Wireless - Real-time and management functions

In the context of wireless network architectures, there are two types of functions that take place: real-time, and management functions. The access point (AP) should handle real-time functions, while everything that is not delay-sensitive, that is, management functions, can be performed centrally using a WLC. We separate the following management and real-time functions of the AP:

Management Functions:

  1. Client Authentication:

    • This is the process where a client device proves its identity to the network in order to gain access. In Wi-Fi networks, this could involve passwords, digital certificates, or other forms of credentials to ensure that only authorized users can connect.
  2. Security Management:

    • This encompasses the protocols and strategies used to protect the network and data from unauthorized access, eavesdropping, and other security threats. It includes setting up encryption methods like WPA2/WPA3, managing firewall rules, and monitoring for potential security breaches.
  3. Association and Reassociation (Roaming):

    • Association is the initial process by which a wireless device connects to an AP, while reassociation or roaming is the process of switching from one AP to another within the same network, typically to maintain a stronger signal. This is crucial for mobility, allowing users to move around within a large network (like an office building) without losing connectivity.
  4. Quality of Service (QoS):

    • QoS mechanisms prioritize network traffic to ensure that critical or time-sensitive data (such as voice or video streams) receives higher priority over less critical data. This helps in maintaining the performance and reliability of the network, especially in environments with heavy data traffic.

Real-time Functions:

  1. Transmission of 802.11 Frames:

    • This refers to the actual process of sending and receiving data packets over the Wi-Fi network according to the IEEE 802.11 standards. It involves handling data encapsulation, frame aggregation, and ensuring error-free transmission through error correction techniques.
  2. MAC Management:

    • Media Access Control (MAC) management involves controlling how data packets are transmitted over the network. This includes managing access to the physical network medium, addressing, and avoiding data collisions through mechanisms like CSMA/CA (Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Avoidance).
  3. Encryption:

    • Encryption is the process of encoding data sent over the network to protect its confidentiality. In Wi-Fi networks, encryption is performed at the data link layer, ensuring that the data transmitted between the client device and the AP cannot be easily intercepted or understood by unauthorized parties.

Each of these functions plays a critical role in the overall operation of a Wi-Fi network, balancing the need for security, performance, and user mobility. Access points (APs) are central to managing these functions, with some tasks being handled locally by the AP itself (real-time functions) and others potentially centralized for easier management and scalability (management functions).