This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.

To say Wi-Fi is hot is as big an understatement as saying that A-Rod is a cheater. Everyone knows it’s true, but it’s bigger than most people think. In a joint ZK Research/Tech Target Network Purchase Intention Survey that was run near the end of 2013, Wi-Fi ranked as the No. 2 in priority for network managers, behind only the red-hot security market.

The primary driver of Wi-Fi is, of course, the influx of millions of consumer devices into the workplace, which means the wireless network needs to be expanded and made denser. Deciding to deploy more Wi-Fi is an easy decision, but deciding on whether to stick with N or to deploy AC may not be easy. One would think that shifting to AC, the newest standard, is a no brainer; however there are a number of challenges that need to be dealt with in order to have a successful 802.11AC deployment.

The first issue is the price of the AC access points. 802.11AC APs are anywhere from 10% to 40% more expensive than N access points, and when deployed in large quantities they can put a crimp on a tight IT budget. Another concern is powering the AC AP. Some vendors require POE+ to power the new Aps, meaning customers with older network infrastructure likely need to upgrade at least part of the network.

Also, the gigabit speeds mean more users will do more stuff on the network, and historically the wireless network hasn’t had near the level of visibility as the wired network. As more workers use media-rich apps, like video over Wi-Fi, visibility will be a key to long-term manageability.

Last week, Aerohive announced its new 802.11AC AP, the AP 230, purpose built to address the above issues. The new three-stream AP is priced at $799, which is under half the price that I’ve seen for comparable products. At under $800 per device, there’s really no reason that every organization can’t put Gigabit Ethernet in office building, classroom, or other type of facility. Additionally, the AP 230 runs on traditional .3af POE, so there’s no requirement at all to upgrade the wired network.

One of the aspects I’ve liked about Aerohive’s products since the company’s launch is the Application Visibility and Control (AVC) capabilities. I would say the AVC was a nice-to-have feature with previous versions of Wi-Fi, but becomes a need-to-have at Gigabit speeds. I believe the industry sits on the precipice of facing a huge wave of uniquely mobile applications flooding the business market place over the next five years, making the IT department’s job of managing the environment much more difficult. I’ve said this before, but there’s no way to manage what you can’t see, so Aerohive’s ability to enable application level visibility should make IT’s job easier. The distributed nature of Aerohive’s “Hive” architecture means the inspection and collection of traffic creates no bottlenecks anywhere. The net of AVC is a better experience for workers and a more easily managed network for IT.

So, if you’re a company sitting on the fence trying to decide whether to AC the network or not, Aerohive’s AP230 may be a good fit as it removes the barriers that could tip the scales towards not.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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