WiFi Field of Dreams
“If you build it, he will come,” says a voice that inspires farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) to construct a baseball field in the middle of his cornfield. It’s been 25 years since “Field of Dreams” debuted and much has changed. No one knew what WiFi was back then, but now it’s the predominant technology through which we connect to our internet-enabled lives. If Ray had a business and was to build a WiFi network today instead of a ball field, they surely would come, and with it they’d bring a whole lot of data that he probably wouldn’t want clogging up his WLAN, let alone his Internet connection: Social media (and not for advertising either), streaming audio and video (and not for educational or productivity purposes), operating system upgrades (iOS 7.1 was 168Mb for every iPhone an iPad in Ray’s office), application updates (Not ERP, but Candy Crush) and a whole lot of other recreational traffic versus business traffic.
So now companies are struggling with these types of wireless issues daily. Luckily there are some technologies out there that are looking at the IT directors and advisors in wireless and like Ray Kinsella, are trying to “Ease his pain”. They have done this with new and innovate technologies in wireless access and control.
WiFi has entered a new stage of development, where wireless traffic can be inspected, metered, prioritized, throttled and even eliminated based on application, user, group, device type, operating system, location, even time of day and day of week. It’s called application visibility and control (AVC) and it’s quickly becoming a feature that no network manager can live without. To do AVC, however, requires deep packet inspection (DPI) with very low latency and that requires a lot of processing power either right on the AP or at a minimum on the LAN. You can find AVC in the largest controllers in the industry, but be prepared to buy larger controllers and be prepared to buy at least one of them for every office where you want AVC, if not two for redundancy. Or you can look at a company like Aerohive which has a dual-core processor in every AP, so it can do AVC in every office you have, without having to buy even one controller or any of the software license upgrades that these other vendors require. With Aerohive, Ray can afford to build a next-gen WLAN and have enough money leftover to build a bunch of new ball fields too.
In this mobile first WiFi world, you have to dream about the future of your WLAN: will you actually manage it or will it manage you? Imagine building the WLAN of your dreams, only to have it swarmed by locusts you can’t control. It’s likely happening right now. But how do you know without AVC? Do you want to solve every WLAN performance issue by buying more or faster access points every time or do you want to hone your policy mix a bit first? A little opex control can go a long way towards lowering cavalier capex spending. Your firewall will help you manage what goes in and out of your network, but your WLAN should help control what even enters it from the edge in the first place.
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