Do It Like Xirrus They Say

I came across this article this morning from my Google Alerts about Xirrus:

“First posted on

We’ve all heard the “N-Dance” in the world of wireless. We’ve patiently waited through “Draft-N” and “Pre-N”, “Kinda-N” and “Our-best-guess-as-to-what-it-will-finally-be-N.” To us who have been deploying the best in wireless gear for the last few years, the elusive 802.11n standard has been long in promise, but short in delivery: an almost comical delay of a much needed technology that has spawned a family of non-standard standards.

Well now that “N” has officially “almost arrived” (and I can’t believe I was actually able to write that without breaking out into laughter) with a scheduled ratification date of “sometime in January 2010″ we’re starting to see the big players in Enterprise wireless commit serious engineering resources into making their gear ready for the switch.

To be sure, the allure of “N” over previous 802.11 standards is great: an increase in the maximum theoretical data rate from 54 to 600 Mbps, the more efficient use of MIMO (Multiple In, Multiple Out), 40 MHz channel bonding, the ability to use both the 2.4GHz and much-less-crowded 5GHz spectrums, and Spatial Division Multiplexing. — All of this is an uberGeek way of saying, “damn that’s fast!”

But wait… while the 802.11n standard is exciting for those who are looking forward to gobs of wireless bandwidth, the experience wireless deployment team knows from first-hand experience that a faster wireless technology just isn’t enough. While 802.11n may reach stratospheric levels of speed in the lab, it quickly falls to earth once it’s forced to work in the real world. Existing wireless gear, the odd telecom device, portable phones and even microwaves will flood the available wireless spectrum and quickly make a mess of the most carefully planned wireless networks.

In the past the solution has been to add access points, increase transmit power, or to simply write off wireless as a “best effort” technology — unsuitable for mission-critical applications and unreliable in a crowd. In fact, there is really only one way to increase the usability of wireless gear: to use the limited spectrum more efficiently.

In other words… do it like Xirrus.

Xirrus first became a partner in the Interop eNet in 2005 at our first show at the Javit’s Center in New York. Their “flying saucer” devices combined 4, 8, or 16 radios into a single package powered by a intelligent controller… Already a cool thing, but that’s not what made the Xirrus WiFi Arrays special. For that, you had to look inside the array.

I had the line of Xirrus arrays in my lab for an in-depth review a few months back. A quick peek under the hood showed that Xirrus had taken the 360 degrees around each array and divided it into separate slices. Using a unique series of antennas and reflectors, the Xirrus array could reduce the amount of power needed to “speak” with each client while simultaneously increasing throughput and (with the intelligence of their controller) the reliability of the connection. The end result is that the wireless spectrum is saved from bombardment by RF energy at the same time that the end user has a much improved wireless experience.

After seeing for myself how Xirrus boosts the performance of 802.11a/b/g, it’s no surprise that I’m excited to see what Xirrus can do for 802.11n. Since their products were already unique in their efficient use of spectrum, the Xirrus arrays should be much better suited to reach the THEORETICAL max speeds of “N” in the very REAL world in which we live.

Interop will give Xirrus the “perfect storm” of wireless interference to contend with. The hodgepodge of wireless gear on the show floor and the “RF Bloom” that is Las Vegas should push our intrepid Xirrus eNet team members to the edge of their expertise… maybe even over the edge. However, if our past experience with Xirrus is any measure, their gear should finally show us that N has reached the enterprise.”


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