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04:31 PM
Lee Badman
Lee Badman
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Aerohive Wi-Fi Lands In Apple Online Store

Enterprise Wi-Fi vendor expands reach with move into Apple's online store, but the deal has potential downsides for Apple customers.

Apple can be a hard company to work with. From its long-in-the-tooth Bonjour protocol that drives network admins crazy to non-existent details about bug fixes, Apple tends to simply do things its own way. At home and in the SMB market, this works out well enough for the company and customers alike. On business networks, though, it’s an entirely different story. Apple’s “our way or no way” approach is often a point of contention with business network support folk.

Enterprise Wi-Fi company Aerohive Networks has been working to bridge this gap by optimizing its products to make life better from the WLAN side for Apple wireless devices that are penetrating enterprise network environments. Apple devices have a history of “sticky client syndrome,” but Aerohive builds in logic to help them roam across APs better. As Apple client devices become the first choice for a growing number of business users, these are the kinds of tuning measures that can make or break a WLAN admin's day. The company also was the first vendor to introduce a “Bonjour Gateway."

Recently, Aerohive announced that its enterprise Wi-Fi access points are now available in the Apple Online Store in North America. Now, consumers and SMBs that need more than Apple's own AirPort wireless router have an option. This is a big step for Aerohive as well as for Apple--it somewhat formalizes the blurring of the line between consumer and business networking. However, I think there are some potential drawbacks for Apple customers.

I have my own small, multi-AP Aerohive network. The access points are indeed far more capable than the Apple AirPort from a business WLAN perspective. But the wireless robustness an Apple customer gains with Aerohive may be offset by complexity of device administration. Put another way, Aerohive’s zeal for helping Apple devices work in the enterprise won’t necessarily translate well should the consumer-tier and small-business Apple faithful purchase Aerohive access points.

[Apple's iOS 7 includes new management and security features that can help IT administrators. Check them out in our slideshow, "10 Ways Apple iOS 7 Targets Businesses."]

Setting up, owning and getting support on an Airport is fairly straightforward on all accounts. Between Apple support pages and a huge Apple community, it’s hard to get stumped on anything related to Apple’s own wireless router.

For Apple customers who hoose to buy Aerohive access points, life gets more complicated.

Since it's cloud-managed, Aerohive's AP comes with a three-year license and the same HiveManager dashboard that enterprise customers use. Some users will not like the licensing scheme, and many are likely to find the fairly complex HiveManager interface too complicated for their needs. For the relationship to have long-term viability, I think Aerohive will have to give perpetual licenses to Apple store customers and slim down the UI by an order of magnitude.

Support also has the potential to be problematic for customers that now have to engage both Apple and Aerohive when problems creep in. Thankfully, my own Aerohive network hums along, but at times I've been stymied trying to understand the Hive Manager UI, and have had to ask Aerohive for support.

Should something go wrong for Apple/Aerohive customers, there is a fair potential for finger-pointing between Apple and Aerohive if neither can figure out a client issue under the current arrangement. Enterprise WLAN admins tend to mediate these situations, but consumers and many SMBs won’t have the luxury of an IT staff, so the risk of frustration is higher for them.

Aerohive's inclusion in the Apple Online Store validates its hardware and cloud management strategy. At the same time, Aerohive is now playing with higher stakes in the SMB and consumer markets while Apple is dipping its toes in bigger networking waters. Let’s hope for the sake of Apple customers that the partnership works out.

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User Rank: Apprentice
11/14/2013 | 1:24:27 AM
re: Aerohive Wi-Fi Lands In Apple Online Store
I think it is fantastic to see Aerohive in the Apple Store! Congratulations are in order for achieving it.

The aftercare angle intrigues me too with arrangements like this. If and when issues are hit, where do you go?

Additionally, all vendors have bugs; an issue might not be a misunderstanding or a configuration issue. How would you get that raised appropriately?

There is also the question about who do you renew with after the 3 years are up for HiveManager Online (HMOL), especially when you are outside the USA and you are in reseller only territory? I could not see that mentioned.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/14/2013 | 12:07:58 AM
re: Aerohive Wi-Fi Lands In Apple Online Store
Hey Joel,
Thanks for jumping in. It is an interesting model for sure, and really does (for me at least) show how various segments are morphing into one, or at least how the gap between segments is shrinking. I do take Apple to task a bit- when it suits them, they play the "these aren't Enterprise devices" card, and when it's to their advantage we here "our devices are at home in the Board Room!" It's BS doublespeak that the Big A should long be past, given their market penetration. I give Aerohive and other WLAN vendors credit for trying to spackle over Apple's faults, and hopefully the Enterprise Mentality of Aerohive rubs off on Apple through the partnership. I do stick by my analysis of the difficulty that former AirPort customers might have with the HM interface, and look forward to seeing how it evolves. I can also say that by and large, my own small Aerohive network has been extremely solid for clients built on every flavor of Apple OS X and iOS, Aindroid, and all Windows versions.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/13/2013 | 10:27:05 PM
re: Aerohive Wi-Fi Lands In Apple Online Store
Lee - thanks for the write up! Extending our Apple relationship and providing them with an Apple-optimized enterprise AP is obviously great for us. The store itself is a by-product of offering through Apple retail and to their business partners. Apple actually has an extensive Apple Consultant Network that works with businesses and a team of trained experts actually in the stores that work hand-in-hand with local businesses on products of this level and pull together solutions for them. The exposure on the store actually allows not only the consumer to view and purchase the APs but for the employees and ACN members to pull up the APs easily while discussing solutions with their customers.

I naturally have one in my house and for what I need (secure Internet access) its fairly simple to use the default workflow to get it going. Its sort of equivalent to a Canon EOS in the camera world. You can use it as a point-and-shoot camera in auto mode and get remarkable photos or you can go full professional with the features. There are even some in between profiles.

By being on the store it should be fairly clear (hopefully) that if what you need is an AE then that is what you should get. If you need a bit more functionality in a larger, multi-AP environment there's an AP for that as well...Sorry, couldn't help myself...
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