Aerohive HiveOS & Hivemanager 4.0
I have been working with Aerohive for some time now and have been able to build a familiarity with their products and their vision for wireless in the enterprise. Aerohive has announced their new 4.0 releases of both HiveOS, which runs on their APs and Hivemanager, which provides management of the APs. I am going to be looking at the features announced in this release.
The basics of Aerohive’s architecture is that each AP can operate independently and co-operate with other APs around it to provide the features that are required by enterprises to have a scalable and manageable WLAN without compromising performance or redundancy. Essentially the idea is that in order to fulfill the vision of having ubiquitous wireless access you need to build it in a distributed fashion much as the Internet itself has grown. I believe that the current BYOD to work phenomena that we are seeing will show if the idea of a totally centralized architecture is scalable enough to handle the vast increase in wireless traffic that those devices and other future devices will load onto the WLAN.
Aerohive provides all the basic features needed in an enterprise class access point with secure WLAN access, captive portal firewall and VPN capabilities. They have added to this QoS capabilities, IDS and several other useful features all able to run on the AP itself. The new 4.0 release adds to this excellent base some new features that reflect must have capabilities in the marketplace along with some enhancements to their cloud based solution.
The first new feature is to enhance management of Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs). Aerohive points out that there is an explosion of these devices and that they most often have no wired connection and therefore users and executives are demanding to be able to connect to the enterprise WLAN. Other WLAN companies are of course seeing the same thing and developing features to deal with these devices for their customers. My take on this is that we see a difference between developing features to identify when someone is using say an iPad or iPhone on the corporate WPA2-Enterprise network and to put in place access restrictions around those devices and to be able to fully manage all aspects of those devices, to make sure any corporate data on them is secured, in the way that the Mobile Device Management (MDM) companies are doing. Aerohive quite rightly sees their main function as being just managing access and identifying who or what the device is that is getting onto the WLAN. As side benefit of this approach is that particularly for guest networks we will be able to better identify what users are trying to get around corporate security policies with their own devices and to lock those devices down with the firewall policies on the AP before the device gets onto the corporate network.
The next major feature is spectrum analysis at the AP. I have discussed before this feature in my Cisco’s CleanAir vs the Atheros vendors article. Aerohive is also using an Atheros chipset the same as Meraki and Aruba. Like Aruba and Meraki they are able to get the same resolution bandwidth from the Atheros chipset of 357kHz. In their current imp Atheros lementation this works with the Atheros 9200 chipset model APs (the Aerohive 110/120), have a variable sweep time down to 1 second and come with signatures for microwaves, bluetooth, DECT phones, baby monitors and video cameras. Its also useful to note the AP doesn’t have to go offline from serving clients to do this, it permits simultaneous data forwarding and spectrum analysis. The spectrum sweep covers the entire 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, so as you may have guessed by now the implementation is using a time slicing technique to do this. Aerohive tells me the 320 & 240 APs with the older 9300 chips will be supported in the next feature release sometime this summer.
The major difference here is that Aerohive’s spectrum analysis feature is nada, free, zip cost to existing customers. You get the capability of being able to identify interference sources on a map using common signatures to identify what kind of device it is plus all the things that I love to see as a wireless engineer such as FFT, duty cycle and swept spectrogram graphs. Oh and by the way, because this is all HTML5 based there is no requirement for flash or a PC client so you can quite happily view all this on your iPad as you go to investigate the interference problem. How cool is that? I love it when I get something like this for free and I’m sure that Aerohive’s existing customers will be glad of it too.
Another side note here, Cisco made a big deal of telling us at Wireless Tech Field Day how their sage chip on the AP provided an ability to locate and identify interferers and use this to change channels to avoid the interference. I discussed this with the Aerohive folks who said that their Aerohive Channel Selection Protocol (ACSP) already was factoring in both Wi-Fi and non-Wi-Fi interference sources even before this feature was announced so there isn’t really a big plus for Cisco’s CleanAir in this feature.
The final new feature is primarily of interest to Aerohive resellers as it expands on the cloud platform that Aerohive is concentrating on to provide a reseller the ability to offer a managed service to companies that may lack the resources to deal with WLAN issues. This makes a lot of sense for Aerohive in that they can get a deeper penetration into the small and medium size business market while still being able to offer larger companies with a dedicated wireless team a way of managing a large distributed deployment of APs. This is really one of Aerohive’s strengths in that their architecture fits in very well into the distributed enterprise space which is a challenge at best for the centralized controller companies to handle well.
Aerohive participated in the Wireless Tech Field Day and has followed up the contact made then with giving me access to information about their 4.0 release. At the time of the field day, I felt I had nothing more to add to the already excellent coverage about Aerohive given by other folks. Now with the information about their new release above I am able to write a post that covers some important developments and how Aerohive is constantly innovating and pushing ahead with their wireless vision. This release responds to changes in the marketplace, particularly the large influx of BYOD devices appearing in the enterprise and the challenges involved in providing access to wireless only android devices, iPhones and iPads. Additionally spectrum analysis on the AP is fast becoming a basic feature and Aerohive has smartly added this in without requiring an additional fee or license.
My take on Aerohive is that they are definitely a company with a vision and a belief in the advantages of their architecture over the prevailing centralized controller architecture. I’m glad to work in an IT field that is still new enough to be having game changing companies like Aerohive come in and present a challenge to incumbents that forces them to respond. Take for example the recent announcements from Cisco, Aruba and Motorola. All of them in one form or another announced some kind of more distributed architecture that moves them closer to Aerohive’s vision than the fully centralized play they have been focused on until now. This points to me at least that Aerohive is a company to watch and could easily grow their vision to overtake the smaller WLAN companies and even challenge directly the market share of the biggest players. All in all its an exciting thing to be part of and to be able to talk about. I recommend anyone who is investigating either a WLAN refresh or new installation put Aerohive on their shortlist of companies to evaluate.