Wireless Data Shot: Security and Development

The Evans Wireless Development Survey is a detailed report of extensive, in-depth interviews with almost 500 developers active in wireless application or infrastructure development. It was conducted in March 2003.

 
Figure 1: Security method primarily incorporated with WLANs.

Security Method Primarily Incorporated with WLANs
When asked which single WLAN security technology is the one they primarily use, survey developers are surprisingly diverse in their responses. No single technology dominates, and the major technologies have the loyalty of close to the same percentage of developers, within about five points. WPA (Wireless Protected Access) has a thin lead, currently only five points over the flawed technology it was designed to replace, WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy). Given that WPA began to reach retailer shelves only in spring of 2003, expect this edge to widen greatly before next survey cycle. EAP (Extensible Authorization protocol) has a healthy 16 percent of developer loyalty, but EAP requires a centrally managed server for best results, and is thus limited to relatively large organizations.

 
Figure 2: What security method do you primarily incorporate with WLANs?

The large 17 percent of developers who did not know what technology was in use on their WLAN reflects that fact that IT network managers are typically the ones who design and configure networks, not developers. Especially in large corporate enterprises, LAN security is not a developer task.

 
Figure 3: Biggest challenge to developing wireless applications?

Biggest Challenge to Developing Wireless Applications
Wireless means portable, and for the most part, portable means physically small and short on computational resources. Among the challenges confronting wireless developers, the constrained nature of the platforms is the #1 issue, cited by 32 percent of the survey group.

Exploding demand for wireless functionality in recent years has triggered intense R&D competition among vendors, which in turn has led to furiously evolving standards. Java, CDMA, GSM, and others have shed many skins in very little time, forcing developers into a dead run just to stay in one place. 25 percent of developers in this survey cite rapid evolution of standards as their #2 hurdle in wireless development, with the related issue of unfamiliarity with device programming?can anyone ever be familiar with a process that changes so quickly??standing with 15 percent, as #3.

 
Figure 4: What is the biggest challenge to developing wireless applications?

Finally, when technologies come and go as quickly as they do, good tools dont have the time to mature, leading to developers #4 complaint: 13 percent lament a general lack of tools for wireless development. Apparently, speed kills?too high a speed of technological progress can kill developer productivity.

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of wireless development? Cast your vote here.

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