Why Is Cloud-Management Better For Wi-Fi Than Cloud-Control?

It’s been an interesting few years in the tech world. More and more services and functions are moving to the ubiquitous “cloud” – that soft and squishy netherland that more or less means “not on premises”. As more and more folks get comfortable with the idea of accessing services remotely – everything from their customer management, email, and security to their network management – there is no longer any doubt that access to the “cloud” is essential to keep businesses operational.

So if the cloud is now essential for productivity, why do certain networking companies still make the distinction between cloud-managed and cloud-controlled?

First, a short interlude for a history lesson. Centralized control is no new phenomenon. In many parts of tech, it was a natural progression from individually managed devices such as desktop computers or fat APs, to lightweight terminals and APs with no intelligence that relied on a central entity to manage configuration and intelligence.

Relying on that central entity for operation, though, quickly became a burden both from a connectivity standpoint and because of latency. So now we’ve entered into a world of Chromebooks, SDN, and distributed control, where there is a way to use that central entity for management and intelligence, but the devices remain operational regardless of connectivity to that entity.

Ok, now that we got that out of the way, we can go back to the question at hand – why does “cloud-managed” vs “cloud-controlled” networking really matter anymore?

Management is a big word, and often means a lot of things to different people. For the sake of this blog, it means a central place to configure, monitor, troubleshoot, and store reporting information. These are all incredibly important services, and none of them would work if the devices were not able to access the cloud.

However – while being able to push configurations and view reports are essential services, they don’t preclude users from accessing the local network. It also means that operational activities, like upgrades to the management system, can take place at a convenient time since it will not affect users accessing network services.

And, most importantly, it means that if an administrator makes changes within the management console, that person has complete control over exactly what gets pushed to the connected network devices and WHEN.

The problem with a controller, even if devices constantly stay connected to it, is a very ironic one: because having a controller, wherever it may be – means an administrator loses control. Control of upgrades. Control of pushing configurations. And control over what features are available on their local devices.

Controllers are an immediate action, not an abstracted management plane. So a change on a controller is proliferated throughout the network – great if an admin is making a security update and needs it to take immediate effect, but arguably less so when it means there is no way to stage configuration changes, or firmware updates, or test a new feature on a couple devices.

And to use a controller in the cloud requires a lot of TRUST, because it means that an administrator has to believe the company in control won’t make changes that affect day-to-day operations at a time that is inconvenient to their business.

At Aerohive, we’ve always stayed consistent on our insistence that it is necessary to allow local control of the devices that is separate from a centralized management service. That way, we put the power into the hands of our customers – the power of control. Control over upgrades. Control over configuration updates. Control for when to roll out new features. And most importantly, control over user connectivity and operations. Because let’s face it – while the cloud is ubiquitous, cooperative control is the foundation of scalable networking.


Abby is VP of Product Management and Marketing at Aerohive, where she defines market strategy and vision for the Aerohive products and applications portfolios. Previously, she led product strategy and development for the routing, authentication, and education-focused products and platforms. Abby focused on building and supporting network security and routing products at companies such as Concentric, XO Communications, and Juniper Networks before joining Aerohive in 2008.

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