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2/12/2009
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Aerohive Proves Some Are More Equal Than Others

Enterprise WLAN startup Aerohive Networks packs a lot in each of its software updates, and HiveOS 3.2 is no exception. Among the 20 new features, however, the new Dynamic Airtime Scheduling and a new management solution for small deployments are the most significant.

Enterprise WLAN startup Aerohive Networks packs a lot in each of its software updates, and HiveOS 3.2 is no exception. Among the 20 new features, however, the new Dynamic Airtime Scheduling and a new management solution for small deployments are the most significant.The impact of legacy wireless clients on even the latest 802.11n WLANs is a common problem for Wi-Fi, and Aerohive's approach to this issue is actually novel. Unlike competing solutions, Aerohive doesn't attempt to push clients to different radios or channels, but actually defines quality of service buckets of airtime for each of the clients, based on the measured quality and speed of the client's connection, as well as the defined policies for the user and device. All of the measurements are taken without regard to the protocol, so the access point does not assume that 802.11n clients are always faster.

This approach actually fixes a number of issues. Faster clients can get in and out quickly and not be stuck behind slower, legacy clients. And by basing the airtime budgets on the current performance, even 802.11n clients that are performing poorly with range or interference issues, are pushed down in priority, ironically keeping them from slowing down legacy clients. By rolling in user policies, guests with the latest and greatest laptop can be prevented from dominating the bandwidth. Aerohive claims a 10X boost in performance by using Dynamic Airtime Scheduling, based on lab testing, but obviously real-world performance will vary.

HiveOS 3.2 also addresses a common concern about Aerohive's solution since the product was launched in 2007. While a key selling point for Aerohive has been their controller-less architecture, the solution still required a pricey management appliance to get the biggest benefit out of it. Designed for large scale deployments, the HiveManager scales to manage thousands of access points, but added significant upfront cost for small deployments. To address this need, Aerohive has embedded HiveUI, a Web-based management tool, into its 802.11n access points. With support for up to a dozen access points, HiveUI enables small enterprises to build centrally managed wireless networks without the expense of back-end controllers. After nearly two years on the market, Aerohive has built up an impressive feature set, as well as adding a third option in the WLAN architecture debates that have been raging for years. While features are but one factor in evaluating WLAN solutions, updates like HiveOS 3.2 make Aerohive a company to watch.

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