Private wireless clouds offer the best of both worlds, says Nolan of Agile Networks

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Sean Nolan, Agile Networks

13 October 2014

The sheer convenience and flexibility of mobile and wireless communications has taken the world over. Smart phone statistics make the headlines, everyone with broadband uses their home Wi-Fi to connect their iPhone and you can’t make a success of a corner caff without free Wi-Fi for customers. Tablets have been in many ways the tipping point into a ‘wireless first’ business environment, meaning that we are more dependent than ever on Wi-Fi in offices and in fact throughout all workplaces.

A few years ago organisations were very wary about their wireless access—remember all those articles about drive-by hacking? Today there are minimal security problems and you can lock down your wireless network access as tightly as a cabled one with security credentials and authentication.

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So the wireless office is here. In Agile Networks we are a de facto wireless enterprise because no one uses the cable sockets. Starting in a new office, any organisation can go straight to wireless for users, cabling only servers and access points, and that would handle data, voice and video. There is also an increasing number of cloud services in use by business, such as Office 365, which only require raw Internet access wherever the user is.

For a large organisation going wireless today, there are a couple of options. One is a cloud service where you sign up for the monthly bill, 10 or a dozen access points arrive for you to plug in and you go to a web page and configure. That kind of service is available from all of the major wireless vendors.

But those are generic, public cloud services with multiple tenants. So they are not suitable for government and state agencies, healthcare and education and many types of private sector business. The alternative is to buy and install wireless controllers and the appropriate number of access points at each site. People like the cloud model, partly because it is easy plug and play but principally because it is a simple charge per access point per month.

But we have developed an attractive alternative in which you can centralise your wireless controllers in a private cloud that you control. It can be in your head office or a data centre or any central location you choose. Each site then just needs access points. This centralised wireless model is already working very successfully in hospitals and second and third level education, nearly 200 sites in total.

It does not mean that all of the data traffic has to pass through the central controllers, constricting your bandwidth. Today’s equipment allows for local switching, so once a user is authenticated the subsequent traffic can be entirely local. Similarly, you might have 10 sites, each with its own local Active Directory on which LAN authentication is based. That is no problem either, because you can set up an SSID at controller level which is mapped to the authentication source, wherever that might be.

The business model can be as simple as cloud. Agile Networks or any quality reseller can offer it on a per user or per access point per month basis. That would include all of the necessary kit, installation and set-up. That way you get the best of both worlds–the greater control from ‘owning your own’ plus the economies of scale and predictable cost model of the cloud.

 

Seán Nolan is with business development manager with Agile Networks

 

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