is the new buzz word among networking and software vendors.
Taoling Xie, Director, Mobile eBusiness, Computer
Associates, talks about the future of wireless technologies,
and the issues enterprises are likely to face when adopting
wireless solutions. by Sandeep Ajgaonkar
is CA's vision of the future of wireless and mobile
The wireless phenomenon is reshaping enterprise connectivity
worldwide and is definitely here to stay. Enterprises
need information mobility for better customer interactions.
Enterprises can benefit a great deal in terms of improving
their work processes by offering anywhere, anytime access
to improve employee productivity as well as customer
satisfaction since real-time
access to information can be critical to serving customers.
CA believes that wireless and mobile technologies are
here to stay and they are going to change the way enterprises
provide information access to its employees and customers.
In the enterprise of the future, employees will be free
to perform their job functions from their workplace
of choice, whether from a stationary desk, or while
on the move.
When you say Wireless infrastructure, do you mean
WLAN (Wireless LAN) or WWAN (Wireless Wide Area Network)
technologies that are based on CDMA or GSM?
We mean all of them. This includes WLAN based on 802.11
which is becoming popular in India and other Asian countries,
and HiperLAN/2 which is prevalent in Europe. The 802.11
standard is rapidly gaining speed and acceptability
worldwide. This standard facilitates wireless transmission
up to 11 Mbps all together while
newer protocols like the 802.11a transmits data at 54
We also mean the WWAN technologies that take care of
your roaming needs by extending the wireless access
coverage over larger geographical areas. WWAN technologies
are usually provided by wireless operators and are based
on CDMA or GSM.
What is the rate at which companies are adopting
wireless technologies as a viable business tool?
There are different statistics apparently. We conducted
a survey during CA World 2001, about a year ago. We
were really surprised by the results. Over 60 percent
of our customers said they already have some sort of
wireless application or have started implementing one.
And that's consistent with the number of queries we
are receiving from our customers asking about our wireless
I think about 60 percent of the large enterprises worldwide
are taking advantage of wireless
technologies to streamline their business processes.
I wouldn't be surprised if the percentage is now even
higher. In the next couple of years this should reach
100 percent. Analyst groups give slightly different
What issues do enterprises need to consider when
migrating from a legacy system to wireless?
The number one concern is security. In a survey conducted
during CA World 2001, 75 percent of our customers were
extremely concerned about wireless enterprise security.
This percentage is rather high.
There are many issues when it comes to security over
wireless networks. Wireless networks do not follow the
rules of traditional wired networks; many times the
signals are carried miles beyond the physical perimeter
of the enterprise. This makes it easier to intercept
these signals by using monitoring tools like wireless
sniffers which can capture information you transact
or the conversatation you have, etc.
The second equally important issue is managing the wireless
infrastructure. When managing a wireless network, you
need to think of both the wired as well as mobile components
that go into a wireless network. The wired components
include servers, desktops, and access points that need
to be monitored. On the wireless component side you
have a variety of mobile devices trying to connect to
the enterprise to access data. This makes it absolutely
necessary to secure, manage and optimize these devices.
You also need to consider the mobile applications and
gateways that need to be maintained in order to ensure
better performance and reliability.
Another issue is integration. Enterprises don't want
to throw away what they already have in terms of enterprise
applications. The challenge is to wireless-enable existing
applications, or develop new applications that work
seamlessly with existing applications that are meant
to run on a wired infrastructure.
There is also a need to ensure that the applications
are tuned to take care of the individual capability
of each mobile device. For example, some of these devices
may have color displays while others may not.
The interface between the mobile device and the server
need to be smart enough to take care of different
What are the tangible and intangible benefits an
enterprise will gain from implementing any wireless
We have had numerous customers using wireless for different
purposes. For example we have Key3Media, the company
that organizes the Comdex and NetWorld+Interop shows.
They are using our technology to manage their WLANs
as well as their exhibition services which are wireless
enabled through CA technologies. In this case you achieve
quite a few things. Business-wise you make sure that
WLAN is going to be managed, so you save on management
and labour cost. You also save time in terms of making
sure that the WLANs are constantly available.
Another area that could benefit immensely is the service
desk. Every major enterprise has a service desk or helpdesk
solution. Support or technical personnel who want to
troubleshoot a critical problem at a remote location
can do so using a handheld device. This improves the
productivity by more than 50 percent.
There are other areas like call centers that would benefit
from wireless technologies. The benefits wireless technologies
offer would vary from business to business, but in general
it would still be in line with improving productivity
and response time as well as customer service and satisfaction
Implementing a wireless solution isn't exactly cheap.
How can a CIO/CTO justify the implementation of wireless
technology in terms of ROI?
ROI is dependent on the cost factor. Wireless technologies
are becoming much cheaper than laying a cable. For example
getting a WLAN solution is much cheaper than going for
a wired LAN and making them work especially if you consider
the installation costs. You have to knock a hole in
the wall, ensure that the cables are covered so that
no one will trip over the cables, etc. For WLANs these
issues do not exist.
For individual applications we have had interesting
formulas to calculate ROI. Using CA technology we would
be able to help customers calculate in advance what
would be the ROI or the saving he can possible achieve
using CA technologies, especially our enterprise management
solutions to simplify the complexity of having wireless
networks through the enterprise and that would be easily
justified through the ROI formula we have developed.
As you mentioned earlier there are many security
issues when it comes to WLANs. There are issues with
mobile devices. Then there are issues with the transport
mechanism itself. So in what way does one address these
Security issues with wireless technologies have been
around for a year and half. Sometime back the University
of Maryland published a report revealing the weaknesses
of WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy a wireless security
protocol) that is commonly used by WLAN based on 802.11
protocol. All versions of this protocol whether it is
802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g,or
802.11h share the same security definitions and standards.
Also, many vendors selling WLAN solutions don't even
bother to turn on the encryption. And enterprises deploying
WLANs forget to turn it back on. Even when it is turned
back on with 64-bit encryption, it is not secure enough.
Hackers can crack WEP using free downloads from the
Internet such as the "AirSnort". "AirSnort"
can easily crack the WEP protocol in real
I recommend two things that enterprises can do: one
is to enable all the default security features already
present in the products. In most cases these are not
enough because the access controls used in current WLAN
standards are not very robust. They should also look
into third party software solutions to address this
problem. After all, the security of the overall system
is as strong as the weakest link.
Sandeep Ajgaonkar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org