Wi-Fi Goes Big

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  January 26, 2015

Wi-Fi continues to get bigger, better, and more widely available.

For example, Aerohive (News - Alert) Networks recently announced that it’s part of an Apple-led contingent that will be providing broadband tools to U.S. schools via the federal government’s ConnectED initiative. ConnectED aims to shrink the digital divide, as less than 30 percent of the nation’s schools have the broadband they need to teach using today’s technology, according to the U.S. government. 

Apple (News - Alert) this autumn announced plans to donate $100 million in iPads, MacBooks, and other products and tools to the one-and-a-half-year-old ConnectED program, which aims to bring connectivity and the access to advanced learning technologies to 99 percent of schools in the United States by 2017. Details as to the scope and geography of the deployment were expected to announced by Apple in short order.

Aerohive was been tapped to provide the wireless infrastructure – including 802.11ac wireless access points, switches, and cloud-based management – as part of the Apple effort. The gear will be deployed and maintained by managed service provider Education Networks of America; JAMF Software will provide related mobile device management; and AT&T and Sprint (News - Alert) will provide the wide area broadband connectivity. 

Already a key player in the education vertical, Aerohive says it’s seen significant growth for its solutions in schools, which like its affordability, ease of deployment, and incremental scalability. Bill Hoppin, vice president of business development at Aerohive Networks, says that Aerohive has integrated Apple’s self discovery Bonjour capability into its Wi-Fi access points, which he says makes Bonjour more manageable and scalable.

On a separate but related front, Meru Networks (News - Alert) recently announced news related to Bonjour. This came as Meru Networks in late October unveiled an application provisioning and management dashboard called Meru Center, and the Meru App Store, along with the first two apps available from it.

The platform, explains Manish Rai, Meru’s vice president of marketing, allows for the discovery and delivery of SDN applications. The idea here is to make it really easy to consume SDN applications, he says. Meru Center, which streamlines allocation of storage, memory and infrastructure in virtualized environments, features single sign-on, seamless backup, application licensing, and management capabilities for all Meru applications.  

The Meru App Store, part of Meru Center, will eventually house a variety of IoT, SDN, Wi-Fi applications both from Meru and from third parties. Initially, however, there are just two applications available. That includes the Meru Collaborator for Lync and Personal Bonjour, both of which Meru says are SDN applications.

Microsoft (News - Alert) Lync, a widely used business phone and unified communications solution, requires an optimized and low-latency Wi-Fi network to support it, says Rai, adding that Meru’s 802.11ac products were previously Lync certified. The Lync application is multivendor and can work on any wired or wireless application built on OpenFlow.

Personal Bonjour allows Apple’s Bonjour discovery capability to scale more elegantly. With Bonjour, which is actually a protocol that Apple devices use, when a printer or other device broadcasts its availability on the network, it broadcasts it as a packet that goes to everyone on the network. That works just fine in smaller environments like homes, in which there are a dozen or fewer devices, says Rai, but when you get into an enterprise or dorm environment with a bunch of Bonjour devices, it can overwhelm the network. Meru’s SDN application addresses that problem by making the Bonjour discovery process a one-to-one rather than the existing one-to-many operation.

Edited by Maurice Nagle