Our third presentation at Wireless Tech Field Day was from Aerohive. We arrived at their office in the afternoon to round out day one. Once at the front door, we were greeted by Devin Akin. He warmly greeted everyone and shook our hands as we walked in. Once inside our meeting room, we were presented with a package containing an Aerohive polo shirt, notebook, chocolate bar, and a plastic shamrock necklace to wear in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. As soon as we all were seated and settled, Devin jumped right into a special presentation before we got started properly. In honor of Andrew von Nagy’s recent success on the CCIE Wireless lab exam, Devin and the Aerohive crew presented him with a sash in Aerohive gold bearing his CCIE number in glitter. Andrew was a great sport and accepted his special gift proudly.
After the very special presentation, we dove headlong into Aerohive. I’d like to mention a few words about Devin. His energy during our visit was off the charts. He seems to enjoy the world of wireless networking, and based on conversations I’ve had with the other delegates, his name carries quite a bit of weight in the wireless world. I read some of his blog posts before I left for Tech Field Day, and he strikes me as a person who isn’t afraid to put his opinion out there for the world to see. He also “gets” Tech Field Day. When we walked into the room, he had the Twitter stream for the #TechFieldDay hashtag projected on the wall of the room for everyone to see. That way, the presenters could glance over and get instant feedback about how things were going. They could also get immediate feedback from the audience not directly in front of them. These kinds of little touches go a long way toward making a successful presentation at Tech Field Day.
We got to hear from Bob O’Hara, who is a legend in the wireless area. He is the founder of Airespace, which was snatched up by Cisco and he is generally credited with creating the whole movement behind controller-based access points (APs). Bob talked for a few minutes about some of the history he helped create, as well as why he has worked with Aerohive to move away from the controller-based AP model and into something different.
After Bob, Mr. Energy Devin Akin jumped in and sped through the perfunctory intro/framing slides. He talked about the market position of Aerohive and what differentiates them from the competition in the market. While the other vendors in the market are using relatively “dumb” radios that send traffic back toward the controller for processing, Aerohive has taken a very different approach. Using merchant silicon, they have made their APs much smarter while keeping their price reasonable. This means that there is no need for a controller to direct the APs. Instead, the management software can be loaded on a small appliance, a virtual machine (VM) or even…the cloud. The APs themselves have a great feature set to allow things like mesh operation, fast layer 3 roaming across subnets, and even some layer 2 MAC routing. The management software for the APs allows for some additional interesting features, such as private pre-shared keys (PPSK) which give you the ability to issue a PSK per user that has an expiration date and allows a certain number of devices per AP. That way, your laptop, iPhone, and iPad can all join from a single key. There is also support for a teacher based view that allows instructors to lock out all or a portion of access to network and Internet resources. This is a great feature for the K-12 education environment, as it ensures the teacher determines exactly where the students can go, and due to the granularity of the controls, even allowing students a reward of some additional Internet surfing after their work is completed.
One of the more impressive features involved a full setup demo. All of the APs were set back to defaults and removed from the manager. Then, in front of the delegates, a new highly secure network was built in about 15 minutes. It was very straight forward, and once the details of the network were provisioned the configurations were pushed out the members of the “hive”, which is the Aerohive term for the collection of APs in the network.
After the demos were over, it was time for a delegate demo. Devin informed us that there was an AP somewhere in the building broadcasting an SSID of “Find Me” at 1 mW, which made it practically invisible. Under that AP was an “Oprah Moment” for the delegates. Devin suggested we use our newly-acquired MetaGeek Wi-Spy scanners to see if we could find the AP. This again was a great touch. Devin had been paying attention and knew what we were now capable of doing, so he decided to build on it and make us work for it. Having only brought lightweight devices like my ChromeOS CR-48 and my iPad, I couldn’t participate in this little Easter egg hunt, but after a few minutes the delegates located the prize – an Aerohive HiveAP110 and 3 years of access to the cloud-based Hive Manager software to provision it.
I was quite impressed with Aerohive. They have a great product and a wonderful staff developing it. While it appears that their primary vertical right now is in the education space, I have no doubt that their feature set has appeal to medical and other verticals as well. I think they with the industry focusing right now on the controller-based architecture, Aerohive can carve itself a very comfortable niche for the controller-less technology they have created. Other information that I’ve encountered leads me to believe that some vendors are beginning to look at locating more intelligence in the AP/edge once again, which means that when they finally move back toward that strategy they will no doubt find Aerohive staring back at them as a leader in that particular space. I’m going to spend some more time evaluating the HiveAP capabilities thanks to Devin and his team. I hope to have more to write about it in the near future.
Aerohive was a sponsor of Wireless Tech Field Day, and as such they were responsible for paying a portion of my travel expenses and hotel accommodations. In addition, they provided the delegates a package including an Aerohive polo shirt, note book, candy bar (which was consumed during the writing of this review and was delicious), and St. Patrick’s Day themed button and necklace. The delegates were also provided with an Aerohive HiveAP 110 and 3 years access to the cloud-based Hive Manager software for evaluation. At the conclusion of the session, Aerohive provided all attendees a selection of beers with Irish themes, such as Guinness, Harp, and Smithwick’s. At no time did they ask for nor were they granted any kind of consideration in this review. The analysis and conclusions outlined here are mine and mine alone. They are offered freely and willingly.