Building a Network for 802.11ac and Beyond

Designing a lasting, future-proof network can be a tough task, but a worthwhile effort for any business looking for a competitive edge and the ability to save money in the long run. Today, we are experiencing a move to a “mobile-first network” in which network traffic consists mostly of wireless access. With 802.11ac protocols replacing 802.11n and new systems capable of automatically personalizing and applying mobile access protocols to individual devices, now is the time to look into setting up a network, or reorganizing an already existing one, to take advantage of these, as well as future, innovations.

To future-proof your network so that new technology can be easily adopted, a distributed approach should be taken. In the past, many networks were built with a centralized controller which would perform all processing and encryption procedures. However, due to the exponential growth in wireless traffic and the introduction of more sophisticated procedures, these centralized networks are becoming unable to provide processing power needed to perform efficient network management. Furthermore, breakthroughs can render costly controllers useless and network sizes are limited by the number of access point connections free on the controller. To solve these problems, a distributed network removes the centralized controller from the equation. Instead, each access point is equipped with the processing power necessary to support over 100 devices and is capable of performing the tasks normally carried out by a controller. This method does not limit the number of access points that can be added to the network, allowing them to be freely added as needed. Access points which feature newer protocols and features can also be incorporated into the network without issues. Older access points can even be moved to less mission-critical areas, such as guest rooms, to make room for newer devices. This distributed approach offers higher processing power and requires less effort to maintain and manage.

Why not just stick with older network infrastructures? Well, sooner or later, you may find yourself needing to upgrade in order to stay competitive and make use of productivity improving mobile solutions. The business environment is shifting to favour wireless over wired connections as the capabilities of wireless network technology improve and the number of mobile devices deployed in productivity improving applications increase. To accommodate the increased traffic and stay competitive, an upgrade to 802.11ac protocol is a must. 802.11ac supports 1 gbps WLAN data rates, thereby allowing wireless networks to provide data rates even faster than those provided by traditional wired connections. Building a distributed network allows you to smoothly incorporate 802.11ac technology. Furthermore, in-development technology such as multi-user MIMO, which allows multiple transmitters to send separate signals all on the same band, or beamforming, which allows data to be beamed directly to a specific device or set of devices instead of to a whole area, or any other future innovation can be adopted as they are released without having to make costly changes to the network infrastructure.

A distributed network also allows you to efficiently manage the flow of traffic by offering the processing power needed to automatically personalize and optimize the connection for any combination of user types, devices, and applications. The greatly improved processing power of a distributed network, attributed by the fact that each access point is capable of processing and encrypting on its own, allows for much more sophisticated methods of determining user context. Whereas an older network may depend on many networks each with their own SSID to account for every possible combination of user, device, and application type, a distributed network is equipped with the processing power to perform methods such as deep packet inspection in order to identify the context and provide an appropriate, optimized protocol to the device requesting network access. For example, a corporate owned device using a VoIP for an important call can be automatically identified and provided with a fast, secure connection while a device using Netflix can be provided throttled access. Furthermore, because this process is carried out in real time, a corporate device can be provided with high speed while using VoIP one moment, then, if they happen to switch to using Netflix moments later, can be throttled so that higher priority applications can be provided a better connection. This process can be automatically carried out for over 100 devices per access point, providing more control over traffic than can be done using multiple wireless networks with separate SSIDs.

With these emerging capabilities, now is certainly the time to consider upgrading to or setting up a distributed network. As a less complex way of efficiently managing the flow of network and future-proofing your wireless infrastructure, organizing your network now will allow you to take advantage of emerging 802.11ac protocols as well as what is to come. Designing a lasting network may be a tough task, but you don’t have to make it any more complex than it has to be. Contact OCR to get started today.

4 Thoughts on “Building a Network for 802.11ac and Beyond

  1. Rene E. on November 24, 2014 at 1:46 am said:

    Wireless network technology changes so fast it is hard to keep up with it all. We rely very heavily on our vendors to keep us up to date on trends and advancements. I really appreciate the work you guys do in keeping us informed and up to date. We are happy to recommend your services to any company looking to deploy a Wi-Fi network as you have done a great job for us. Thanks for helping us!

  2. We are just building a case to upgrade our wireless network to 802.11ac. I found this article very helpful as to why we should be looking to upgrade. Thanks for publishing this. Simple to read, to the point, and makes so good points that we didn’t consider. Much appreciated.

  3. Winston R. on November 26, 2014 at 6:41 pm said:

    I am really amazed at how much bandwidth they can squeeze out of the air. To get even close to gbps is pretty awesome. We started using our first wireless 802.11ac network and it is so fast that I could not tell that I was not running with an Ethernet cable attached to my computer. Now application development will need to catch up to the technology because I doubt there are any mobile computer applications that require that kind of speed. Now VOIP becomes a reality in an enterprise setting using a wireless devices.

  4. Darryl W. on January 15, 2015 at 9:50 am said:

    Nice Blog, thanks for sharing this kind of information.

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