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Aerohive: Busy Bees

5:30 PM -- You might have thought that the debate over WLAN architecture is at this point over. You’d be wrong: WLAN startup (and I consider it an excellent sign that there are still some of these) Aerohive Networks Inc. has announced a WLAN architecture that is at first glance a bit of Back to the Future -- relatively thick APs and no central controller. But this isn’t a return to the simple fat APs of yore.

You may recall that for most of this decade enterprise-class WLANs have been based first on wireless switches, and then on controllers that are independent of the particular switches used in a given implementation. A central controller allows a lot of intelligence to be moved out of the AP (and the switch), but often at a cost: If all traffic (the data plane) needs to be routed through the controller, performance could take a hit. Reliability could be an issue as well, necessitating fault-tolerant configurations. Still, the centralized-management/centralized-control/distributed-data model is quite common in many enterprise-class products today.

Aerohive centralizes management (it’s hard to imagine that distributed management will ever make a return), but control and data are distributed in its model, which it calls the Cooperative Control WLAN Architecture, or CCWA. It also allows an individual AP (Aerohive calls these HiveAPs) to become a mesh node whenever needed, for convenience or for fault-tolerance. This feature is certainly going to become common all by itself, as Aruba Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: ARUN)’s recent announcement of a mesh option shows.

There’s a lot going on in Aerohive’s system, and I’ve written it all up in a new Farpoint Group White Paper that you can find here. I can’t wait to hear what their competition has to say about this one. — Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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