The ability to effectively manage the network is important for any enterprise. A keen focus on network management and the differences between the wired and wireless side of Ethernet switches was examined in a recent Network World (News - Alert) report.
As not all services work the same, network management varies according to the environment. The disparate wired and wireless services include multicast, quality of service (QoS) and intrusion detection and prevention functions and capabilities.
Multicast became familiar with the emergence of video over the Internet and corporate IP networks. IP Multicast is the standard way of forwarding bandwidth intensive content in a way that is efficient for the network. As a result, a single stream is only sent once and delivered only to the clients who are interested in receiving it.
This process is different from broadcast where a transmission is blasted out to all clients. This approach wastes bandwidth on transmissions to clients who are not interested in the content. Multicast differs from traditional unicast traffic that is sent over and over again to clients that want it. Multicast is considered the best of both worlds.
The method of which traffic is transported across the shared wireless medium is dictated by the WiFi (News - Alert) 802.11 standard. This standard dictates that multicast packets will automatically turn into broadcast packets when they hit WiFi airwaves, resulting in a few wireless inefficiencies.
Such inefficiencies in the network management can include suboptimal reliability as the packet receipt acknowledgments are not send with broadcast traffic; automatic, lowest-common-denominator transmit speed to ensure fairness for older WiFi protocols still in the network; and unnecessary noise or interference in the environment.
Knowing the differences in the services is essential to effective network management as it helps in establishing expectations about how traffic will behave when it moves off one type of network and onto another.
An organization considering WLAN as a key component of enterprise content delivery network in the overall network management should consult with the vendor to determine whether or not there are any proven tricks for taming the inefficiencies of unnecessary packets on the WLAN.
Many vendors do offer such tricks, although they are likely to refer to them in a much more technological manner. The end result is the same: more effective and efficient network management that protects the bandwidth needed for important transmissions and frees it in situations where a transmission doesn’t need to take up the space.