Bradley Chambers, Brainerd Baptist School
I've been a big proponent of Aerohive and it's controller-less WLAN architecture for about a year now. A lot of how I came to be an Aerohive believer can be found in the case study on Brainerd Baptist Church where I am Director of Information Technology.
I also get asked a lot by non-technical folks about Aerohive. They are used to their home wireless routers and don't totally understand enterprise wireless. I love to use analogies, so I came up with one on how to compare email to enterprise wireless.
There are two types of corporate email systems:
1. Local Mail Server
This is typically a Microsoft Exchange setup. While it offers some benefits, it has a lot of complexities. In a lot of organizations, a single person works on the mail server as a full time job. It's quite an undertaking and can get very expensive.
2. Hosted Mail
This is typically Google Apps for Education / Business. This is much preferred to me over #1. I am not a mail server administrator and nor do I ever want to be. I simply need email to work. I do not have the time to babysit an Exchange server. I do not have the space to properly power and cool it, either. I have used Google Apps at my school for 2 1/2 years now and it has been wonderful.
I want to compare email systems to enterprise wireless systems to see where there are similarities. There are three types of enterprise wireless systems:
This is a common approach and it was needed when the access points were relatively slow and the controller handled the heavy lifting. This approach has 3 main problems: single point of failure, single bottleneck, and costly. This is very similar to the local mail server approach of email.
2. Cloud Controller-based
A few companies are launching what they consider to be improvements on #1. They are touting a cloud-based controller. This option still has the single point of failure and the single bottleneck. The only difference is that the local IT administrator is not responsible for it. This seems like a much improved approach over #1. The negatives are that if you lose your WAN connection, or if your cloud controller goes offline, then operations are severely impacted.
3. Cooperative Control
Aerohive has pioneered this technology. Each access point in an Aerohive controller-less WLAN has its own built in firewall and there is no single point of failure. They act together as a 'hive' and do everything that #1 and #2 can do without any of the negatives. There is no single point of failure, no single bottleneck, and no costly controller. If a guest sees a splash page login, it is being displayed locally by the access point.
If an access point loses Ethernet connectivity (but keeps power), then it automatically meshes with surrounding access points to keep the connection alive. If the access point loses power, then the clients are automatically moved to a surrounding access point (without the client knowing).
With Aerohive's controller-less WLAN architecture, there is no single way to take the system down. With HiveManager (online or local), you can manage and push out changes to all of your access points, but no feature of the access points require a connection to HiveManager. If HiveManager goes offline or is having problems, nothing on the system is impacted.
All of the security policies and routing happen directly on the access point without the need for a local or cloud based controller. It's revolutionary technology that is dead simple to manage and deploy.
We've got 2 major types of email systems and 3 major types of enterprise wireless systems. What would happen if the Aerohive approach was applied to email? It would revolutionize how to handle email management. Instead of a single server (whether hosted or not), you might have technology to allow clients to talk directly to each other’s devices (and possibly only deliver the message on the device they were using at the time).
I know it sounds crazy, but a lot of folks thought there would be no way to ditch the controller and Aerohive figured that out. I love thinking about the future and Aerohive has taught me to never say that something is impossible.
Bradley Chambers has been the Director of Information Technology at Brainerd Baptist School since 2009. At BBS, he manages an Apple network of 90 Macs and 40 iPads (with Aerohive access points). Prior to that, he worked in the telecommunications industry for five years. He has a B.S. in Organizational Management from Covenant College. He is an Apple Certified Macintosh Technician, an Apple Certified Associate for Mac 10.7 into Windows Server environments, a Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer, and an Aerohive Certified Wireless Administrator. He has spoken recently at the Tennessee Association of Independent Schools Tech Conference on transitioning schools to cloud based solutions. He is passionate about iOS and Mac in the education and enterprise markets. You can follow him on his blog or on Twitter (@bradleychambers).