Wireless Causes Big Rise in IT Anxiety

Managing ever-evolving technologies and increasingly demanding users could prove to be a Herculean task for many IT managers.

From Wi-Fi to smartphones, wireless technology is ubiquitous in businesses of all sizes -- and it's an increasing source of frustration for many an IT executive.

Brad Wright, vice president of global communications technology at Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., said in an e-mail that wireless technology causes a "HUGE" (his emphasis) amount of anxiety for large IT operations. Pasadena, Calif.-based Jacobs has 15,000 wireless users in 400 locations.

Supporting such large wireless setups is hard enough, Wright said. But the need to deal with constantly evolving technologies and ever more demanding users makes the task doubly difficult.

Most of the 10 IT managers interviewed for this story said their organizations are keeping up with the task of implementing and supporting wireless technologies. However, some expressed concern about the ability of their IT shops to maintain control over their wireless systems and keep them secure in the face of a deluge of new applications and smartphones. And they expect things to get even more difficult with the arrival of next-generation technologies like video over wireless and voice over Wi-Fi.

Some university IT operations have moved ahead of their corporate counterparts when it comes to implementing complex wireless systems, observers say. At Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., IT managers use an Aruba Networks 802.11n wireless LAN to distribute 17 channels of IP-based television to dorms. That costs far less than providing TV service via coaxial cable or even Ethernet, said Jimmy Graham, manager of network services.

Such projects put Liberty ahead of the pack in the mobility game, at least for now, analysts said.

"In truth, few companies truly understand the ramifications of the future wireless transformations," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J.Gold Associates LLC. Video streaming, real-time collaboration and cloud-based applications accessed from mobile devices "will all have a profound effect on corporate networks, security and management of devices and users," he added.

John Rinaldi, system architect for service management and mobility at ThyssenKrupp Elevator AG, supports the mobile IT needs of some 15,000 workers. He suggested that companies need to set up dedicated groups or tap high-ranking executives to oversee their wireless efforts.

"The challenge now is in shaping the networks, the security and the software to enable a common set of capabilities," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner Inc. "Networks are becoming borderless, but their capabilities are not homogeneous."

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that first appeared on Computerworld.com as part of an in-depth look at the future of wireless technology.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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