PowerCloud Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based cloud networking provider, has announced TenantWiFi, a cloud-based, Wireless as a Service offering for users and businesses in shared spaces.
PowerCloud Systems: Shared cloud Wi-Fi on one infrastructure
Wireless as a Service offerings like PowerCloud and Cisco Meraki's are especially appealing to businesses that are looking to offload wireless LAN management. PowerCloud Systems' TenantWiFi service extends that value a step further, offering one cloud-based network infrastructure that meets the needs of multiple customers, said Rohit Mehra, vice president of network infrastructure research at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.
TenantWiFi is built on PowerCloud's CloudCommand platform -- a network device management software offering that allows for the secure and remote management of Wi-Fi infrastructure. The cloud-based TenantWiFi service is suitable for multiple individual users or businesses that require private network access, but where a shared public access wireless LAN infrastructure makes sense, said Jeff Abramowitz, founder and CEO of PowerCloud. The shared network of access points with independent service set identifiers (SSIDs) offer each customer environment its own set of intelligence, security and control capabilities, without the need for an on-site controller.
PowerCloud's channel partners can manage TenantWiFi for end users through the CloudCommand platform's MSPView, a multi-network dashboard that gives partners visibility and control into each of their customer's Wi-Fi environments.
Multi-tenant Wi-Fi options today are typically only capable of shared Wi-Fi access, without additional security measures -- like firewalls or partitions -- between tenants, Abramowitz said. TenantWiFi -- an offering for large apartment complexes, hospitality and multi-tenant retail sites -- also provides each user or business with its own guaranteed bandwidth, without the hassle of managing the wireless LAN, he said.
Most multi-tenant environments typically rely on shared passwords or a different network name per user or business, such as in a mall or hotel. This approach can be complex to manage, Abramowitz said. "The tenant is not getting what they really need -- a network that is personalized and firewalled from the other tenants, with dedicated bandwidth." TenantWiFi offers a private network experience on shared access points, he said.
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"Networking as a Service offers Wi-Fi as a utility, which makes it simple for the end user to deploy and a nice business model for the service provider managing the services," he said.
Wi-Fi as a Service isn't just for meeting the needs of employees or IT within a business, however, Abramowitz said. "Businesses are increasingly using Wi-Fi to satisfy guests coming in with mobile devices who are taking advantage of emerging services that businesses might be offering -- like end-user coupons and deals," he said.
Businesses will also have the ability to build applications on top of their cloud Wi-Fi service, Abramowitz said. "[PowerCloud] can deliver specific applications to designated tenants, like if a store within a mall wants to offer a certain application to its users," he said.
Enterprises considering Wireless as a Service
Residents and business in a high-density building often run into frequency coordination issues when setting up their own Wi-Fi, which can lead to interference and other problems, said Craig Mathias, principal at the Ashland, Mass.-based Farpoint Group advisory firm.
"There's nothing better than having a central authority controlling the configuration and operational management of the Wi-Fi," he said. Wireless as a Service can deliver that central authority, but many multi-tenant, cloud-based networking offerings have been dogged by security concerns.
With its Wi-Fi as a Service, PowerCloud provides isolation of individual users, Mathias said. "With isolation per user, it's now impossible for one user on the shared infrastructure to see what another user or business is doing," he said.
While hospitality and retail companies will have immediate use cases for PowerCloud's TenantWiFi, larger enterprises and offices can also benefit from outsourcing their Wi-Fi capacity and reliability concerns.
"Even for large businesses, we are advocating outsourcing and having other firms manage facilities like Wi-Fi," Mathias said. "There is no competitive advantage from having Wi-Fi installed on-premises."