Controller-less Vendor with Omnipotent Controller?By CWNP On 04/01/2010 - 22 Comments
I often have the privilege of learning about new products before they are released, which allows me to get some hands-on experience and a close-up preview. Every now and again, I get a sneak peak at something special, a WLAN game changer. For a few months now, I’ve beta tested, provided detailed feedback, and worked closely with the engineering team at Aerohive in preparation for a new game changing product. Finally, the information embargo is over and I can speak freely. What a relief.
The Aerohive Infinitely Scalable Controller (ISC) is the latest WLAN device to hit the market, and was released this morning at midnight—is midnight “morning” to anyone but 3rd shifters? Semantics aside, the ISC represents a fresh take on modular WLAN capacity, a new trend in manageability, and a never-before-seen and streamlined—one might call it Jedi-like—form factor.
Perhaps the most inventive aspect of the ISC is the modular capacity. Where many vendors have a handful of options for fixed-capacity WLAN controllers, the ISC represents an option where the controller is custom-built with as many processors and as much memory as the number of APs in the network. That’s right, if you have 12 APs, the controller has 12 CPUs. If you have 992 APs, the controller has 992 CPUs. I have to admit that this concept sounded implausible to me initially—who can put 100+ processors and many tens of GB of RAM in a WLAN controller without a ridiculous form factor—but, Aerohive has accomplished the impossible; their video data sheet (link at end) brings the magic to light.
As for manageability, the selection of interfaces on the ISC introduces an interesting dichotomy. On a positive note, the interface simplicity is impressive. In the world of non-standard interface names, types, quantities, and default management settings, Aerohive has succeeded in removing all interface-related complications. Seriously, they're gone. On the other hand, my primary unresolved complaint is that an interfaceless device poses a risk of confusion for network administrators. Documentation is sorely needed to ease the inevitable head-scratching. Without a clear explanation about the interfacelessness, administrators will all have a similar response: huh?
With flexible mounting options, you could put the ISC just about anywhere in a network, including network closets, the plenum, on a desk, in a manila envelope, or on a wall. Aerohive best practices recommend wall mounting WLAN controllers for maximum impact, though you might chalk this up as marketing kool-aid. They also explain the wall mounting strategy in the video data sheet.
I could share much more about this sophisticated piece of hardware, but I should defer to the Aerohive product team at this point. Check out their video data sheet, and Devinator’s latest blog explaining the product. From what I’ve gathered thus far, Matthew Gast got wind of the ISC while he was at Trapeze, and since Trapeze didn’t have an ISC, he went to Aerohive. He’ll probably write a new definitive guide about the ISC; maybe Bob O’ Hara and Devin could help. It’ll take their collective brainpower to get an entire book out of this puppy.