Tag Archives: WFD5

Xirrus Loses One, Wins One

One of the more curious WLAN players in the market, Xirrus is always interesting. The wireless array company certainly doesn’t sit still from a development perspective, and is usually among the first WLAN vendors to get major popular new features announced. I’ve met with Xirrus at Wireless Field Day 5 (their presentations here) and WFD 6, and followed their evolution through the years with a number of articles written about them..

Of late, Xirrus has a bit of a bad news/good news story to tell.

The bad news- they’ve been dropped from Gartner’s 2015 Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure Magic Quadrant. Many of us in the WLAN industry have fairly low regard for Gartner’s current methodology in this space, but at the same time those in the market for business Wi-Fi frequently refer to the report for information on the pros and cons of industry players. I don’t agree with Xirrus’ exclusion, but it is what it is.

On the sunnier side, Xirrus has just announced a potential game-changing feature for customers struggling to do secure guest Wi-Fi. Called “EasyPass Personal”, it’s easy to mistakenly equate the new offering to the likes of Aerohive’s Private PSK. Xirrus differs significantly from just PPSK in that EasyPass Personal allows the guest/visitor to set up their own SSID and private pre-shared key. Yeah, read that again because it’s pretty wild.

easypasspersonal

See more on Xirrus’ web site here.

My thoughts on EasyPass Personal: I’ve not tried it, so can’t speak to the feature first-hand. My only real concern is whether the generation of personal guest networks in the air creates a lot of management overhead traffic (seems like it could, at first thought). But beyond that, I applaud Xirrus for bringing an innovative new option to the ridiculously challenging paradigm of secure guest access. Hotspot 2.0 is the promised “official” answer to secure guest Wi-Fi, but it’s both complicated and going nowhere. EasyPass Personal *seems* like a nice methodology, so I’d love to hear from Xirrus users who try it.

Features, Products, Services… The Differences According to Aerohive

I recently visited Aerohive’s home turf as one of the delegates at Wireless Field Day 5. It was wonderful getting to meet, in person, many Bees I frequently interact with via email and social media.

My own history with Aerohive is built largely on covering their evolution from the early days, writing about them professionally in Network Computing Magazine. As with other vendors, sometimes Aerohive gets the spotlight and sometimes they get compared against when analyzing what competitors are up to. I have my own small Aerohive environment, and have first hand familiarity (not mastery, mind you) with Hive Manager and a couple of AP models.

Aerohive has been a major player in minor-but-growing cloud-managed wireless network space that includes Meraki (Cisco), AirTight Networks, and PowerCloud. 

Ah, cloud-managed networking. I’ve become a fan where I use it (and I do use it in a number of sites). I like that one of the running campaign themes of cloud-based networking in general is reduced hardware counts with no convoluted licensing schemes. 

Though Aerohive has done a good job with pushing the value of “here’s a new feature, and you’ll just get it with your next Hive Manager upgrade at no additional cost!” message to customers, I was taken a wee bit aback during the Field Day briefings on Aerohive’s IDManager and Client Management services because they were called “new products” that require licensing.

Both offerings will no doubt be welcomed by existing Aerohive customers, and are easily marketed at prospective customers looking for a robust, all inclusive solution. My own little private shock at the licensing requirement doesn’t detract from my overall opinion on Aerohive, and after thinking about it , I know where the surprise comes from: we’ve gotten so used to rich feature sets being “free” that we instinctively expect the gratis model to apply to any and all “features” Aerohive develops. Which really isn’t fair to Aerohive, but is how we’ve been conditioned on the customer end.

I wont pretend to understand why Aerohive has “given” so many enterprise-grade services away to date that others license for, but draws the line at IDManager and Client Management. Nor do I care enough to get hung up on it, as other vendors seem to be licensing their Onboarding services as well after hearing their briefings. 

For those keeping score at home, here’s a breakdown of some of what is included with Aerohive’s Cloud Manager and licensed APs under the heading of “it’s just in there”:

  • Spectrum analysis
  • Application visibility and control
  • Statefull firewall
  • QoS
  • VPN
  • Partner MDM hooks
  • Planner software(free to non-Aerohive customers too)
  • Bonjour gateway software (also free to non-Aerohive customers)

And what you have to license seperately:

  • Client Management (license blocks of 100)
  • IDManager (tiered licensing, starting at 250 guests)
  • StudentManager (blocks of 1000)

 

 

 

What Meru and Xirrus Need to Do

I’m not a big deal, but I know a guy who is. And- I have pulled off San Jose’s most brazen balloon theft. These two facts combined qualify me to advise multi-national wireless networking companies on communications strategies. Here’s my advice for Meru and Xirrus, after visiting with both companies for Wireless Field Day 5.

Both companies are headed by obviously intelligent technologists who are passionate about their product lines. Each has well-spoken customers willing to testify on the effectiveness of their gear. Both are still in business in a pretty competitive space, and hoping to grow their shares of the WLAN market. And both have unique technical stories that set them apart from their industry peers.

And here is the problem.

For years, I’ve listened to a number of briefings with Meru and Xirrus and always walked away with a nagging sense that each is actually a bit uncomfortable talking about their  “specialness” to any depth when dealing with Classically Trained WLAN Types. Xirrus does the array thing, and Meru rocks the single-channel architecture groove. Both companies want to talk about their bigger stories, but many of us don’t feel satisfied with terse “trust us, it works” explanations on features that are radically different from industry norms. So… briefings grind to a halt because tech-analysts want to know why we should accept that these companies have actually found a different way to do things. But the companies’ speakers obviously don’t want to spend their camera time on these years-controversial details, and neither party quite feels great at the end of the experience.

And here’s the fix.

There’s certainly a fine line between disclosing intellectual property and being open with those asking pointed questions about your technology. But that line needs to be walked when you build product lines on unique technical approaches. Sam Clements and Keith Parsons are well within their professional purview to challenge Xirrus on how they can pack so many antennas into such a little box without them creaming each other, especially when other vendors sometimes bash Xirrus for their designs. And Chis Lyttle is proper in asking a few times for more info on Meru’s “special sauce” even if it slows down Meru’s onboarding demo. Tech people want to hear what tech people want to hear, and neither company tends to want to get into the nitty gritty that would get us all to shut up already and let them get our full attention on their latest announcements.

Each company should embrace the living hell out of their uniqueness. Lead with it, don’t tap-dance around it. Stick it in our faces with good, digestible white papers and diagrams that clear up the mysteries once and for all without giving away IP. That way, when we all get together again, Xirrus and Meru can not only deliver the Message of the Day, but actually get us to listen to it instead of badgering them for information on the little things they do that many of us have been trying to comprehend for years.

We’d all be better for it, especially Meru and Xirrus.

What I Hope To Get From Wireless Field Day 5

Being selected as a delegate to a Tech Field Day is a bit like winning a Golden Ticket to Wonkaland for us tech types (instead of chocolate, there is a lot of wireless fodder to enjoy). I’m pleased as can be to be going back for my second Wireless Field Day event, having attended WFD4 and soon, WFD5.

Given the Silicon Valley’s prominence in the IT world, a trip there is something akin to a pilgrimage for those of us too far away (by both distance and circumstance) to get there very often. And that touches on my first goal for Wireless Field Day 5: simply being immersed in the tech-rich backdrop of the San Jose area. I’m not a tremendously spiritual person, but there is a powerful vibe afoot just under the surface “out there”, and it bubbles up time and again throughout the few magic days that are Field Day.

The corny stuff aside, here’s some of what what I hope to get out of my time at WFD5:

  • Reconnecting with organizer Stephen Foskett and my fellow delegates. Most of the group was at WFD4, but there will be three new-to-me faces among the delegates, as well as Stephen’s expanded staff. These folks are sharp, down to earth, a pleasure to do the event with, and extremely deep in wireless networking knowledge. This alone makes the trip worth it.
  • In general, I’m looking forward to all of the companies that are presenting to give us a glimpse behind the curtain at what they are about to release, what they are thinking on a number of fronts, and what they want to know from us, the delegates. Expected hot topics: 802.11ac, analytics of various sorts, new tools and optimization methods.
  • Speaking of tools and optimization, 7Signal is sure to be a delegate favorite. I’m guessing we’ve all seen at least snippets of their case studies and what they recommend to make good WLANs even better. I hope to hear clarity on this topic, and to get a sense of whether 7Signal gear is more affordable than it seems and to hear about optimization tweaks that are real-world applicable.
  • With Meru Networks in the lineup, I’m guessing I’m not the only delegate hoping to walk away with a better understanding of their “secret sauce” for single-channel virtual cells, and whether there is more than just bluster to their occasional hubris (as I’ve covered in my Network Computing column). To a certain degree, the same goal applies to XirrusI’ve covered them a number of times but never quite got totally comfortable with the array thing. But I keep an open mind…
  • For Aerohive Networks, I’m both looking forward to updates and just as much to meeting the likes of Andrew von Nagy (perhaps the most approachable and willing-to-share senior tech guy from any vendor) and his homies. Aerohive just seems to have a different culture, and it’ll be nice to spend time in it for a couple of hours. (my latest Network Computing piece on Aerohive is here).
  • AirTight Networks will be interesting because they are “new”, at least as a wireless access player, in a very competitive market. I have a Network Computing piece on AirTight now running, and also recommend this piece by Man-of-Action and  fellow Field Day Vet Matthew Norwood.  Hearing their story in person will be pretty neat.
  • MetaGeek, WildPackets, and FlukeNetworks are all fairly significant players in my wireless world for tools. I’ve been a MetGeek fan from the days of the original WiSpy, and also frequently use EyePA and InSSIDer for Office (best blog on this one from another fellow delegate, Sam Clements). I’m looking forward to hearing any new announcements from the tools folks (gotta be something in this mix about 11ac) and maybe picking up a tip or two about how to better use the products I already have.
  • Finally, Motorola always stokes my interest because they usually have a somewhat unique story and understated approach versus the “aggressive” marketing of other industry players. I’m a fan of many Moto business units (as a radio and Android guy, that’s a given), and caught up with the WLAN folks at Interop in Vegas just a couple of months ago to hear their opening 11ac story. I gotta feeling they’ll have something new for us.

It’ll be a busy week at Wireless Field Day, and my eyes and ears will be open. Standby for updates.