Many Organizations Will Find HPE/Aruba Networks IAP Solution Just Right4 Minute Read

 In Networking

When it comes to wireless solutions for small and medium size organizations, the analogy of Goldilocks and the Three Bears serves as a great analogy.  In the adorable children’s story, Goldilocks samples one bed too hard, one too soft, one porridge too hot, one too cold, until she finds the offerings that are perfect for her.  Such has been the case of wireless in that IT managers can go either with a decentralized fat AP solution or with a thin AP solution that required a WLAN-based controller.

The problem with fat AP’s is that each access point must be manually configured, which is time consuming for overburdened IP staffs.  What’s more, as additional AP’s are deployed, scalability and management become major challenges.  It is for these reasons that most organizations prefer some type of controller-based solution, which entails either an on premise physical appliance, or a cloud controller solution.  The addition of a controller in either case translates to more money and complexity, which for small and medium sized organizations can be overkill.  For organizations with multiple locations such as a small school system or a business with a conglomeration of district and regional offices, this can prove challenging as each location requires its either own separate controller or have its AP traffic tunneled to the data center that hosts the necessary controllers.

Recently however, AP technology produced a new alternative that may just right for many organizations.  This new approach utilizes a distributed WLAN system in which both traffic from both the control and data planes are distributed across all the AP’s.  Such an alternative is the Aruba Instant AP solution in which one AP servers as the controller for all the AP’s in its cluster.  In a time in which companies are looking for solutions that offers them enhanced agility and flexibility in their designs, Aruba IAP could be just perfect.

Simplicity is at the core of the Aruba IAP solution that can be implemented for a SBMB in less than an hour.  The methodology is simple.  The first AP you deploy will serve as a virtual controller.  Once powered up, the first AP will broadcast an open default SSID that you can use to access and configure the AP through a GUI web interface.  A wireless administrator can then create the required SSID’s and configure a plethora of settings for such features such as:

  • Adaptive Radio Management
  • Channel/Power assignment
  • Both IDS and IPS security
  • Client handover
  • Deep packet inspection

Once configured, simply deploy the other AP’s in the same VLAN and all additional AP’s will obtain the required settings from the VC.  This translates into automated zero-touch provisioning of all additional APs.  Firmware updates are implemented in the same manner.  Simply update the AP/VC and all other APs under its management will update within minutes as well.

The problem with a WLAN controller is that it becomes a single point of failure.  Should the controller go down, real time management of the AP’s becomes impossible.  The Aruba IAP solution on the other hand boasts a nearly limitless degree of fault tolerance.  Should the initial AP/VC go down, an election immediately takes place amongst the remaining cluster APs and a new VC is elected.  It is recommended that you assign a static address to the initial AP/VC for management purposes.  The beauty is that this static address becomes a floating address throughout the cluster so that a newly elected AP/VC will automatically take control of the assigned IP address.  You can also designate a preferred AP/VC so that it always retains the VC role when it is operational.  A preferred master will never lose it configuration.

Aruba IAP zones are organized into clusters.  A cluster can consist of up to just over a 100 APs. Areas that require more coverage than a single cluster can offer can utilize multiple clusters.  Although each cluster operates in a separate subnet, clients roaming between clusters can retain the same IP address they were initially assigned.

At some point, IAP based solutions do hit a scalability ceiling and an organization would be required to go with a controller based solution.  Thanks to the agility of their design, all IAPs can be easily converted into controller-based APs that can interact with an Aruba controller such as their mobility controller series.

Organizations with remote branch offices can utilize Aruba Instant-VPN to integrate a hybrid type of wireless infrastructure in which a designated master AP serves as a liaison between the branch AP cluster and the controller residing at the corporate datacenter through a dedicated VPN tunnel.

The Aruba Solution Suite
Aruba IAPs can integrate with any of the various Aruba enterprise components such as ClearPass, which greatly simplifies BYOD deployments and guest services.  Wireless admins can also utilize Airwave or Aruba Central to greatly expand the management capabilities and allows monitoring of AP, client devices and users.

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