A long time ago, a Greek philosopher name Heraclitus uttered the phrase, “change is the only thing constant in life”. The same can be said for the WiFi industry, as it has had to evolve rapidly to keep up with mobile device evolution. Yesterday, Brocade was in the news as it announced its intent to acquire Ruckus. Today, it’s Aerohive’s turn as the company announced several new products to help it catch the 802.11AC wave 2 upgrade cycle.
There are already a number of wave 2 products on the market today and Aerohive is differentiating itself on having the most flexible products that can help customers migrate to wave 2 without having to do a number of other tasks like forklifting the wired network or upgrading power in the wiring closet.
As part of the launch, the company is introducing two new wave 2, cloud managed access points - the AP250 and AP 245X. The AP250 is meant more for indoor deployments and whereas the 245X has external antennas and is ruggedized for warehouses, manufacturing floors and other environmentally challenging areas.
What’s unique about the Aerohive access points is that they can operate on standard 802.3af 15-watt power over Ethernet (PoE). Other solutions require 30-watt PoE+. While PoE+ is widely adopted today, there are a lot of organizations that have older infrastructure running 15-watt PoE.
K-12 and retail are Aerohive’s biggest verticals and are also very cost sensitive and likely to have a significant amount of 15-watt PoE ports. There will be a large number of schools upgrading their WiFi over the next couple of years because of the boost to E-Rate funding and many of them will find this feature from Aerohive appealing.
The new access points have software selectable radios where customers can start with a 2.4 Ghz/5Ghz configuration and then, through software, change to dual 5Ghz. I believe Aerohive is the only vendor that offers this ability through software. Other vendors typically require a change out of some hardware. This is another feature that adds flexibility to the deployment where a customer might need the 2.4-Ghz band today but plan to move to dual 5Ghz in the future.
Also, the access points feature integrated Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE); something that is being asked for by organizations that want to create location based mobile applications. This includes retail, healthcare, hospitality, and entertainment venues.
The access points are outfitted with Aerohive’s RF-IQ technology, which adds features such as automated channel and power selection, load balancing, band steering and other functions designed to add intelligence for a distributed access point model. This helps automate the ongoing tweaking and tuning required for optimized application performance.
In conjunction with the new access points, Aerohive has upgraded its network management platform, HiveManage NG. The software can run either as a pure SaaS service or customers can deploy it in a private cloud. The new release can manage up to 20,000 access points, up from the 5,000 that were supported in the last release. HiveManager NG offers a “single pane of glass” to configure the access points, monitor usage and simplify troubleshooting. One of the interesting aspects of HiveManager NG is that the access points can actually lose their connection to the management platform and continue to operate. No configuration changes can be made at that time but the WiFi continues to work.
Lastly, Aerohive is bringing to market four cloud-managed access switches that range from an eight-port fanless unit that can quietly sit under a workers desk or in a conference room to a 48 Port stackable switch. I certainly don’t expect Aerohive to go steal a bunch of share from Cisco with these switches but it is a nice complement to the access points for customers that want to buy wired and wireless from the same vendor.
Specifics on pricing and availability:
- AP 250 - $999, available April 2016
- AP 245X - $999 plus the cost of antennas, available June 2016
- SR 2208P, Fanless, conference room, 8x1 GigE PoE/PoE+ ports and 2x1 GigE Uplinks, 124W, $999, available April 2016
- SR 2224P, Enterprise class, entry level, 24x1 GigE PoE/PoE+ ports and 4x1 GigE SFP uplinks, 180 watts, $1599, available April 2016
- SR 2324P, Enterprise class stackable, 24x1 GigE PoE/PoE+ ports and 4x10 GigE SFP+ uplinks, 370 watts, $3299, available April 2016
- SR 2348P, Enterprise class stackable, 48x1 GigE PoE/PoE+ ports and 4x10 GigE SFP+ uplinks, 740 watts, $5499, available June 2016
WiFi has become a critical part of the day-to-day operations for most businesses large and small. However, not every company can afford to continually forklift upgrade the access points every 18 months. Aerohive’s flexible approach to 802.11 AC wave 2 should let customers deploy the technology cost effectively today and then beef up the network in the future.