Wireless growth continues to explode in today’s enterprise networks. Wireless devices used for production, 1:1 initiatives for education, and BYOD have caused traditional wireless and network infrastructures to strain, and in some cases become, a bottleneck. On top of that, 802.11ac Wave 2 access points capable of 5Gbps+ have recently been released. These access points provide multiuser multiple-input multiple-output or (MU-MIMO) technology which splits signals between clients, maximizing throughput.
Additional speed and throughput is great – if you can support it. The fundamental problem with providing the necessary speed to access points is that that majority of existing network infrastructure today, at the access layer, is 1GB. How to get around this bottleneck? Vendors have proposed two ways.
First, many new access points include a pair of 1GB Ethernet uplinks which can be combined together to provide a 2GB connection to and from the connecting switch. This solution can work well, but requires costly, invasive and sometimes non-feasible wiring and does not scale. Running a second gigabit line to each access point provides a maximum connection speed of 2Gbps and with 802.11ac Wave 2 providing 5Gbps+, you could be paying for speed you cannot access.
The second solution is much more elegant and scalable – multigigabit switching. Cisco, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Brocade and other vendors provide multigigabit switches at the access layer. Depending on the model and vendor, multigigabit switches can provide 100, 1GB, 2.5GB, 5GB and 10GBASE-T bandwidth per port. Multigigabit switches utilize the same RJ-45 Ethernet ports used today, but are capable of providing speeds in excess of 1Gbps over those ports. While the ports are the same, the cabling is not. What makes this solution so elegant is that existing Cat5e cabling can be used to provide the additional bandwidth – to a point. While Cat5e will support up to 5Gbps, that’s where it stops. Cat6, Cat6a and Cat7 cables are required to provide higher speeds over greater distances. In addition to the bandwidth increase, these multigigabit switches can also provide 60+ watts of PoE per port. 60W per port is enough to power energy-hungry access points and even power smaller switches.
Today, multigigabit switching is available from Cisco, Aruba Networks (HPE), Brocade and other vendors.
Thinking about a wireless initiative? Let MNJ Technologies help! Our team of Solutions Architects and Engineers can assist with the assessment, planning, design and implementation of your wireless infrastructure. Reach out to your MNJ Account Executive to learn more.