HPE’s Aruba Readies Partners for Wi-Fi 6 with New WLAN Solutions
HPE’s Aruba Networks is priming partners for the industry’s next generation of faster and more reliable wireless LAN technology with the launch of new access points, switches and automated systems management.
The new gear supports the forthcoming 802.11ax standard, the first major boost to industry-standard Wi-Fi performance in five years when 802.11ac started to roll out. In addition to offering up to four-times faster speed at 3.5 Gbps, 802.11ax is more secure and is optimized for crowded environments such as stadiums, airports, universities and convention centers with large numbers of concurrently connected users.
Its promise of enabling large volumes of simultaneous connections makes the new 802.11ax suitable for IoT-based solutions.
Set for certification early next year, the Wi-Fi Alliance last month announced that the 802.11ax spec is now called Wi-Fi 6. The Wi-Fi Alliance, the industry consortium of network providers that maintains wireless LAN standards, has renamed the prior specs as well. The current 802.11ac standard is now Wi-Fi 5 and the previous 802.11n is called Wi-Fi 4.
“There’s going to be a natural refresh cycle for a certain amount of folks who are just going to invest in the latest and greatest Wi-Fi standards, and they’ll certainly get some benefits from that,” said IDC analyst Brandon Butler. “And there’s going to be a segment of customers who operate large Wi-Fi environments in these very dense environments that are going to get real advantages from this and those are going to be some the first movers that are really going to be jumping to adopt 802.11ax.”
Butler said that major suppliers of Wi-Fi hardware are expected to roll out new access points and controllers that support the new Wi-Fi 6. In addition to Aruba, Cisco announced its new Catalyst 9800 series wireless controllers with 802.11ax support at the Cisco Partner Summit taking place this week in Las Vegas.
For its part, Aruba’s three offerings collectively create the groundwork for partners to build out new WI-Fi networks based on 802.11ax. At the core are the new Aruba 510 series wireless access points, which are designed to support 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5 and Zigbee, the standard for connecting intelligent endpoint devices with IoT networks. Available this month, the Aruba 510 series carries a list price of $1,095 per access point.
The dual-band access points (5Ghz and 2.4 Ghz) are MIMO-capable and support the Wi-Fi Alliance’s ew WPA3 192-bit wireless encryption standard, introduced this year. While the access points support WI-Fi 6, an upgrade to the Aruba 2930M access switches are Wi-Fi 5-compatible but also support 802.3bt, which will provide powered over Ethernet (POE) support for new high-end 802.11ax access points in the pipeline.
The switches offer a monitoring capability that dynamically can distinguish whether it’s communicating with the new 802.11ax access points – which support 60 watts of power – or older Wi-Fi 5 access points that typically support only 30 watts. IT can disable certain features to compensate for the difference. The updated switches are now available with a list price of $10,799.
Noting that customers don’t typically upgrade their switching and access point hardware concurrently, this will allow them to start building out their Wi-Fi 6 infrastructure, said Lissa Hollinger, Aruba’s VP of portfolio marketing.
“The 802.11ax access point transition represents a significant technology transition for Wi-Fi, which opens up an opportunity for partners,” Hollinger said. “And the switch that we’re delivering is next-generation in that it supports 60 watts of power. So this potentially will drive a network refresh at the access layer of the switching infrastructure.”
Steve Shaffer, CEO of IT services provider Zunesis, already sees such refreshes in the pipeline to take advantage of Wi-Fi 6. Zunesis, an Aruba partner based in Lone Tree, Colorado, provides network and wireless access points to convention centers and casinos, among others, whose networks become saturated during peak times of the day when there are large crowds of people.
“I can tell you that we’re going to be rolling this technology out in the first quarter of next year,” Shaffer said.
In addition to promoting the improved performance and security, the new Aruba technology aims to provide more efficient use of resources. An upgrade of the company’s NetInsight management will allow customers to monitor usage and thereby conserve power by shutting off the APs when they’re not in use. The updated software automates usage of the new access points, by allowing them to power down when there are fewer or no active endpoint connections.
The so-called “Green AP” capability, set for release next quarter, could significantly reduce power in areas subject to periods of peak usage, followed by no activity once an event adjourns, according to Hollinger. It also allows accumulates benchmarks from peer users in similar environments and provides customers with recommendations that can improve performance, on average by 15 percent, she said, adding that customers can automate those optimizations, applying what Aruba is calling closed-loop automation.
“It allows a customer to automate the network reconfiguration, as opposed to IT having to go in there and do the reconfiguration themselves, and push that configuration out to the network,” she said. “It will significantly reduce IT complexity and the time that they’re spent reconfiguring the network.”
NetInsight is a subscription-based service, with a list price of $50 per access point, per year.
While Zunesis’ Shaffer sets to begin some deployments, like any new technology, he said the customers will be conducting proof of concepts. The ability to test the technology rests on the arrival of endpoints that have new WI-Fi 6 transmitters.
“Normally, we build the highways before we let the cars on the highway,” he said. “Likewise, we build the infrastructure in anticipation of the client, the transmitters gaining access. We’re going to be working with them in the first half of the year to do proofs of concept and to get that infrastructure defined and laid out, and then the client stuff is likely to happen a little bit later.”