Want to manage your wired/wireless LANS together? Too bad

Management tools for multivendor mixed LANS are scarce

For the past few years, organizations have gone full-force in deploying a combination of wired and wireless enterprise networks. But now, as wireless technology matures, they are left asking: Where are the tools to unify management of these disparate networks?

"There's not a lot on the market at this point for unified wired/wireless management, but it's clearly in future plans for vendors," says Craig Mathias, principal at Farpoint Group, and a Computerworld columnist.

Mathias says the obstacle for most wireless and wired equipment and software makers has been figuring out how to develop a management platform that would work across a heterogeneous environment that involves so many different parts.

Simultaneous, but not unified

The closest thing to unified management tools that Mathias has seen are systems that let you view your separate wired and wireless networks simultaneously.

But, he says, as management rises up the stack of importance for IT teams, this problem will garner much more attention. "Once the capital expenditure is made on a combined wired and wireless network, success is a result of how good the management platform is," he says.

Seth Atkins, mobility solutions leader for the Enterprise CTO Office at Nortel Networks, says that a unified management tool could actually lead to lower capital expenditures and operational expenses because IT teams would need less equipment, less software and fewer workers to manage the combined wired and wireless enterprise network. "The industry is just now starting to see the value of a single management tool," he says.

Present tools are unified in name only

At Nortel, teams are already researching how to create unified management tools that are truly integrated. "Today most tools on the market are unified in name only. It's one thing to say you put a link in a wired management application that can launch a wireless management tool, but another to really unify them," Atkins says.

Part of the problem is that vendors created wireless LAN tools with primary elements that differ from their wired counterparts. "There are monitoring and security capabilities that just didn't exist in previous wired management tools because certain concepts don't apply to wired networks," he says. For instance, there was no need for radio frequency management or rogue access point monitoring and mitigation features in wired networks. "Also the concept of locating rogue and client devices in three-dimensional space using signal trilateration or other similar techniques doesn't apply to wired networks," Atkins explains.

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