The enterprise WLAN market is at an interesting crossroads according to market researcher In-Stat.
The research company says that there is no doubt that the market is shifting away from the deployment of so-called "fat" access points (APs) towards a more centralised management approach. It says that this newer enterprise Wlan model, enabled by the use of "Wlan switches" and "thin" APs, promises to make enterprise Wlans easier to deploy and operate and to allow for a more seamless integration of enterprise’ wired and wireless networks.
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However, In-Stat points out that large Ethernet switch vendors, including Cisco, Extreme and Foundry, are now integrating Wlan switch functionality directly into their wired switching products, and are thus challenging the start-ups that helped pioneer the market.
In-Stat expects the total Wlan switch market to rise from about 35,800 units shipped in 2004 to roughly 242,500 units shipped in 2009.
"While all of the Wlan switch units accounted for in 2004 are overlay Wlan switches from the likes of Symbol and Airespace, the market for overlay Wlan switches will peak in 2006, and then decline through 2009 in the face of a rising percentage of embedded Wlan functionality in wired switches," says Sam Lucero, In-Stat analyst.
"As Wlan management functionality is increasingly integrated into wired Ethernet switches, the price difference between a wired Ethernet switch with Wlan management functionality and a switch without such functionality could become small enough that substantially all new enterprise Ethernet switches sold will be capable of managing APs."