Zeus Kerravala
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his...
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Zeus Kerravala | October 01, 2013 |


Aerohive brings Gigabit to the Hive with 802.11ac

Aerohive brings Gigabit to the Hive with 802.11ac The company's controller-less architecture allows for a more gradual replacement of 802.11n with 802.11ac in the enterprise.

The company's controller-less architecture allows for a more gradual replacement of 802.11n with 802.11ac in the enterprise.

It's Interop time in New York this week, and given the state of the Yankees, Mets, Giants and Jets; it's the most exciting thing going on in NY right now. Looking at that pathetic list of teams, the Jets might be the best of the group! Certainly a far cry from the Boston sports teams.... Enough gloating though, and now to Interop.

I'm expecting to see a number of announcements this week related to WiFi, given the momentum in that market due to BYOD and the fact that 802.11ac is finally here. For those who haven't followed this specific market, 802.11ac brings Gigabit WiFi to companies, allowing the wireless network to support high-performance applications such as video and VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure).

Aerohive this morning announced two new access points (APs), the AP 370 and AP390 that support the 802.11ac standard. The transition to 802.11ac provides an interesting use case for the company's controller-less architecture. As the name would indicate, the controller-less deployment model means IT can deploy WiFi throughout its enterprise without the need for controllers or an overlay network. This can be particularly useful with transitioning to 802.11ac, as the IT department can "salt and pepper" the ac access points with the existing 11n ones and provide the gigabit speeds where required.

I've talked to dozens of network engineers about the transition to 802.11ac, and despite the increase in speed, many companies are somewhat hesitant to deploy the newer technology across the company. One reason is that the boost in speed isn't really needed for most workers. When the industry shifted from a/b/g to n, the speed jump was noticeable to most workers. Not so for the n to ac jump, as for most workloads, 802.11n provides plenty of bandwidth.

Another reason is cost. With a traditional "controller" architecture, upgrading to ac would mean upgrading the controllers, APs and possibly having to upgrade the Ethernet switches the APs are plugged into, so as to implement POE+ capable ports. This means that if an organization wanted to run both ac and n, the deployment model would be two WiFi networks at the two different standards.

With Aerohive, all of the APs, no matter which models the enterprise chooses to deploy, are managed centrally from the "Hive Manager" software. So now IT can place ac where it's needed and leave n in place for the rest of the company. As the number of ac devices grows within the company and workers start doing things like mobile video, the network can be upgraded by adding more ac APs, or by swapping out older ones for new ones. It's as simple as game planning against the Jets.

On a related note, the centralized Hive Manager software makes the Aerohive controller-less solution incredibly simple to set up and get going. All you need to do is mount the APs, and the Hive Manager software does the rest.

There is one other cool feature of the new ac APs, which is that the APs support high availability through dual Ethernet ports. Each AP can be simultaneously deployed to two different switches, protecting against switch failure. WiFi is no longer a nice-to-have for enterprises, it's a need-to-have, so it's good to see better resiliency capabilities brought to the WiFi market.

The era of 802.11ac is just getting started, and I suspect very few companies are going to completely upgrade their entire WiFi network in one swoop. The Aerohive solution allows customers to keep the 802.11n network and then sprinkle in ac where needed.

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