This is going to sound bad, but I don’t really care that Aerohive announced new switches. I thought I did. I knew they were coming and I longed for the day they would be here, but then they showed up, and my enthusiasm quickly waned.
I changed my mind though. I stopped thinking about it from an enterprise or large business perspective and started to think about it from a mid-market or SMB perspective. Then, it started to make sense and I started to get excited once again. Like a hormone raging teenager with bi-polar tendencies and no medication, I went from happiness, to dismay, and back to happiness.
What’s The Big Deal?
The fact that a wireless company just announced switches should not be earth shattering news. Aruba did it some time ago. Meraki did as well. Cisco and HP have always had them, but they do so much more than wireless, so it is hard to count them in that group.
I thought it was interesting when Meraki announced their switches, but that was because they were cloud managed, unlike Aruba’s switches. It had nothing to do with the hardware itself. Most access switches are boring. 24 or 48 ports of 10/100/1000 with some or all being PoE or PoE+. It doesn’t quite have the pull with the masses that it used to.
For larger networks, cloud managed switches aren’t a big deal. For smaller companies with distributed environments, it is a big deal.
Why Is It A Big Deal?
My sister has an Aerohive access point in her house. Nothing fancy. An older AP 110 model, so she can either run 5GHz or 2.4GHz, but not both at the same time. She had a smaller Netgear unit before switching to Aerohive, but that AP was not getting the job done. I gave the AP to my brother-in-law and told him to just plug it in to their Internet connection at home. I would do the rest without coming by their house. My sister texted me a day or two later while I was at home sitting on the couch and I remotely configured her AP, texted her the SSID and PSK and that was it. Later on, she had issues on 2.4GHz due to interference from the surrounding neighbors, so I switched her over to 5GHz, since all she needed was connectivity for her iPad. Problem solved, and I didn’t have to do more than about 10-15 minutes of work. I even used the remote spectrum analysis tool to figure out what was happening on the 2.4GHz band prior to shifting her to 5GHz.
Imagine that on a larger scale. What if I had a dozen locations that needed a single AP or a few AP’s? Using a cloud based management platform like Aerohive’s HiveManager Online(HMOL) means I don’t really have to even touch hardware before it gets sent to whatever location it will be operating at. As long as there is an Internet connection, I will be able to access that hardware remotely.
That’s great for wireless AP’s, but what about the other gear? My remote locations probably have a router and a switch. It is fairly common for the service provider to take care of the router for companies with little or no IT staff. It is one less thing they have to worry about. With Aerohive announcing switches, that run the HiveOS code that the AP’s do, guess what I am also able to do? You guessed it. Deploy switches without necessarily having to pre-configure them. All the interesting things I did on the AP’s from a security perspective, I can now do on the switch side. That may not seem like a big deal, but remember that in the mid-market or SMB space, this will help out tremendously.
In short, this is about time and resources. I don’t have to spend a lot of time staging equipment before sending it out via FedEx/UPS. I can ship it direct to the site and then remotely configure the gear. I also have the ability to monitor everything through HMOL. No separate management systems for wired and wireless. You can get this functionality with Cisco, HP, and Aruba, but it isn’t going to be as trouble-free and it will most likely cost a lot more. The one exception to Cisco being that they now own Meraki, and Meraki has switches and AP’s that are managed via the Internet in a similar manner to Aerohive’s HMOL platform. I can get similar functionality to what the larger networks are getting with their management/monitoring systems.
But Wait. There’s More!
It doesn’t end with the switches though. Aerohive has also announced Application Visibility and Control(AVC). If you follow the networking space, you know this has been a big deal for several years. On the firewall side, Palo Alto came out swinging a few years ago with a firewall that could peer into the network traffic and determine what applications were in use and let you filter based on that. You want to block Netflix? No problem. Want to allow Facebook timeline, but no games like Farmville? No problem.
Other vendors followed suit and released their own application aware capabilities. For all I know, they were working on it long before Palo Alto. Doesn’t really matter. Cisco, Juniper, Checkpoint, Palo Alto, and others have application visibility baked into their firewalls now. The wireless industry followed suit. First, it was Meraki. Then, Aruba and Cisco came out with their own application visibility solution. Now, Aerohive has announced theirs.
I could mention a bit about Aerohive’s AVC solution, but I would rather you just read my friend Chris’ post instead. I’ll simply add that AVC gives smaller customers insight that the larger ones probably already have. It levels the playing field. Expect to see more information about this in the near future from others.
Here are a few articles about this announcement from others:
Aerohive Is Switching Things Up – The Networking Nerd
Aerohive Launches Cloud Managed Switches – Lee Badman