Let's start this update by introducing the players: JAMF Software is entrenched in supporting the Apple world with its long-running Casper Suite, which brings control and management to the OSX and iOS realms. Aerohive is the Web-managed and controller-free enterprise WLAN solution that seems to be getting ever-more tightly coupled with Apple's growing market share from the features perspective. And Apple ... well, Apple is the maker of client-device engineering marvels that often rely on customers and WLAN makers to resolve the challenges that come with forcing consumer-oriented networking components into standards-based network environments.
With Aerohive's latest announcement, new functionality is added to the HiveOS that allows tight integration with JAMF's Casper environment to ensure that Apple devices are configured and playing as per organizational policy. Device management and inventory are big draws as devices make their way around hectic educational spaces, and other advantages like app and e-book distribution also bring value to the new paradigm. At its simplest, Aerohive interrogates a wireless client, and if it's identified as an Apple device that doesn't have the JAMF agent installed, it's forwarded to the proper place for remediation. Non-Apple devices still get handled by Aerohive's native checking capabilities, but the JAMF integration takes the Apple device management to a highly functional level geared specifically at iDevices. (Needless to say, a JAMF server is required).
The current iteration of the Aerohive/JAMF partnership enforces control on only Apple's iPads and iPhones, with full support for the OS X line coming later, as the integrated suite catches up to the capabilities that stand-alone JAMF environments already have for OS X.
I thoroughly enjoy catching up with Aerohive, as it's definitely in the "trying harder" category among the many wireless companies with which I stay in contact. From its no-controller wireless architecture to its frequent feature updates, Aerohive is pretty nimble. Its growing customer base shows that there's room for non-mainstream approaches to WLAN in the wireless world. But the conspiracy theorist in me wonders a bit about the company's apparent interest in Apple integrations that exceed what most competitors have shown.
In conversations with fellow WLAN admins and wireless hardware makers alike, there tends to be a fairly frequent sentiment that Apple can be hard to reach, from the perspective of collaboratively working to improve wireless performance. Other factors include how Apple iDevices behave in a dense AP environment, and how toys like the Apple TV fit (or don't) on business networks when the dated Bonjour protocol has to be in play.
Aerohive's Bonjour Gateway was announced in March, and is finding favor in the enterprise as users long for the capability to make their favorite Apple iDevices work, despite Bonjour-induced design limits. And now with Aerohive taking on Apple-specific mobile device management with the JAMF alliance, it seems a trend may be emerging. Is Aerohive just smartly aiming at Apple's device market share and bringing welcome Apple-specific innovation to a thirsty landscape? Or perhaps Aerohive has actually managed to crack Apple's shell and is working collaboratively with the device giant in ways that other industry players can't seem to achieve? (Aerohive neither confirms nor denies when pressed).
Regardless of Aerohive's motivation or behind-the-curtains interplay across the industry, expect more big announcements from this relatively small wireless company.