Traditionally Wi-Fi has been an add-on feature to a company’s traditional wired IT network – that mess of Ethernet cables snaking from office to office carrying the bulk of internal corporate network and external internet traffic. But as companies are leaning increasingly on wireless as their primary means of connecting to the corporate network, IT Wi-Fi supplier Aruba Networks has started asking why we should even bother with the wires: Why not just create an enterprise network solely optimized for wireless?
On Wednesday, Aruba unveiled a new Wi-Fi architecture called Mobility-Defined Networks, which it claims will help businesses cut their wires completely and move to all-wireless workplaces. The architecture is actually a set of software tools for its existing access point and network controller hardware, and it’s designed to make tasks like on-boarding newly released smartphones and managing network permissions and access to applications — basically all of the crap that drives IT managers nuts — almost automatic.
But Aruba has also added in features tailored specifically for an all-wireless work environment. For instance, a feature called AirGroup lets devices connected to the network share their screens and stream media to one another. Aruba has created auto sign-on software that lets an employee use his or her Wi-Fi login not only to connect to the local network, but also to automatically log into all of the corporate applications the employee has permission to access. ComputerWorld has an excellent description of the mobility architecture’s other capabilities.
Of course, this kind of push to a wireless-centric architecture stands to benefit Aruba immensely. Unlike its main enterprise competitor Cisco Systems, Aruba is a wireless-only shop, so any move to cut the Ethernet cord would move more of an enterprise’s networking focus — and spend — onto its wireless controllers.
But Aruba isn’t just fabricating a market for its own ends. The move to mobile-centric workplaces is really happening. Big corporations with their rows of offices and cubicles aren’t going to get rid of their wires and docking stations anytime soon, but tech companies and smaller enterprises already are. Gigaom’s HQ in San Francisco is a good example. We still have plenty of Ethernet cabling snaking around our shared desks, but much of our staff has no set workstation and many of us have laptops with no built-in Ethernet ports. The easiest way to get on the Gigaom network is via a Wi-Fi connection.