The latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac, was approved in January 2014 and for the first time, enables Gigabit speeds over wireless operating three to 15 times faster than the previous standard, 802.11n. As the 802.11ac standard becomes more widely adopted, enterprises must proactively strategise to develop a plan to support the new standard.
While on the surface it may seem as if the only option is to rip and replace the entire Wi-Fi infrastructure, forklift overhauls are not the only viable approach. In an effort to demystify 802.11ac for IT managers and emphasise best practices for migration, I have compiled and debunked the top five myths about 802.11ac.
1. IT Managers Must ‘Rip & Replace’
While 802.11ac technologies are being adopted at a rapid pace, the reality is that legacy Wi-Fi (802.11n and previous standards 802.11a/b/g) will continue to be with us for years to come. Rather than focusing on a replacement strategy, it is more practical to approach the situation with a coexistence strategy. Wi-Fi standards and systems are created in general to be backward compatible. This allows Wi-Fi clients of all types to operate together on the same network.
However, running both old and new clients on the same Wi-Fi network is not optimal – slower clients will slow down faster clients, stunting the performance benefits of faster technology such as 802.11ac. It is best to create an environment where older 802.11a/b/g/n and newer 802.11ac devices operate at the same time but using separate resources, in particular separate radios on the access point.
Programmable wireless infrastructure provides a practical way to achieve this – start with a small number of 802.11ac radios in the network to match a smaller number of clients. Then migrate towards more 802.11ac radios as the client base grows.
2. 802.11ac Will Require New Infrastructure
The answer here of course depends on the state of the existing network and anticipated use. In many cases, 802.11ac gear will fit into existing environments that supported 802.11n. If the wired network is very old, this may not be the case. Since the capacity of the wireless is greater with 802.11ac, uplinks from APs, the core network, firewalls and the WAN pipe must be able to accommodate the increased traffic. Otherwise, a new weak link of the network will be exposed.
How quickly this becomes an issue depends on wireless client support for 802.11ac. Initially, there will not be as many 11ac clients on your network …read more