Aerohive Gets SaaSy with New SME HiveAP Management

By Lisa Phifer

October 27, 2009

Aerohive makes HiveAPs more attractive to SMEs by offering an entry-level HiveAP 120 and a pay-as-you-go "Express Mode" HiveManager Online service.

Aerohive makes HiveAPs more attractive to SMEs by offering an entry-level HiveAP 120 and a pay-as-you-go "Express Mode" HiveManager Online service.


Earlier this year, Aerohive HiveUI cut the cost of WLAN management for small businesses using fewer than ten HiveAPs [read our review here]. But SMEs with ten to thirty HiveAPs were still caught between the simple embedded HiveUI and the sophisticated-but-$2999 HiveManager appliance.

Today, Aerohive announced that it is taking a swipe at the under-served SME market by offering a cloud-based alternative: HiveManager Online. This Software-as-a-Service is based on Aerohive's Virtual HiveManager, whereby several HiveManager instances can run on one HiveManager appliance, delivering compartmentalized administration for large enterprises, managed services, and multi-tenant environments.

"We started with Virtual HiveManager, but then we streamlined the entire workflow," explained Adam Conway, vice president of product management. The result is HiveManager Online's "Express Mode" ($60/year/HiveAP), an Ajax (asynchronous JavaScript and XML) based Web service.

Reducing OPEX

Available in November, Express Mode lets SMEs configure all HiveAP features, but without all of the policy permutations demanded by enterprises with hundreds of APs and thousands of diverse users. Customers who find they need more flexibility can step up to "Enterprise Mode" ($110/year/HiveAP)—the entire HiveManager GUI, delivered as a pay-as-you-go on-line service.

Express Mode set-up has been boiled down to a three- or four-step wizard-guided process. Start by defining SSIDs, bound to defined User Categories (employee, guest, voice only, other). Choosing a common category creates a fully-specified SSID with typical security, QoS, and firewall properties. For example, by default, guests are placed on an open WLAN and isolated VLAN, limited to 3 Mbps of Internet access.

Express Mode allows default properties to be customized, but still hides many underlying HiveManager objects, such as User Profiles and WLAN Profiles that some admins find baffling. However, unlike HiveUI, Express Mode provides a rich set of monitoring tools, including a home page Dashboard that delivers an overview of HiveAP and client activity, backed by detailed historical reports.

If and when an organization outgrows Express Mode configuration, customers can transition their existing database to Enterprise Mode with the click of a GUI button. However, because Enterprise Mode can be used to create more complex policies, downgrading to Express Mode may not be so easy. Once configured, policies and firmware updates can be pushed to HiveAPs and activated on schedule or next reboot. Firmware updates (but not telephone support) are included in the HiveManager Online annual price-tag.

Cutting CAPEX

Also included in this week's announcement are a new entry-level HiveAP and basic-but-free WLAN planning tool. These announcements complement HiveManager Online by further reducing the capital investment required for SMEs to deploy an Aerohive WLAN.

The new HiveAP 120 ($689) is a 2x2 MIMO version of Aerohive's flagship 3x3 MIMO HiveAP 300 series ($999). HiveAP 120 includes dual concurrent 2.4 and 5 GHz radios, an integrated TPM chip for hardware-based key storage and encryption, and PoE-capable Gigabit Ethernet. It runs the same HiveOS employed by 300 series HiveAPs, which means that it offers similar features, including private PSK, mesh networking, airtime scheduling, and SLA compliance monitoring. However, 2x2 MIMO means that a HiveAP 120 offers less capacity and throughput than 300 series HiveAPs—a price/performance tradeoff that may be attractive to SMEs and smaller branch offices.

Finally, Aerohive has now incorporated a basic 2D WLAN planner into HiveManager. This tool will be freely available not only to HiveManager Online customers, but to anyone who visits Aerohive's demo Website. Like the rest of HiveManager Online, the planner is based on Ajax, using client-side calculations to generate heatmaps that predict signal/channel coverage.

Simulated or real HiveAPs can be dragged and dropped onto a standard or imported floorplan, augmented with basic building characteristics (e.g., draw a length of drywall here, add a door there). The planner predicts path loss for specified APs (Aerohive or generic) to generate 2D heatmaps, making it easy to visualize the impact of upgrading to 11n APs or adding another AP. This initial planner can help customers with rough planning for smaller sites, said Conway. "Automated AP placement will be added in a future release."

The bottom line

With this week's announcements, Aerohive has clearly tried to strike a balance between cost and feature depth that mid-market businesses will find more attractive. In essence, Aerohive started with large enterprise products—HiveManager appliance and 3x3 MIMO HiveAPs—and trimmed them down to fit the SME market by using a less expensive chipset, pay-as-you-go service delivery model, and simplified UI.

“SaaS network management with cooperative control HiveAPs provides enterprise-class Wi-Fi that is unmatched in ease of deployment, ease of management, and cost,” said Aerohive CEO David Flynn. “HiveManager Online and the HiveAP 120 enable every enterprise, even small ones with very modest budgets, to start small with enterprise features and central management and expand as business grows.”

Lisa Phifer owns Core Competence, a consulting firm focused on business use of emerging network and security technologies. A 28-year networking industry veteran, Lisa has been involved in the design, implementation, and testing of wireless products and services since 1996.

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