If there was ever any doubt that wireless networks, applications and devices would take hold in the enterprise, this spring's Interop conference lineup puts it to rest. The show has three conference tracks dedicated to wireless: Enterprise Wireless, Wireless Technology and Mobile Platforms and Devices and Applications.
The idea behind this expanded coverage is that wireless and mobility play at least some role in the average enterprise – whether it be in wireless LANs, securing mobile devices or angling for that much sought-after combination of fixed-mobile convergence.
Track leader and Farpoint Group founder Craig Mathias talked to SearchMobileComputing.com to discuss enterprise wireless trends and the questions that he hopes will be explored at Interop.
Why have three enterprise wireless networking tracks?
Craig Mathias: I don't know that there's any particular strategy other than that we are covering everything IT. If we added PCs to the mix, it would be COMDEX.
Mobility is becoming the primary or default mode of access for most companies. We're talking about in-building and outdoors with 3G, and combinations of the two. When I said this 10 years ago, I am not sure most people were thinking along these lines. Now there is a greater emphasis on distributed operations coming out of the recession, and that is thanks [in some part] to advances in wireless and mobility.
In planning, we tried to hit what the enterprise is going to need to build an effective mobile IT strategy.
Now that wireless is becoming so prevalent, there's been more of an emphasis placed on security. What should we expect in terms of wireless security at the show?
Mathias: When it comes to security, you're never done -- unlike in most other areas, where if you put a plan together, you can be sure you're getting results. With security, you never know. I have been in meetings [with network managers] and I say, "How many of you have never had a break-in?" And people raise their hands, and I say, "How do you know?"
But we've got the same problems in wireless that we have in [wired network environments]. There are a few differences, like rogue access points, but if you set up a virtual private network [that's taken care of]. If you take the integrity questions out, there really aren't a lot more problems [than in a wired network].
The thing we recommend is putting in place a decent security policy – not a wireless one, but an [overall] plan. Determine what information should be regarded as sensitive, who should have access to it, and what to do if that information is accessed. If you solve wireless security, you've solved all your security problems. Once you have a policy in place, the next thing you do is develop a culture of security.
You've planned a session called "Going Mobile, Going Green." I thought wireless was already green. Isn't that part of the point?
Mathias: Usually when planning these shows, I end up taking whatever session nobody else wants. In this case, I reserved this one for myself.
Mobility is not necessarily as green as people think it is. There are a lot of important questions relating to overall green technology.
We all have these chargers sitting on our desks, and we leave them plugged in and they drain power. We want to ask how we can build batteries that give us longer life and are easier on the environment. We need to talk about Wi-Fi chips or mobile processor chips that consume less power. Can we build a mobile device that will make its own power?
We can also talk about recycling devices. We get a new cell phone no less often than every three years. Why don't we build reusable designs? Do we want to? Can we build more sustainable models?
There has been a lot of debate about the future of 4G networks and even the definition of 4G. How will this be addressed during the conference?
Mathias: Yes, there are questions: Does it mean 100 megabits per second? Does it mean an all-IP network? Does it mean it is three, four or five tiers? There will be some discussion as to what [4G] is exactly.
The other discussion will be about which candidate will win: WiMAX or LTE -- and under what circumstances. I am expecting a reasonable debate, and it's a very important discussion. Are the devices going to be expensive? What are the carriers really going to be able to do and by when?
Have you chosen a side?
Mathias: I am on the LTE side. It's the natural upgrade path for all of the cell networks. But that still leaves room for WiMAX.
Why include a focus on wireless application developers in this year's Interop?
Mathias: We first added them in New York last year. We're trying to provide more of a technical forum for people who are building applications and to some degree building hardware as well.
There is a session on BlackBerry and one on the iPhone. And there will be some debate over what the right application strategy is. A lot of iPhone developers don't create for anything other than the iPhone. Should you write for many platforms? Should you be working on a Web services model? Should you be working on getting my application to work within a browser window?