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Zeus Kerravala | September 17, 2012 |

 
   

Aerohive Gives Away its Bonjour Gateway

Aerohive Gives Away its Bonjour Gateway A good move for Aerohive but a better move for any company out there that wants to leverage Bonjour for Apple-specific services.

A good move for Aerohive but a better move for any company out there that wants to leverage Bonjour for Apple-specific services.

On Monday, Aerohive announced it was giving away a downloadable version of its Bonjour Gateway. The Aerohive Bonjour Gateway had previously been made available with the purchase of a single Aerohive access point. Now, instead of mandating customers buy an Aerohive AP, anyone can download the software and run it on a VMWare ESXI 4.1 host.

The Bonjour Gateway allows Apple's Bonjour protocol to cross network boundaries and enable Bonjour services across large enterprise networks, both wired and wireless, even if the customer is not running any Aerohive equipment. The Bonjour protocol is used by Apple to enable services such as AirPrint, AirPlay and Apple file sharing.

The use of Bonjour has skyrocketed within companies primarily because of the rapid shift to a BYOD-enabled world. Earlier this year I did some research in this area, and ZK Research data shows that, in the US, only 18% of CIOs are opposed to BYOD. On the other hand, only about 20% of CIOs fully embrace and support BYOD, meaning the majority of companies are moving through the process of figuring out their BYOD strategies.

The majority of focus for BYOD has been on the device, for obvious reasons. The devices grab all of the media headlines, and cool devices are what workers want to use in the workplace. However, the IT departments have to deal with more than just bringing the device on the network. IT needs to provide the infrastructure for a high quality, familiar user experience; and providing access to the Bonjour services is a big part of the Apple value proposition. The more aggressively organizations move with BYOD, the faster we find Apple devices like iPhones, AppleTV and the dominant iPad moving into businesses.

The reason a gateway is needed is because Bonjour is not a routable protocol, meaning Apple devices can only use Bonjour services that are on the same subnet. Frankly, I'm not sure Apple ever envisioned the widespread use of Bonjour within companies, but here we are. There are other competitive offerings, but here is what I think stands out most from the Aerohive release:

* The Aerohive Bonjour Gateway is designed to work with any wired or wireless vendor. Organizations can leave their existing infrastructure in place, download the Aerohive Gateway and have instant company-wide Bonour based services. As far as I know, all of the other competitive offerings require some infrastructure from that particular vendor.

* It's easy to get up and running. The implementation is plug and play. Download, install and it's up and running. There's no requirement for specific VLAN, multicast or any other configurations. This means even small companies or overburdened IT managers from school systems can leverage it.

* Centralized control and management. Bonjour services can be fully managed, filtered and controlled across the enterprise wide area network from a central location.

* Maintains existing security policies. The deployment of the Aerohive Gateway should be transparent to any wired or wireless security and data forwarding policies.

This raises the question, why would Aerohive give away the gateway? Decoupling the gateway from the access point was the right thing to do. Allowing the software to be downloaded for free was also the right thing for Aerohive. As innovative as Aerohive is, they're a very small player in a market with some large incumbents such as Motorola, Cisco and Aruba. Charging for the feature, even if it's a small amount like under $500 for a single access point, may give customers cause for concern, as it could be perceived as creating a mixed vendor environment. This concern is actually unwarranted since the original AP-based gateway was designed to work in multi-vendor environments, but just the perception might keep customers from trying the gateway.

I think giving the software away was actually quite smart by Aerohive. Removing any barrier to entry allows companies to download the software, use it and get value for it. This will create some familiarity with Aerohive in companies that may never have considered them otherwise. This was similar to the strategy Aruba used with the Airwave management software. Although Aruba didn't give it away, the company sold a tremendous amount of management software with no wireless infrastructure, since Airwave has great multi-vendor capabilities. Aruba then leveraged that installed base to later sell its infrastructure. Aerohive should be able to create a similar back-door approach.

A good move for Aerohive but a better move for any company out there that wants to leverage Bonjour for Apple-specific services.



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