Standards-based versus Proprietary features
Last Post: February 1, 2007:
I've recently been involved in a lengthy discussion with vendors regarding standards-based vs. proprietary features. I'd like to get some opinions on this matter.
It's my current opinion that proprietary features are fine, but default settings on any WLAN system should be standards-based. Additionally, I think that administrators should have the ability to enable proprietary features as they see fit.
To give an example, suppose that a vendor could enable proprietary features that yield a significant performance improvement, yet these features cause domination of medium air time. There might be a case where this is perfectly acceptable like when there are no other WLAN systems in the immediate area and the performance enhancement is needed. There might also be situations where use of such proprietary features was unfair to nearby WLAN systems.
I'd like to hear the opinions of others on this. PLEASE do not post vendor names in this thread (lest the post be deleted). This is not a vendor-bashing thread, but rather, I'm looking for opinions on general practices in the industry concerning implementation of proprietary features.
Let's hear it guys. I KNOW there's some engineers out there with some strong opinions. :-D
Interoperability is what I would personally love to see. Wireless devices should operate like the Stop Light ie. Green means go, Yellow means Slow down, Red means Stop. But we all know, that there is a need for speed and vendors want to get their latest enhancements out the door first. I would hope that with the push for converged architectures vendors would KISS each other... Simplicity Simply Is Key!
I recently saw an implementation where a wireless bridge was used as an uplink to a mesh network. In this case they didnt want to interrupt the flow of information between the bridges to the mesh network as this would be a single point of failure for off net transfers and access to the wired lan, so they bypassed certain 802.11 rules to maintain control of the medium and avoid contention. If this is implemented within an enterprise space i think it is a necessary thing, and as long as it doesnt extend off their property in a way that would cause interference with other companies wlans, I think it is a good example of an instance where bending the standards can be necessary for dependable operablility.
I recently had a conversation with a director of a global company who said the biggest problem he saw with 802.11 was that it was open space. In an enterprise enviroment operability will be the choice over interoperability. In order for 802.11 to be a viable solution in the enterprise space, control of the shared space is a must as any loss or interruption could have onerous production and financial consequences.
anyway just my 2 cents worth.
The 802.11 standards are like other good books in print. If you look at just the text, it means one thing. Everything else is just up to interpretation.
Let's take a CTS frame for example. The 802.11 standards show examples of when it is used, i.e. protection mechanisms. Where in the standards does it say that they have to be used in only the listed manner?
I think interoperability blown out of proportion. I know that there are cases that two major WLAN installs could interfere with each other but that situation is not as common as we would be led to believe.
Devinator, I don't want the vendor's to be restricted to the standards. That will stifle innovation. Some vendors right now are the red headed stepchild, but they could prove to be a market leader, only time will tell. So, I agree that there can be a "abide by the spirit of the standards" as a default setting with the vendor specific enhancements as an option. However, that is like having a button on the dash of your car that says "never go over 55". The politicians will like it but in real life no one will actually press it.
Great topic of discussion...
Simple response first -> enable most interoperable and friendly settings by default.
This is where WiFi Alliance has really helped the industry w/ interoperability standards. Furthermore, there are a lot of do-it-yourselfers out there who don't know a lot of details regarding WLANs whereby this may add frustration and expense. I don't see the problem or any loss of appeal if you had to turn on the proprietary feature to enable the performance gain. ...bring it on, but let us enable it manually.
Proprietary features are great and I agree with GTHill -- we want them to enable innovation. There are many cases of precendence for innovation with respect to security/auth mechanisms, split-mac architectures, etc. However, I want to punch vendors when they enable proprietary features that give them an unfair advantage by playing with NAV timers, etc. (darnit, I didn't want to sound guilty of being one of the passionate opinion guys)
Now that we're on that topic, there seems to be an effort by at least one manufacturer that I know of developing a new implementation of encrypting management frames (a new method and not the one used by a different one in the past). I find this feature hard to ever be able to implement b/c all STAs need to support it. More importantly, I'm seriously concerned about the added difficulty to troubleshoot.