To an outsider, it would appear that the founders of Xirrus had a Magic 8 Ball. Launched in 2004 on the premise that wireless would replace wired as the primary choice for network access, the company was built on a vision ahead of its time. The truth, says Director of Product Marketing Kowshik Bhat, is that Xirrus’ founders were simply observant.
And then they were visionaries.
“These were the days of one user having one device to connect to Wi-Fi networks. Our vision was that this was a transitional step on the road to multiple devices and BYOD,” Bhat says. “And now we are marching along that path.”
Enterprise users are carrying an average 2.8 devices, according to Cisco research, and that number is growing by the day – to a projected average of 3.3 devices per user by 2014. That’s at least three times as many devices connecting to a wireless network than just a few years ago. Wireless networks today need to support an explosion of devices that demand exponentially growing bandwidth to support data-rich applications.
The founders of Xirrus saw the growth in wireless and BYOD coming, so they built the architecture to accommodate those trends. Xirrus’ enterprise solution is built on the tenets of scalability, reliability and security. Its distributed intelligence infrastructure enables networks to grow at pace with the number of devices connecting to them without adding significant expense.
The building blocks of modern network architecture
Most wireless networks today operate on a centralized architecture, which means they run off a central controller at the core. Xirrus is built with distributed intelligence, which embeds controller functionality in every network access point. As networks are moving toward more sophisticated needs, including the requirement that they meet the new 802.11ac standards, the sheer volume of data that is passing through network access points will overwhelm a central controller, Bhat explains. A centralized controller can become a choke point for network access, as well as a single point of failure. “With distributed intelligence the network is highly scalable, meaning every access point added to the network adds processing capacity,” Bhat says.
“Because of integrated controllers with multi-core processors, we are able to deliver advanced functionality like Application Control with deep packet inspection. So we can look at the packet determine what kind of application it is and apply policies, for example.” In addition, Xirrus provides a wide range of solutions from 2 to 16-radios in a single platform to support low to very high-density mobile connectivity needs.
The new IEEE standard 802.11ac will introduce wider channels, better modulation and other improvements to enable Wi-Fi solutions to meet today’s demand for high capacity, real-time applications such as video and voice. The new standard delivers as much as 3 to 15 times the bandwidth of today’s standards. Wi-Fi today operates on two different bands – one that is 2.4GHz and another that is 5GHz. The new standard operates only on the 5GHz band. As more device manufacturers switch to the more advanced 5GHz radio, Wi-Fi network administrators will need to transition wireless traffic to the 5GHz band.
“With our software programmable radios, our solution is designed for such technology transitions without disrupting existing architecture,” Bhat says. “Because of such innovations, Xirrus solutions can support 802.11ac on every radio simultaneously. You impact performance negatively when you oversubscribe one radio, which is what will happen with traditional, fixed radio access points.” Being equipped to handle transitions in technology can result in significant gains, in terms of both performance and the long-term cost savings of a future-proofed technology.
Secure network access with AirWatch
The AirWatch and Xirrus joint solution enables enterprises to deliver comprehensive, secure access to mobile users, as well as granular access controls. “In a school environment, you may want to allow Facebook so that students can communicate with one another, but you might not want to allow Facebook applications such as Zinga or Farmville because you want to optimize your bandwidth not for playing games but to create learning environment in the school.”
The joint solution also enables network access on both company-owned and personal mobile devices, with granular control over BYOD devices. The solution scales to support high-density WLAN environments and is integrated to simplify deployment and automate end-to-end policy enforcement. While Xirrus controls the device access to the network, AirWatch controls and enforces policies from within the device with its agent. Exchanging device enrollment status, Xirrus and AirWatch provide a comprehensive, secure solution.
“It’s a perfect marriage in terms of technology leaders coming together to deliver a holistic solution,” Bhat says. “When you talk to any customer, BYOD and 802.11ac are top-of-mind when it comes to mobility, and we are able to deliver a solution – not only from network infrastructure where we bring our expertise but from the device management side – that is integrated and easy to implement.”
AirWatch’s ability to scale paired with Xirrus’s advanced Wi-Fi network capabilities creates a simple way to manage wireless networks and the devices accessing them that will leave organizations well-prepared