In addition, Aerohive's current HiveAP 330 and 350 Wi-Fi access points can be turned into branch routers with HiveOS 5.0, a free upgrade to the company's network operating system. With the upgrade, the APs will also be able to use 3G or 4G wireless for primary or backup wide-area network connections.
"Solutions like this will lead to more robust networking at smaller and smaller branches," said analyst John Burke of Nemertes Research. If corporate IT departments can deploy remote networks without all the work of pre-configuring, setup and installation, they can be more nimble in establishing new sites, he said.
Also, once a new branch or home office is networked, the security features Aerohive is offering can give remote users more flexibility, Burke said. For example, it will be easier for IT to let them use their own mobile devices on the network.
The Branch on Demand service doesn't currently offer all the capabilities of a dedicated branch router such as Cisco's Integrated Services Router, including IP PBX (Internet Protocol Private Branch Exchange) for voice calls, but it can meet the needs of many sites that have less advanced networks today, Burke said.
Also, a cloud-based branch network has all the inherent downsides of any cloud service, Burke noted. "Putting that up inside a cloud provider's network makes your security dependent on their security," he said. "If there's a problem, you don't have control over how quickly it's responded to," he added.
However, there is a demand for branch technology that gives enterprises more flexibility, he said. Aerohive isn't the only vendor following the cloud-based branch network concept, and it won't be the last, Burke believes. Meraki and Aryaka are among the companies moving in this direction, and Avaya may soon follow, he said.
The cloud-based approach may also allow major carriers to deploy far less expensive managed services and still make a profit, Burke said. "I would hope some adventurous souls pick this up and run with it."
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