Well-known Wi-Fi mesh vendor Meraki today announced an interesting approach to enterprise-class wireless LANs with its new Enterprise Wireless LAN product line. What's interesting here is their novel "controller as a service" approach, whereby key infrastructure functions are provided via servers over the Internet. Meraki calls this the Enterprise Cloud Controller, and it has some interesting elements of cloud computing and software (make that hardware) as a service - and at an astonishingly low price.
One might, of course, question putting a key element of one's WLAN on the other side of the Internet, but the Enterprise Cloud Controller is really more of the management plane than the control plane, and no user data flows through this service regardless. I've not done a full analysis of this product line yet, but the list of features is impressive, and, oh, yes, the price. Controller licenses are $300 per AP for three years, including support and maintenance. a/b/g/n APs are $599 (one radio) to $799 (two radios) - pretty good for enterprise-class APs, especially when one gets everything else one needs for $100/year more.
And, of course, it's exciting to see another entrant into the enterprise WLAN space. This is interesting - anyone expecting a shakeout here must be wondering what's going on. Don't we have (perhaps more than) enough WLAN systems vendors? Well, we would if innovation weren't still very much alive in a field of IT now well over 20 years old. Oh, that, and something many have forgotten about during the current economic slowdown: something marketers and economists alike call growth. It's alive and well, and I'm still expecting an acceleration of WLAN sales in the second half of this year.
Mathias is a principal at Farpoint Group, a wireless advisory firm in Ashland, Mass.