With an enterprise customer base spooked by rumors of WLANs’ lack of security, interoperability, and reliability, wireless vendors have spent the past year behind closed laboratory doors, trying to hammer out solutions to wireless woes.
The result of this R&D incubation period: an alphabet soup of new standards specifications that many industry observers believe are slowing corporate wireless adoption rather than speeding it up. Even so, 2003 has already seen a prerelease version of the new, supposedly more secure 802.11g standard — and with it, a resurgence of successful WLAN deployments.
Despite an air of mistrust, WLAN technology has shown steady deployment growth. The Wireless/Mobile Technologies Survey — a recent study by The Yankee Group — showed that 41 percent of enterprises surveyed already run a Wi-Fi installation and that an additional 27 percent intend to do so in the next 12 months. The results of InfoWorld’s own CTO Network Wireless Survey, conducted earlier this year, closely mirror those of the Yankee study, with 42 percent of InfoWorld survey respondents having already installed Wi-Fi access points somewhere on their networks and another 33 percent planning to do so during the next 6 months.
“When we examined project cost, a key consideration was [establishing an] untethered environment. Doctors and nurses need access to information while on the move. Wireless was a requirement,” Wolanyk says.
Another crucial factor in Memorial Medical’s deployment has been support for multiple types of end-user devices, including notebooks, tablets, and PDAs. “We’ll have approved client hardware, of course, but we don’t want to be locked into any one hardware platform,” Wolanyk says. Because of this, Wolanyk chose 802.11b over the faster 802.11a and 802.11g standards. There are simply more devices available today that support 802.11b without undue complications, he says.
Wolanyk’s deployment includes 300 Cisco 802.11b access points and uses ReefEdge’s Edge Controller 25 products — deployed in pairs for redundancy — to handle encryption, authentication, and roaming tasks. Although this significantly increased the cost of the wireless implementation, Wolanyk is adamant about the security of patient data. “It’s not a HIPAA requirement; it’s a common sense requirement,” he says, referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Upgrading the platform