As Wi-Fi has expanded from coffee shop novelty to mobile workforce necessity, customers are expecting more reliability than ever. One company aiming to meet those demands is Aerohive Networks.

The wireless LAN developer has added new visibility and troubleshooting features to its HiveManager 3.4 WiFi management system, turning the wireless networking tool into what the company calls a complete service level agreement (SLA) compliance solution. The upgrades, dubbed Performance Sentinel and Airtime Boost, will allow network administrators to more closely monitor WiFI throughput on their networks and tailor resources to keep up with user demand.

According to Aerohive, the announcement marks the first time such SLA features have been made available to WiFi administrators.

"Managing WiFi isn’t as easy as managing Ethernet switches," said Adam Conway, AeroHive’s vice president of product management. "With WiFi, there are issues like congestion on the network and interference that wouldn’t exist in a switched environment."

The idea behind the HiveManager upgrades, Conway said, is to offer administrators a systems overview so that they can pinpoint and resolve service problems as they arise. Performance Sentinel allows admins to set a baseline throughput level, while Airtime Boost can offer increased throughput to clients on an as-needed basis.

"Now the administrator can say ‘I want X number of bits’ and the system will monitor the network to make sure they’re getting that level of throughput," says Conway. "If they’re not, it can boost the airtime availability to get it there."

The College of William & Mary in Virginia will be among the first of Aerohive’s customers to roll out the new services when it implements HiveManager 3.4 in its new business school building this October.

"Since we’re a school, we don’t have much control over what laptops users have or what types of services they’re using on the network," said Norman Elton, the university’s network engineer, "so it’s hard to get good metrics on how well the wireless network is doing."

With the Aerohive solution, however, Elton will be able to monitor network usage from above and adjust resource levels to optimize service. "We should be able to offer a better balance," he said. "Slower clients will get more bandwidth, and we’ll have some shaping ability that will improve service for everyone."

—Timothy Sprinkle

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