The recent “buzz” in the WLAN space among both users and vendors takes a look into Aerohive Networks, the soon-to-launch, controller-less WLAN solution we expect to make its debut at or around Interop 2007 in Las Vegas. Formally emerging from stealth mode this week, the vendor seeks to target CAPEX savings among large, distributed enterprise deployments by removing the need for a WLAN controller in the design of a WLAN. Stating that its access points are, in fact smart, “thin” access points in keeping with the design mores of competitor’s WLAN offerings, Aerohive offers control of all access points via a centralized software appliance. In this model, the controller does not necessarily go away, rather it is virtualized. Some might counter that this sounds similar to the “thick” AP designs of yore and, to that point, I would be willing to concede it seems somewhat of a hybrid approach; yet another nod to strategies of other WLAN vendors. The solution allows for central control of multiple APs (25 are supported by the appliance in its current version), however, it eschews the need for a separate hardware deployment for a distribution layer of wireless controller switches.

The idea is intriguing, however, the CAPEX savings that the company cites are only relevant in relatively large-scale deployments. While it may seem a natural fit for the SMB or smaller enterprises, the cost-savings model does not scale-down as well as it scales up. Speaking of scale, with the appliance only supporting 25 APs, it is unclear how clustering and, perhaps more importantly, bulk licensing works for large deployments.

It will be interesting to see how Aerohive makes waves in the industry if not as a financial competitor in the short term, as an ideological one.

By Chris Silva.

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