What does wireless security really mean? This is something with which we struggle each year when this product group comes up for review. This year's innovator, a first appearance, may have rewritten the book on this question. What if you took wireless products and fit them into the network as if they were routers or switches? Then you could manage them like those familiar devices and the security could be managed there as well. That is exactly what Aerohive does.
Management is policy-based, a familiar approach for just about all administrators. This also gives you a lot of advantages over other ways of managing security that is pasted on top of the wireless infrastructure instead of being part of it. First, according to Aerohive customers, you get more robust security and policy enforcement. Increased performance also is a benefit, as is wired network-like resilience and reduced lifecycle costs.
However, to do this, one must view the wireless enterprise differently than in the past. First, there are some core security concepts that wireless security does not do well, such as encryption key management. Aerohive solves that with a private pre-shared key. The hive manager is an online application and the entire systems must meet service level agreements that are tracked for compliance on all clients.
The bottom line is that Aerohive believes that the wired network is on the way out and the wireless on the way in. Wired networks perform pretty well and are reasonably robust and stable. If wireless networks are going to supplant wired networks, there needs to be an Ethernet replacement. That does not mean something completely new and different. It means there needs to be a wireless replacement for Ethernet. That's the goal that Aerohive has set for itself.
The Aerohive system is purpose-built from the ground up and it includes all aspects of a well-designed and manageable wired network including security. Even the access points are Aerohive products. One more goal: the Aerohive concept includes pervasive deployment, and that includes implementation in support of virtualized environments. That is a pretty big set of goals to be sure, but one cannot argue the direction. Clearly, wireless is the future, and this year's innovator is right on the cutting edge.
AT A GLANCE
Flagship product: Hive AP
Vendor: Aerohive Networks
Cost: starts at $689
Innovation: Seeing the need to introduce the new paradigm of Ethernet replacement as wireless networks become more common
Greatest strength: Knowledge of the network environment and what is needed to replace wired networks with secure wireless ones