As Wi-Fi deployments extend into large distributed environments, management of these Wi-Fi networks poses unique challenges. It could be the clinic-wide deployment for the medical facility running into 100’s of sites, branch-wide deployment for the bank running into 1000’s of sites, or store-wide deployment for the fast food restaurant running into 10,000’s sites. The network and security management needs for such deployments are very different from the traditional campus Wi-Fi. Accordingly, the network management console has to deliver on a number of fronts.
Network scale: For these applications, ability to manage thousands or even tens of thousands of access points from a single console becomes important. Also the management console that facilitates plug and play deployment and mass configuration of a large number of access points is needed.
Big data: Further, monitoring and reporting on a large network require network manager servers which can process, store, and render large amount of information. But, the management console needs to hide all this backend server complexity from the administrator. One way to go about it is to adopt cloud managed Wi-Fi architecture where all server side complexity is handled in the cloud, while you configure, manage, and/or monitor your network in the web based console. It could be the public cloud operated by the Wi-Fi vendor/the service provider, or the private cloud operated by the organization itself.
Logical network hierarchy: In order to efficiently manage large deployments, the console needs to facilitate network management on different logical dimensions. For example, for some deployments, location based management is key, where configuration, monitoring, policies, and administration are location or group of locations specific. For others, network management that matches up with the organization’s structure, such as franchisees, merged entities, entities under different jurisdictions, etc., is essential. The Wi-Fi management console has to be flexible enough to provide these different management paradigms as suitable for different deployments. SSID-only based flat organization of network management is inadequate for distributed Wi-Fi of scale, even with cumbersome manual effort of AP tagging and grouping.
Customization: Large networks are managed by multiple administrators with multiple roles and responsibilities. These administrators want to see the console organized in a way that helps them get their job done efficiently. For example, a network admin may be most interested in network uptime and usage information, while a security admin may be most interested in attacks and vulnerabilities information. Compliance manager may be most interested in violations that affect audit. BYOD strategist may be most interested in smart devices behavior. Since there is no one size that fits all, the console needs to provide for high level of configurability and customization so that different administrators can configure it to their convenience and requirements.
Single pane of glass for access and security: Integrated management of wireless access and wireless security can greatly simplify distributed Wi-Fi network deployment. At the same time, there needs to segregation of console controls for network manager and security manager roles.
When AirTight Networks recently launched the new HTML5 based Wi-Fi management console; it gave a lot of thought to these points. AirTight’s console provides customizable logical hierarchy based network and security administration. Device and configuration templates can be applied to large number of devices with the point and click on the logical hierarchy. There is also a provision for automatic inheritance and selected customization at specific nodes in the hierarchy. The console provides fully configurable screens along with the menu of tens of widgets to choose from to suit every administrator’s needs. The AirTight console also provides full Wi-Fi access and WIPS security management in the same pane of glass. That is the perfect match for AirTight’s unique software defined AP/WIPS Sensor combo device which solves both Wi-Fi access and Wi-Fi security problems in a single platform. Needless to say that the console scales to large number of access points and WIPS sensors. The console operates directly off the public cloud or the private cloud. And it is so easy to use, intuitive and visual, that it does not even require the initialization wizard!