Wireless Moving Into The Enterprise Space

LAS VEGAS – Wireless technology is white-hot at fall Comdex. Bluetooth and 802.11 (the IEEE standard for wireless LANs) are the buzzwords, and it seems that every company has some kind of wireless component to their business.

So far, most of those technologies are for very limited, small-scale environments- say your own personal office. Some companies, though, are preparing to – or already have – brought wireless computing into the enterprise setting. They see the value of wireless on the back end, integrating with servers. Although certainly a smaller market at present than consumer-based wireless devices, they recognize the enormous potential in the enterprise world, and are aggressively pursuing it.

One such company at Comdex is Marbles, Inc. Marbles just released a product called SkyFire, designed for businesses with a mobile workforce such as a sales force or service technicians. The point of SkyFire, according to Marbles’ Director of Marketing David McCulley, is to “enable businesses to deliver any application data or content to hand-held devices.”

SkyFire is an application that resides on a server, and allows mobile users to pull information from the server to a hand-held PDA. The information can be from any application on the server, like email, instant messaging, contacts, driving routes, schedules or credit-card transaction processing.

The communication, though, is one-way: no information resides on the PDA, eliminating the fear of sensitive data being compromised if the device is lost or stolen. All information sent from the server is 128-bit encrypted as well.

McCulley said SkyFire has a range that can cover a city. And although wireless networks that large are still in the early development stage, “the network can only get better,” he said.

Boeing has plans to move that network into the sky. One of the more unusual wireless offerings at Comdex, Boeing announced plans to offer broadband Internet and, just as importantly, corporate Intranet access on commercial aircraft.

The service, which is scheduled to be launched in a year, would allow users to plug into an ethernet LAN contained on the plane. If you want to access your company Intranet, it would be a matter of making arrangements with Boeing to get through your firewall.

Boeing is calling their service Connexion. “Connexion is about you,” said Richard VanderMeulen, Director of Strategy and planning for Boeing. “It’s to let you get high-speed access to your information…We’re providing wireless access to a place it’s not covering,” he said.

Having to wire every major airline’s planes and create a server-based network onboard is a huge undertaking, to say the least. VanderMeulen estimates that in the first two years, about a quarter of planes will be equipped for access, and “growing quite rapidly after that.”

Wireless is even making inroads into the Application Service Provider (ASP) market. OracleMobile , a subsidiary of Oracle Corp., will make your website wireless-enabled and host it themselves.

Companies “have HTML sites (already built), and they want to make them wireless enabled, without needing to write (code) for every version a wireless device, and every protocol,” said Senior Mobile Solutions Architect Mel Beans.

“We take the site and wireless-enable it to be platform and wireless independent,” he added.

One of the key attractions of Oracle’s service, Beans explained, is the quick time-to-market scenario. “A company could write their own stuff and come out with something in a year or so,” he said, or they could just have OracleMobile host the wireless version of their site much sooner and at less cost.

OracleMobile is already hosting some major customers, including The Standard, and Evite.

Right now, there are still bandwidth issues to be worked out for wireless in the enterprise to become as common as it’s becoming in the consumer world; but there’s little doubt that with the market potential out there, those issues will be solved. -- Keith Ward

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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