My house is old, leaks, and often falls down around me, but it's got plenty of room. That's good because I have plenty of kids. With a basement that's mostly underground and that has walls of concrete blocks, getting RF signals to the rest of the house is impossible with one access point located in the basement. If I put an AP upstairs, I can't get any coverage in the basement - even with 802.11n. So what's a guy supposed to do? I could put autonomous APs all over the house (it takes 4 to provide good coverage for my house), but who wants to go through the trouble of managing four APs all the time? Not me. So, even in my old house, I use a WLAN controller with lightweight APs.
I'm sure that many of today's larger homes require 6-8 access points to provide seemless coverage, while normal ones may get away with only 2-3. That's like having a small office, and yet that's what many homes are becoming: offices. With telecommuting on the rise to conserve office space, to decongest highways and parking lots, and to reduce the high costs of commuting, this trend is going to continue. Most SOHO class WLAN controllers offer licenses for up to 6 APs. That will likely do nicely for 99% of the homes in America.
So what's the big deal about using WLAN controllers in the home? Price, installation, and administration. Can't you just see the average home-owner needing to change a WLAN profile to allow his guest's legacy TKIP-capable-only WLAN radio onto his network? What about setting up a WLAN public-access (hotspot) profile for a family gathering? With today's WLAN controllers, can you IMAGINE how impossible this would be given the complicated GUI interface that most controllers have? I have used most every WLAN controller on the market, and the only SOHO-class WLAN controller that I can fathom "the average Joe" using in their home is perhaps the Motorola/Symbol WS2000. That's not to say that other vendors' controllers are substandard. On the contrary, most WLAN controller vendors produce extremely high quality products. It's only to say that you can't expect most non-IT people to be able to navigate the interface of most WLAN controllers.
I think this should be a wake-up call to all WLAN controller manufacturers to focus on building their GUI in such a way that their grandmother could easily navigate the interface. I also foresee this as a great opportunity for those service companies that specialize in home networking to step up to the next technical level.
I have many friends that have 4+ children, each of whom has their own laptop. Of course both parents have their own laptops or wireless-enabled desktops (sometimes more than one each) and all of their other Wi-Fi gadgetry as well. Then there are the family-centric Wi-Fi enabled devices such as Hi-Fi (not a typo) entertainment systems, game consoles of all types, Internet tablets, wVoIP phones, and the list just keeps going and going. Pretty soon your refrigerator and car will have integrated Wi-Fi.
When 10-15 Wi-Fi devices are in the average home, it starts looking like an office environment. Network-based storage almost becomes essential for movies, pictures, files, etc. Technologies such as routing, Ethernet switching, Wi-Fi switching, wireless security, content filtering based on family member profiles, you name it: it's all going to be there. Who's going to administer all this? I'll tell you who: Dad.
Dad does not have time for complex GUI interfaces. Dad has to cut the grass, wash the car, and fix that attic fan - again. Is Dad going to pay the local computer networking shop to come to his house every other day at $100/hour to make constant changes to his network? Nope. Dad has to be an IT geek in addition to his regular job. Welcome to the 21st century Dad.
So, I beg of you - all of you WLAN controller manufacturers that are listening. Please give us a user-friendly GUI - at least in your SOHO-class controller. We'll love you for it.
There are plenty of MOMS out there that are IT Geeks as well.
Interesting article Devin. After working with WLANs in the corporate and in my own home - mostly Lucent, Cisco, Nortel and a few misc. client nics...
It looks like one of my client sites (a college) is going to purchase Cisco WLAN Controllers and some new APs to provide campus-wide coverage.
Sounds kind of kewl and it is interesting to think of upgrading my home network using LWAPP controllers.
I guess it's time for me to get my CWNA/CWAP/CWNE certs... and update my Cisco WLAN Certs (grandfathered from like 2002 at the moment - I feel a bit dated... :) )
I got a few friends who got CWNA/CWAP and at least one CWNE so... I guess it's time to go ahead and upgrade my house - so I feel up to date and have improved coverage and get ready to support more Wireless Options...
Yep - I got a NAC Controller coming too...
Lots of fun...
This is something we are looking into, but not only for the home environment also for SME's and enterprise level.
The Cisco/Linksys is extremely popular in Singapore and rest of Asia (like Vietnam, Thailand) as it is cheap (around SGD 80 = USD 55 for a WRT-54GL).
The Aruba & Cisco solutions are very nice, but too expensive for most of the customers and they look for alternatives. As it is only software-integrated into the controller it should not be so difficult to do a combination of Linksys with an external server.
The "WLAN"-Controller can be easily seperated on a different machine with different software. Currently our team is working on it to do a demo for a University in Thailand, but they already did deployment (enterprise level) at the military field in Singapore using Cisco/Linksys, including: MESH, Mobility / Outdoor and running on battery-packs !!
Also integration with position location of clients has been included and it can be optimized using GPS systems.