I’ve had the good fortune to be involved with Aerohive Networks ever since Wireless Field Day 1. Since then, I’ve been present for their launch of branch routing. I’ve also convinced the VAR that I work for to become a partner with them, as I believe that their solutions in the wireless space are of great benefit to my customer base. It wasn’t long ago that some interesting rumors started popping up. I noticed that Aerohive started putting out feelers to hire a routing and switching engineer. There was also a routing and switching class that appeared in the partner training list. All of these signs pointed to something abuzz on the horizon.
Today, Aerohive is launching a couple of new products. The first of these is the aforementioned switching line. Aerohive is taking their expertise in HiveOS and HiveManager and placing it into a rack with 24 cables coming out of it. The idea behind this came when they analyzed their branch office BR100 and BR200 models and found that a large majority of their remote/branch office customers needed more than the 4 switch ports offered in those models. Aerohive had a “ah ha” moment and decided that it was time to start making enterprise-grade switches. The beauty of having a switch offering from a company like Aerohive is that the great management software that is already available for their existing products is now available for wired ports as well. All of the existing polices that you can create through HiveManager can now be attached to an Aerohive switch port. The GUI for port role configuration is equally nice:
In addition, the management dashboard has been extended and expanded to allow for all kinds of information to be pulled out of the network thanks to the visibility that HiveManager has. You can also customize these views to your heart’s content. If you frequently find yourself needing to figure out who is monopolizing your precious bandwidth, you’ll be happy with the options available to you.
The first of three switch models, the SR2024, is available today. It has 24 GigE ports, 8 PoE+ ports, 4 GigE uplinks, and a single power supply. In the coming months, there will be two additional switches that have full PoE+ capability across 24 and 48 ports, redundant power supplies, and 10 GigE SFP+ uplinks. For those that might be curious, I asked Abby Strong about the SFPs, and Aerohive will allow you to use just about anyone’s SFPs. I think that’s a pretty awesome idea.
The other announcement from Aerohive is software based. One of the common things that is seen in today’s wireless networks is containment of application traffic via multiple SSIDs. If you’ve got management users as well as end users and guests accessing your network all at once, you’ve undoubtedly created policies that allow them to access information differently. Perhaps management has unfettered access to sites like Facebook while end users can only access it during break hours. Guests are able to go where they want but are subject to bandwidth restrictions to prevent them from monopolizing resources. In the past you would need three different SSIDs to accomplish something like this. Having a lot of broadcasted SSIDs causes a lot of wireless congestion as well as user confusion and increased attack surface. If only there was a way to have visibility into the applications that the users are accessing and create policies and actions based on that visibility.
Aerohive is also announcing application visibility in the newest HiveOS and HiveManager updates. This allows administrators to peer deeply into the applications being used by users on the network and create policies on a per-user basis to allow or restrict them based on various criteria. These policies follow the user through the network up to and including the branch office. Later in the year, Aerohive will port these policies to their switching line. However, when you consider that the majority of the users today are using mobile devices first and foremost, this is where the majority of the visibility needs to be. Administrators can provide user-based controls and reporting to identify bandwidth hogs and take appropriate action to increase bandwidth for critical applications on the fly. This allows for the most flexibility for both users and administrators. In truth, it’s all the nice things about creating site-wide QoS policies without all the ugly wrench turning involved with QoS. How could you not want that?
Aerohive’s dip into the enterprise switching market isn’t all that shocking. They seem to be taking a page from Meraki and offering their software platform on a variety of hardware. This is great for most administrators because once you’ve learned the software interface and policy creation, porting it between wired switch ports and wireless APs is seemless. That creates an environment focused on solving problems with business decisions, not on problems with configuration guides. The Aerohive switches are never going to outperform a Nexus 7000 or a Catalyst 4500. For what they’ve been designed to accomplish in the branch office, however, I think they’ll fit the bill just fine. And that’s something to be buzzing about.
Aerohive provided a briefing about the release of these products. I spoke with Jenni Adair and Abby Strong. At no time did Aerohive or their representatives ask for any consideration in the writing of this post, nor were they assured of any of the same. All of the analysis and opinions represented herein are mine and mine alone.