– Ksenia Coffman, marketing manager for Firetide (www.firetide.com), says:

I don’t see cable going away and enterprises switching to 100% wireless, especially in an indoor environment (‘carpeted space’). However, in outdoor areas or in a mobile environment, wireless makes a lot of sense. A typical example would be a large enterprise campus, university campus, or a large medical facility. In this space, Firetide wireless mesh has a unique advantage of delivering high-bandwidth wireless connectivity indoor and outdoor – for security and surveillance, emergency notification, VoIP, LAN extension, and Wi-Fi access (we provide end-to-end solution for Wi-Fi, too).

When wired networking infrastructure is not available, wireless is often the only logical choice, especially compared to trenching, which can run as high as $300 per linear foot in an outdoor environment. In terms of investment, the advantages of wireless networks are significant: initial capital and operating expenses can be as low as 1/10th of the total investment for a similar wired infrastructure. Cost-savings of this magnitude are making enterprises turn to wireless. 

What security issues do you need to consider? Wireless mesh technology is not cellular, nor is it Wi-Fi access-based. Wireless mesh is completely secure: for example, Firetide’s mesh encrypts data from the source to the destination, with no decryption along the way. In addition to encryption, Firetide also “encapsulates” packets traveling over secure links. Encapsulation provides another level of security because only Firetide nodes can see the encapsulated packets. Once packets hit the cloud, data is never exposed.

What about bandwidth? Enterprise managers need to carefully manage and plan for sufficient bandwidth. Firetide’s is the highest performing mesh in the industry, but even then, Firetide delivers 35 Mbps in as “sustained mode” – over multiple hops. This is sufficient to run day-to-day applications, but other wireless solutions may need to be used for backhauling from the aggregation points, such as gigabit wireless bridges (point-to-point).

To give you background on wireless mesh, let’s contrast “mesh” with other available network topologies:

  • Point-to-point wireless systems provide connections between two fixed locations, and often offer greater capacities and distances compared to point-to-multipoint and mesh technologies. These connections (bridges) are ideal for backhaul of other wireless networks.
  • Point-to-multipoint wireless systems deliver high-speed Ethernet network connections to multiple remote locations. When towers or tall buildings are available, point-to-multipoint systems can offer cost effective deployments. However, the central “base unit” creates a single point of failure – should this unit lose power or become inoperative, the whole network goes down.
  • Multipoint to multipoint (wireless mesh) systems are by their nature self-healing for resiliency: redundant links eliminate single points of failure associated with conventional wireless networks, while multiple paths overcome line-of-sight issues. On a wireless mesh network, unlike with a point-to-multipoint system, any mesh node can be act as a “head end” – allowing multiple command centers to be set up, at any point on the network.