Friday, July 21, 2006

Tell us more, Extricom!

I'm hearing noises about European expansion plans from Extricom - an interesting company, that's putting itself forward as the next generation of wireless LANs.

It has a "blanket" technology that puts every access point on the same radio channel. That's madness according to the usual way of setting up WLANs, but Extricom reckons its a good idea, since devices don't have to roam or change channel as they move round a WLAN. The switch decides which access point to listen to a given device on, and sorts the traffic out itself.

It's similar to what Meru promised, but early indications have been that it's got some differences. We gave it an award at Techworld, and wish it well. If nothing else, it's a perfect proposition as we move to handheld devices that people will walk around with, and voice, which people expect to roam with them as they go.

I've got two issues now. Firstly, I want to see harder evidence. Real implementations, real users we can talk to, and real kit in testing labs. We've seen other interesting companies in the Wi-Fi world show up and disappear (remember Vivato?) when their technology didn't work well enough, or wasn't different enough. At some point, you need to touch something.

Secondly, and more disappointingly for the techie, I want someone to convince me that the wireless LAN market can support a technology change

We've been promised a big boom in enterprise WLANs, for some years now (the latest driver for that boom is supposed to be voice and FMC), but I keep seeing signs that it's not booming as fast as it should be. The old guard of switch vendors - Aruba, Trapeze and Cisco/Airespace - are all making big plays to integrate legacy APs, instead of marching off into the new unclaimed territories.

What if the adoption rate isn't fast enough to support a new technology. Switched WLANs may turn out to be adequat - especially with Cisco promoting then. If the Extricom stuff works, it might still face the proverbial Betamax scenario.


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