The simplest wireless deployments are composed of a single access point. Sometimes that access point is integrated into a modem or router, for very small offices or residential wireless. Often these setups don’t require a controller. Sometimes they can do a lot of tricks. Then there are bigger deployments where you might see half a dozen access points managed by an on site wireless controller. These deployments are expensive, but they can cover a larger area, and tend to be more reliable. In 2017, controllers are moving to the cloud. We saw the potential for cloud wireless controllers early and started migrating to a unified cloud wireless management system in 2015. We call it AirBear, because we like naming things around here, and things that rhyme are fun to say.
There are hundreds of access point vendors out there. One of the reasons we standardized was because we realized that we can control and manage access point software and licensing for all of our customers from a unified private controller, which means if there is ever some reason we have to update all the access points in a hurry, we wouldn’t have to log in to hundreds of customer locations to update firmware. It also means that we would be in a position to quickly apply all of the performance enhancements as they become available, quickly change passwords, or instantly block an an unauthorized device across multiple sites.
So this week, there was a BIG exploit that can compromise traffic sent over wireless networks. A “don’t check your bank account at a coffee shop anymore” exploit. It took just a few minutes for us to update all of our managed access points with new firmware that doesn’t have the vulnerability. While there are other good wireless systems out there, and it’s boring to deploy the same system over and over again, it was pretty great to be able to universally update the software on every wireless access point we manage with just a few mouse clicks. The ability to pull all of that together in a very short period of time. That’s why we built that system. Not spinning our wheels on wireless access point patching means we have more time to take care of our customers, dream with them, and support their objectives.
This is a hard week for a lot of IT people. Imagine if you had to manage access points from 40 or 50 different vendors, and they all have a different process for fixing this published vulnerability. This is why we push for only one access point, only one gateway, only one phone system. This is why we use the same formula over and over. When there is a global problem, we can come up with one solution. This helps us scale, which is a good thing, because it allows us to use more technology, to move more information, to help more people. Also, now we get to gloat a little. That’s fun too.