Aerohive shares a place in my heart with Meraki Networks (and, to a lesser degree, newcomer PowerCloud Systems) as the Little Engines That Could in the modern WLAN market. Each has its own interesting story to tell, but they are unified in their message to wireless customers and the industry: Wireless controllers are a layer of complexity that isn’t required to get the job of feature-rich enterprise wireless done. And each is now making inroads into wired networking that, for the open-minded, can’t be ignored. Aerohive’s new baby is called Branch on Demand, and the pricing model alone is attention-grabbing.
More choices in broadband enable new opportunities for branch connectivity, and geographic diversification means a growing number of companies have branch needs. Traditional extend-the-network solutions can be expensive, with pricey site-to-site VPN boxes, stand-alone switches and wireless APs, as well as other stand-alone, individually managed boxes. Alternatively, integrated branch routers offer a lot of functionality under the hood, but still bring support challenges and can be costly.
Aerohive’s Branch on Demand seeks to upset the branch paradigm by leaving no features out, but coming in at prices that truly commoditize IT and leveraging the cloud for centralized and local support.
I have turned up remote sites built on legacy bits and pieces, and have also gone the cloud-based route on a large overseas branch. In all cases, the remote site offers wired and wireless networking, and the expectation is that performance and reliability will be comparable with that of the enterprise network that these sites are an extension of. I like to think that I "get it" on this topic, and the details of Aerohive’s Branch on Demand have the wheels of my mind turning.
This network-as-a-Service offering features Aerohive’s new Hive Router BR100 at the bottom end. There are options to purchase or lease; either way you go, $99 gets you a lot. Remember, we’re talking small branch setting here. Five Fast Ethernet ports, integrated single-band 11n wireless, USB support for 3G/4G backhaul, Layer 3 IPSec VPN back to the mothership network, and pretty much any business network feature you’d need (such as firewalling, rate-limiting, policy-based administration, support for 802.1x and a lot more for what Aerohive calls "micro-branch" environments).
On larger branch networks (loosely, up to 50 users), the BR200 gets you wired Gig ports, 3x3 dual-band 11n wireless, two Power-over-Ethernet ports and crypto acceleration. Both models are cloud-managed by HiveManager 5.0 (free) and connect back to the home network on a sub-$1,000 cloud VPN gateway that supports hundreds of remote sites.
Having kicked tires on Aerohive’s wireless APs and HiveManager in the past, I can testify that the company does not skimp on features and definitely sees itself as a serious business networking solution. Throughout the product set, ease of administration is made a high priority. The new Branch on Demand offerings go beyond just making new small fixed remote sites easy to bring up and are made to function as if they were "the big network," but also enable temporary network scenarios, vehicle-based networking using 3G/4G backhaul and many more possibilities for the creative network admin.
Did I mention it starts at $99? If Aerohive can get some traction with its Branch on Demand solution, it could have a definite effect on how the other cloud-based networking players set their pricing but also make the network market leaders rethink their very complicated branch offerings.
At the time of publication, Aerohive has no business relationship with Lee Badman.