Every year, nearly 20,000 technology and learning professionals embark upon a carefully selected city to attend the International Society for Technology in Education annual conference. This year, Aerohive joined in the fun. It was a great place to meet hundreds of potential new customers and technology partners, with long conversations about all our new features and our fabulous new StudentManager product.
However, one of my most favorite parts about the week was all our existing customers who made a point to stop by our booth just to say hi and tell us how much they love their Aerohive Wi-Fi. As a product manager, hearing that the products we build are not only popular but actually influencing curricula and changing how teachers interact with students was a true defining moment in my career. I wish I could bottle up that enthusiasm and spread it around on days when long hours, long commutes, or just long meetings dampen spirits, because knowing our customers really love our products is what makes doing this so worth it .
We started off the week building a demo of our newest portfolio addition, StudentManager. This product is cool for a lot of reasons, but not the least of which is that it really shows off how Aerohive is changing the game in Enterprise wireless networking. While our competitors are still off trying to figure out distributed control and forwarding, we are using our industry-pioneering cooperative control architecture to enhance the experience for people actually using the Wi-Fi.
I don't think anyone (even our competitors) will argue against that we have won the architecture battle. The way forward is distributed control and forwarding – it's the only way to scale and provide the redundancy and determinism required to ensure Wi-Fi as a primary access medium. This will become even more apparent next year when 802.11ac (otherwise known as gigabit Wi-Fi – check out Matthew Gast's blog for more details) roars out and users are expecting speeds upwards of 500Mbps per client.
So, like I said above – our competitors are scrambling to catch up and make their controller-based architectures work with these new expectations, and since we've been saying for years distributed architecture is the only way forward, we had time to go solve other problems.
We sell a lot into the Education vertical. We love our K-12 customers and their schools made of concrete and steel, full of classrooms packed with students, bookcases, and other various accoutrements. One of the main reasons so many schools need Wi-Fi is that most teachers love to have technology in their classrooms. Trying to make 30+ students raised in this technological age read out of a textbook that's already outdated by the time it's printed is like trying to convince a group of cats to all run the same direction (ever tried herding cats? I don't recommend it ).
Teachers are adapting their curriculum to engage students with technology – one of our favorite examples is a fabulous Aerohive customer in Pender County, NC – they use the Sims and World of Warcraft with students to help teach things like teamwork, goal setting, and relationships. However, nearly every place we visited, we saw the same problem – while technology is fantastic at keeping kids engaged in the lesson, the teacher was spending much of the class time making sure everyone is connected to the Wi-Fi, and then spending the rest of the class time walking up and down the aisles ensuring students are actually doing what they're supposed to be, and not off on PBS Kids checking out the latest fun distraction. This didn't leave a lot of time for teaching.
Aerohive looked at this as an opportunity to solve an apparent problem without putting any additional burden on harried IT administrators or teachers – why not use our fabulous distributed architecture, policy enforcement at the edge, and built-in web portal functionality to fix this without requiring any agents, any installs, or any special clients? And with that, TeacherView and StudentManager were born. Teachers can now login, see all the students or computers are connected (this builds upon our Client Health functionality that translates a lot of complex Wi-Fi statistics and network tests into a simple Green, Yellow, or Red icon), they can turn on/off Internet or School Network access, create a white list of the only websites students are allowed to visit during class time, redirect students to a specific website, and even use Follow Me to copy whatever website is in the teacher's browser into that whitelist and then force students to redirect to it. Of course, the teacher can also generate reports for what websites students visited, how long they spent online, and other generally useful information.
As you can probably guess, StudentManager was a hit at ISTE. Everyone can relate to the problem of ensuring technology in classrooms is actually enriching education rather than distracting from it. Teachers love it for the control and ease of use, IT administrators love it because it means fewer calls to them since the teachers are empowered to control some Wi-Fi functionality, and technology administrators like CIOs love it for the reporting and monitoring functionality so they can justify how technology is used in classrooms. The great thing about Aerohive is that even if you already have Wi-Fi, it's easy enough to put a single AP into a classroom, use our HiveManager Online cloud-based management, and get a taste of TeacherView for very little investment. In fact – I'm sure we convinced quite a few ISTE attendees to do just that .
Overall, the ISTE show was a huge success – everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves and getting excited about the use of technology in all sorts of teaching environments. I know those of us who attended from Aerohive were super excited to meet all the potential new customers and especially flattered with all the existing customers who stopped by to visit. The only sad part about the show is that it's over until next year! I know I am really looking forward to it .