As I root around at the more inexpensive end of the Suitable-For-Business WLAN space, one product set keeps jumping out at me. Open-Mesh is a big story in a little package, with a pretty crazy feature:cost ratio (as in crazy impressive). It’s just a really neat, innovative framework that offers cloud-managed APs for under $100, with a cloud dashboard that couldn’t be easier to use.
To boot, there is a free Android and iOS app for CloudTrax, and it looks real nice.
This Ain’t Market-Leading Wi-Fi, Nor Does It Try It To Be
One trap that many wireless professionals fall into (in my opinion) is not being agile enough of mind to set aside their loyalties to top-end product sets and simply appreciate what’s out there in the interesting edges of the wireless market. Sure, many of us have million-dollar WLAN environments and appreciate what we get in exchange for Large Costs, but there is life beyond Cisco and Aruba just like there are cars beyond Cadillac and Lexus. If you can open your mind and get over yourself, Open-Mesh fills a cool, low-cost niche for clients that GOTTA have Wi-Fi but DON’T have the dollars or know-how to pull off a pricier install.
Open-Mesh doesn’t really advertise, it sells itself word-of-mouth by satisfied users. It’s roots are largely the same as the early days of Meraki, where “roofnet” low-cost nodes were meant to provide connectivity to the underserved. If you are familiar with Meraki, and look in on Open-Mesh’s CloudTrax dashboard, you’ll see a lot of similarities.
It’s almost like “Meraki in Miniature”! The cloud management account in it’s current form is 100% free, there are NO licensing or account fees, and an overview of features is here. Though I’m not at liberty to say what other features and options are coming, I can say that Open-Mesh has some very cool evolutions on the short horizon.
What About the APs?
There are a number of interesting aspects about the Open-Mesh AP product set. (Again, these are not meant to compete with product like Cisco 3700s, so fight the natural urge to compare and trash the “lesser” product.) The APs are modular in that just a few radios are swappable into different enclosures, letting you “build” the APs that you need. There is no labeling on the APs- if you are in the WI-Fi networking business, your own logo can go on the APs (and in the cloud dashboard, for that matter). And for sparing, you don’t even need an enclosure.
The Open-Mesh APs are detailed here, and make sure you click “Show More Specs” for the full picture. Though you won’t see any dual-band or 11ac APs in the line-up now, take another look at the prices. You’re still getting pretty decent value, and you can expect more impressive hardware spec’d APs to come along soon from Open-Mesh.
So… Who Uses Open-Mesh?
If you get interested enough to learn more, Open-Mesh does have business reference accounts happy to talk about about their success with this unique system. Aimed mostly (but certainly not limited to) housing/hospitality/SMB customers, Open-Mesh has single sites with just a couple of APs all the way to sites with APs measured in the hundreds.
I personally am working on a potential public WLAN project for my own very small village, and Open-Mesh is at the top of my “to consider” list given the available features, low cost, and decent reputation of the solution. More to follow if I end up pulling it off…
There are a lot- LIKE A WHOLE LOT- of low-end WLAN solutions out there. I’ll be writing up this market niche for Network Computing soon, and will be talking about pros and cons of not spending the big bucks when it comes to WLANs. Meanwhile, take a look at Open-Mesh and see if you don’t find it as intriguing as I do.