Different Shades of Cloud Wi-Fi: Rebranded, Activated, Managed

Did you know that all cloud Wi-Fi’s aren’t created equal?

The race is on to put cloud in Wi-Fi

Currently, the cloud managed Wi-Fi space is expanding rapidly. Naturally, Wi-Fi vendors, traditional and emerging, want to be in the cloud Wi-Fi game. Nobody wants to be without a “cloud” solution!  Controller-less Wi-Fi vendors have explicitly built cloud managed Wi-Fi from the ground up, while controller Wi-Fi incumbents have repositioned traditional offerings in the direction of cloud Wi-Fi.

The word “cloud” in the name doesn’t tell the whole story, one has to dig deeper. Here’s why.

When vendors associate the word cloud with their Wi-Fi solutions, they can be referring to completely different things. This is quite apparent in light of some recent developments.

Controllers over WAN REBRANDED as Cloud

I discussed this in one of my earlier posts – Is your cloud Wi-Fi genuine, or is it a controller-over-WAN imitation? – with the example of Cisco FlexConnect. Controller over WAN cloud Wi-Fi is merely the practice of deploying stack of controllers at headquarters to manage APs at the branches. However, such an architectural approach is severely limited and doesn’t render all the good properties of a true cloud Wi-Fi. This was made quite evident when Cisco later acquired a cloud Wi-Fi startup to gain entry in the cloud Wi-Fi game. There are many traditional Wi-Fi vendors who still call it a cloud Wi-Fi if you simply deploy controllers over WAN links.


Aruba Networks recently announced the launch of its cloud-based Wi-Fi provisioning service called ACTIVATE. Although Aruba’s  ACTIVATE includes the term “cloud”, it is important to note the use of the word “provisioning”! On a closer look, this solution appears to be merely a cloud based AP inventory system which leads in with the cloud but then redirects the APs back to the onsite controllers or to the onsite AP management servers. The APs contact the cloud provisioning portal as the first point of contact, but then they have to connect to the onsite controllers or the onsite management servers if the centralized management benefits are to be achieved. The cloud provisioning portal just tells the APs the addresses of their onsite management servers. Perhaps it can be called cloud ACTIVATED Wi-Fi?


Benefits of AirTight Networks cloud MANAGED WiFiCloud MANAGED Wi-Fi, on the other hand, would typically mean the following comprehensive set of features:
  • plug-and-play deployment and configuration of APs,
  • centralized network management and monitoring, and
  • comprehensive securityEntirely in the cloud!


All the server side complexity for device, network and security management is subsumed in the (public) cloud.
  1. End users don’t have to install onsite stacks of controllers or management servers, which results into large capital and operational savings
  2. Admins manage the network infrastructure and security from the single pane of glass web based console
  3. APs are designed to be smart-edge which can operate relatively independently of the management server.

AirTight Wi-Fi is the true cloud MANAGED Wi-Fi – with the best wireless security built into it.

So, we saw that there are real differences among different Wi-Fi solutions despite having the word cloud in them.
The moral of the story is that when new technologies arrive, associated buzzwords quickly get into the product lineups. However, the underlying features may differ greatly. One has to look beyond the buzzwords to find out what the specific solution is all about and what benefits of the new technology concept it actually offers.

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Additional Information [ebooks]:
Hemant Chaskar

Hemant Chaskar is Vice President for Technology and Innovation at AirTight. He oversees R&D, product strategy, and intellectual property.Hemant has more than 15 years of experience in the networking, wireless, and security industry and holds several patents in these areas.

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