the provisioning of a broad range of services in the cloud. Cloud, for our purposes here, refers to any capability that is made available via a network connection, this so as to encompass both public (typically, Web-based) as well as local or privatecloud services. The concept of cloud services, often referred to as Software as a Service, or SaaS, is of course very much in keeping with that other key contemporary trend in IT, virtualization (in this context, of services) which today forms the cornerstone of numerous IT strategies. But one of the most interesting possibilities in cloud-based services today is to offload or even outsource capabilities that would otherwise need to be provisioned and managed locally - in other words, converting the capital expense (CapEx) involved in implementing a needed IT service into an operating expense (OpEx) - the opposite of the advice we normally offer with respect to overall IT financial strategy. But, as we'll explore in the Farpoint Group White Paper, the flexibility inherent in provisioning the service in question here, WLAN management, in the cloud, along with the potential for bottom-line cost savings, is enormous. These two factors - flexibility and economics - after all, drive today's steadily-increasing interest in the cloud for everything in IT, from processing to storage to Web-based publishing and interaction to - wireless LAN management.

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Wireless consultancy Farpoint Group takes a look at how approaches to network management, the proverbial redheaded stepchild of the IT organization, are shifting. Mission-critical but often under-appreciated, enterprise-run network operations centers (NOCs) are quickly becoming too costly to suit today’s IT budgets, Farpoint asserts. The paper argues that cloud services are appropriate for network management in general and WLAN management in particular, given that despite philosophical differences over whether Wi-Fi forwarding and control planes should be centralized or distributed, all agree that the management planes should be centralized to allow WLANs to scale appropriately.

The paper addresses the types of services that fall under the WLAN management umbrella and compares various deployment strategies. It also touches on what happens in a WLAN management cloud model when the WAN connection to the service fails and explains why Farpoint recommends cloud services for WLAN management – which convert CapEx dollars to OpEx dollars – despite the company’s usual recommendation to make opposite types of investment.

This is an excellent paper and covers some of the key decision points that should drive adoption of centralized WLAN management. Sure, there are a few different methodologies to consider but the real focus should be the bottom line. I also found this article very useful: http://blogs.carouselindustries.com/wireless/4-reasons-you-need-centralized-wireless-management. I found it useful to focus my arguments on the subject and have some effective talking points.

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