Wi-Fi COMES OF AGE
Over 20 years ago, I had the opportunity to deploy some of the first secure Wi-Fi networks for enterprise clients in and around downtown Boston. These were heady times when the air was clean and largely free of interference. The promise of corralling the numerous security issues of the day and integrating Wi-Fi into the authentication systems commonly used in the enterprise while adding additional security capabilities provided enough value to be of interest to buyers. While there were bumps and grinds in the early days, these issues were largely ironed out with a few late nights and a fair amount of coffee.
While Wi-Fi was and remains a great technology for certain applications, it was not without its challenges. For those critical business applications, the issues became hard to ignore. Especially, if your bonus, like that of a plant manager, was tied to predictable performance and continuous uptime.
In addition, Wi-Fi Portability allowed movement from one place to another, while still maintaining some semblance of session integrity. New emerging applications required true mission-critical mobility. The kind that a well-defined mobility architecture can satisfy–an acknowledged deficiency of Wi-Fi portability. In this new paradigm, a disruption in communication had implications—the loss of time and money. Two things of great value to most ongoing concerns.
Whether robots in a warehouse, machines on the manufacturing line or crash carts in a hospital, the demands for true mobility stand apart from their less time-sensitive brethren in the IT realm. The demands of “always on” require “no disruption” and not as a negotiating point but a service guarantee.
Of course, the telecom industry had planned for this technical perfectionism. The standards bodies set about creating a mobile service architecture that was as reliable as the one it replaced–those pesky wires. Thus guided, the large mobile network operators created a set of consumer products that took the world by storm and transformed how we live, work and play. Rock-solid reliable mobility became a thing.
All good so far, with a few glaring exceptions.
The consumer products that drove today’s mobile infrastructure had a clumsy relationship with emerging enterprise mobility requirements. Enterprises pined for the reliability and control that mobile carriers had. But MNOs, with consumer offers in hand, did not know how to satisfy that demand with the infrastructure they built.
Sure, there have been attempts to bridge the gaps in the interim. Each one coming up short in some material way that drove cost, limited adoption and prevented satisfaction. The simple truth of this has become clear – mobile carrier and enterprise networks were designed to be independently owned and operated. Think of them as distant desert islands in two different oceans—while they share some attributes they remain a world apart.
THE NEW EMERGENCE ENTERPRISE MOBILITY
Profit-driven enterprises tend not to wait for solutions for their most pressing problems. The glacial pace of large telecom providers aside, the show must go on. With the availability of managed spectrum in the form of CBRSCitizens Broadband Radio Service Radio frequency band between 3.5 GHz and 3.7 GHz that can be used for 5G, 4G or LTE communication. The FCC has recently opened these band to general use. Learn more about CBRS More now broadly available and 5GThe “G” in 5G stands for generation. 5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology. 5G is characterized by bigger channels (which improves throughput), lower latencies allowing for real time applications, and the ability to connect more devices (which is increasingly important as the number of devices has grown exponentially). More looming in the near-term, enterprises now have the critical pieces of what they thus far lacked – viable spectrum for mission-critical applications.
Indeed, the attention and focus on Private Networks—think of them as enterprise-owned mobile networks inside the firewall—has gained currency. Less obvious though is the concept of these new networks as stepping stones to broader IoTInternet of Things - Physical objects with the ability to connect and exchange data with each other over the Internet. A network of objects that are embedded with sensors, processing ability, software, to connect to and exchange data with other such objects or networks. More adoption and edge computeA distributed computing paradigm that brings computation and data storage closer to the sources of data. This is expected to improve response times and save bandwidth. It is an architecture rather than a specific technology. It is a topology- and location-sensitive form of distributed computing. Alef uses edge computing concepts to offer MNaaS. (Mobile Network as a Service) More. The continuum that once and for all codifies the relationship between IT and OT infrastructure. If digital transformation has a Nirvana, it is on this path that it lies.
MOBILE NETWORK AS A SERVICE (MNaaSMobile Network as a Service - An API based system that allows you to start your own private LTE network without knowledge of 3GPP standards. More)
So, what is an enterprise decision-maker to do? There are as many answers to that question as vendors attempting to satisfy it. Predictably, the operators are claiming to have recovered from their slumber with offers that frankly, they could have offered years ago. The pace of glaciers, don’t you know?
There are many more enterprise solution providers driving demand for widgets—as disjointed point products solve all according to them. While there will likely be products and hardware involved, we can envision a lot less of it than we used to imagine. If the past 10 years have taught us anything, it is this.
In today’s post-cloud environment though, enterprises have voted on products and hardware. They have embraced new service models as a result. Hardly a revelation for sure, but informing nonetheless. If the arcane aspects of the mobile network can be simplified and reduced to their basic components, this would offer an alternative whose time has surely come. The building and deployment of a carrier-class network inside the enterprise firewall as a service.
With a few simple APIApplication Programmatic Interface An intermediary between two Applications/Systems or Generic Connectivity Interface to an Application. Software applications communicate with one another via APIs. Learn more about APIs and Private Networks More calls. In minutes. Not months. As a service.