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Home Networking Aerohive: easier deployment and management, better security

Aerohive's approach to wireless networking provides better security and easier deployment and management - yet is significantly cheaper, according to ANZ country manager Peter Davison.

Aerohive's private preshared key approach gives better security than regular WPA2, Davison told iTWire, because each user - or even each device - gets its own WPA2 key, an arrangement that he said was unique.

It provides better security than open access or shared keys, but without the complexity of Radius, he said.

The private preshared keys are administered by the company's ID Manager software, but the system also integrates with VMware's AirWatch enterprise mobility management system.

The next version will provide an API for integration with other systems such as door access controls.

"ID Manager is very simple to operate," said Davison.

The validity of any particular key can be limited to a particular hour (especially handy when you only want to provide guest access for the duration of a meeting), day or week.

Other restrictions can be applied, such as bandwidth limitations, site filtering, and internet-only access (again, useful for guests so they can use the internet but are denied access to internal resources).

The Aerohive access points include layer 7 deep packet inspection, he said, allowing fine-grained policies such as 'no Facebook video for guests' or 'severely throttle BitTorrent traffic'.

Aerohive's "next generation" architecture does away with the traditional controller, distributing the smarts among the access points. Regardless of the size of the network, it is administered from a management console that runs in the cloud or on-premises.

The simplicity means it can be set up by a senior secondary student, he claimed, and that Aerohive delivers the necessary training in one day compared with three weeks for certain other network vendors.

Aerohive equipment also has advantages over Cisco's Meraki cloud-managed wireless products, he added, in that Meraki access points lack a trusted privacy module and so there is the possibility that information can be extracted from a stolen access point.

The architecture provides "infinite scalability," he said. All that's needed is to add access points as the network grows. It doesn't matter if they are all on one site or spread across multiple locations thanks to the distributed architecture. For instance, Clarks Shoes uses Aerohive access points across 600 sites in the UK.

And "density is not an issue" - University of Technology Sydney's Insearch operation has installed 132 Aerohive access points on a 10Gbps backbone across two buildings, delivering around 4000 unique connections and terabytes of downloads daily. Sized to allow for each student to use four devices, this is one of the densest Wi-Fi environments in the country, according to Davison.

Furthermore, the products are also relatively cheap: as little as half the cost of networks from competing vendors, Davison said.

"Our management portal is based on big data - you can't do that with a controller-based architecture," he went on. "It's basically open-ended."

For example, the system can be part of a retail analytics system, counting the number of Wi-Fi devices that pass a store, how many come inside, how long they remain on the premises, and whether or not they are repeat visits. Coupled with video-based face counters and other technology, "it's a whole new world" for retailers, he observed.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

 

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