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Unified wired and wireless: Aerohive switches and revamped HiveManager

Aerohive campus Ethernet switches and a revamped HiveManager unify networks and improve application visibility and control.

Wireless LAN vendor Aerohive has added campus Ethernet switching to its product line, and enhanced its HiveManager management platform with new application visibility and context-based policy management. The release signifies the ongoing market trend in unified wired and wireless campus networking.

The new SR series of Aerohive switches will roll out throughout the year. The SR 2024, available now, has 24 front-facing Gigabit Ethernet ports with four additional GbE uplinks. Eight of the ports on the $1,799 switch support 802.1at, or Power over Ethernet Plus (PoE+).

At mid-year, the market will see two more Aerohive switches, the SR2124P and SR2148, with 24 and 48 PoE+ ports of GbE respectively, each with four 10 Gigabit Ethernet uplinks. The SR switches run HiveOS, the same operating system that powers the company's wireless LAN access points. The switches ship with routing protocols and 3G and 4G backup capabilities, which makes them suitable for branch office deployments too.

IASIS Healthcare, a Franklin, Tenn.-based health care company, has deployed the SR2124 as a branch router in several of its remote clinics, said Rodney Dukes, the company's network architect. The company is also considering the Aerohive switches in its campus networks, which are currently all-Cisco. "We're planning to use them in a hospital," Dukes said. "We've got a couple refreshes coming up, and we're looking at putting one in each IDF [Intermediate Distribution Frame]. To manage that switch plus the access points on one platform is awesome."

Aerohive switches: Another step toward a unified wired and wireless LAN

The Aerohive switches highlight the industry's ongoing effort to unify wired and wireless networking so that wireless LANs no longer operate as a separate overlay network, said Andre Kindeness, senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. Cisco's new Catalyst 3850 wireless control switch was one of the first instances of vendors consolidating the control plane of the network. HP made some recent progress with its 830 Unified Wired-WLAN switch series. Also, the leading pure-play wireless LAN vendor, Aruba Networks, took steps in that direction when it launched its S3500 Mobility Access Switches in 2011.

Network engineers are so busy focusing on hot trends, such as high-performance data center networking and bring your own device initiatives, that they are wary of having two separate management systems for wired and wireless networks, Kindness said. "So, Aerohive is feeling the pressure of finding a way of going into accounts and competing for customers who are liking what Cisco and HP are just starting to deliver on," he said.

Vendors like Aruba and Aerohive might struggle to sell switches into the wiring closets of large networks that are already dominated by Cisco and other incumbent wired-switching vendors, but the branch networking capabilities of Aerohive's SR series could appeal to companies looking to consolidate network services in remote locations, Kindness said. An SR switch can do triple duty as a router, firewall and switch.

A rebuilt HiveManager with application visibility and control

Aerohive also has revamped its management platform, HiveManager, which customers can use on-premises and in the cloud. The company has added Layer 2 to Layer 7 application visibility and control, and has enabled new context-based configuration and policy management capabilities.

HiveManager will now let a network manager set detailed policies. For instance, an enterprise could classify users as VIPs, contractors and employees, then define how each group can interact with a service like YouTube. "The VIP could do anything they want with any application," said Abby Strong, senior product marketing manager at Aerohive. "For a contractor, say, I want to block YouTube. And for other employees, there are some uses for YouTube, but they should not take precedence over business-critical activities, so I'd like to limit it."

Most solutions implement this at a network level by creating different service set identifiers (SSIDs) to enable different optimized experiences based on user identity. "[This is] fine if YouTube is the only application," Strong said. "Do you need to create another SSID if I want to change how they interact with another app? And then there is the complexity of whether you want to base that on what type of device they're using and what their geographic location is. Do you need more SSIDs to customize that experience?"

The new detailed management and policy control in HiveManager has improved how Dukes delivers network services to guest users at IASIS. It's also improved how he manages and troubleshoots the networks for his remote clinics, where users rely on Citrix application virtualization for a lot of services.

"All their applications are Web-based Citrix, so we might have some bandwidth issues or need to apply some Quality of Service," Dukes said. "We're able to see that with the Layer 7 visibility into how those applications are behaving. We have a Riverbed Steelhead at every location, so I can see that maybe we need to give that traffic destined for that application a higher queue to make it work."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Director.

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