Aerohive ups the bar for 802.11n APs
Well here we are 6 weeks after my last post on Aerohive and I find myself once again with some interesting news to write about. Today Aerohive has announced three new APs to their lineup, which add some exciting new features to their 802.11n APs. These are the HiveAP 330, 350 and 170. The first two are 3×3:3 450 Mbps 802.11n and the last a 2×2:2 300 Mbps outdoor 802.11n AP.
Looking first at the 330 & 350 APs, they are both smaller and faster and also able to run on 802.af power. Why would an enterprise want to upgrade to 3×3:3 450 Mbps when most of their current client population are not able to make use of all this bandwidth? To answer that I will talk about a feature of the design of these new APs that sets Aerohive well apart from the rest of the pack.
The above picture shows the custom designed, high-powered radio that Aerohive has used for these new APs. Using a high-powered radio gives the AP the ability to have a lower error rate or lower EVM (Error Vector Magnitude) because it is not reaching the peak of its range. The analogy here would be a 10W amplifier vs a 100W amplifier for playing music. If you play 10W on the 10W amp you would more than likely get distorted sound, for the 100W amp you would get a much clearer and error free sound. The next part of the custom design is highlighted above, the PA and LNA. In most designs these components are handled by the same single chip. Aerohive has separated these to improve the receive sensitivity of the LNA (Low Noise Amp). By focusing on this part of the design, they have been able to improve the upstream performance especially for low powered clients (such as tablets and smartphones) by as much as 5dBm at the same data rates as the older HiveAP 320/340 and even improve 5GHz coverage for laptops. In a varied client environment this helps immensely to improve the overall client experience.
This feature aims particularly at the fact that users just expect the WLAN to work the same on all their devices. When the CIO comes to you with his new tablet and doesn’t understand why his laptop works fine in his office for streaming video and the tablet doesn’t seem to be able to stay connected its pretty difficult to tell him its because the Wi-Fi in his new tablet just isn’t all that good. I have seen admins out of frustration just end up putting an AP in the CIOs office to ‘fix’ the problem, which can of course make it worse and not really solve it for everyone else.
One last important point about these APs is that Aerohive has priced them exactly the same as the current HiveAP 320/340 models rather than at a premium as other vendors are doing. This will mean they will compete strongly even with existing 3×3:2 APs from those other vendors.
Moving on the the HiveAP 170, this is Aerohive’s first dedicated outdoor AP. Earlier it was possible to buy an enclosure kit for the HiveAP 340 to use it as an outdoor AP, but this will not be available once the 170 starts shipping. This makes a lot of sense to me and I am glad to see that Aerohive is starting to develop this part of its portfolio. The 170 is a hardened AP able to operate in temperatures from -40 to +55C and are fully waterproof to the IP68 standard. This AP will be available at the end of Q3.
Aerohive has certainly had a number of recent announcements that show they are continuing to up the bar on both features for 802.11n APs (such as built in spectrum analysis) as well as new hardware that increases the pressure on competitors. These newly announced APs show that its not only raw speed that matters, especially when there is a large amount of variability in clients, but also being able to make the lower powered clients such as the single stream tablets and smartphones so prevalent in todays enterprise environment able to perform well. One benefits of moving to a 3 spatial stream AP is that you are increasing the ability of the WLAN to handle more clients per AP as well as more data. With the average number Wi-Fi devices per person set to shoot up from 2 (laptop and smartphone) to many more this will become increasingly an issue.
My take on these new APs is that they are not just ‘more of the same’ to bring Aerohive on a par with their competitors. Its obvious that a considerable amount of thought was put into adding new capabilities to these APs that meet the challenges in todays enterprise WLAN. As we move more and more towards Wi-Fi as being a default access method instead of an optional extra we will find new challenges to making sure that as wireless engineers we can keep the WLAN performing in an optimum way for all clients. I’m glad that Aerohive as a company recognizes those challenges and adapts their products to meet them and makes my job easier at the same time.