In my formative years, I was a big fan of The Clash, one of their biggest songs being Should I Stay or Should I Go. Only one sentence into this blog and you’re probably already thinking, “What can the Clash possibly have to do with networking?” You might have said the same thing about Hedy Lamarr and Wi-Fi, but that is a different blog. Let me give The Clash and networking a try.
The hype today is all about the choice of moving your network management functions to the cloud; do you stay with on-prem management, or maybe should you go to the cloud? As the song continues, “If I go there will be trouble, and if I stay it will be double.” That lyric also applies here: Typically, the network refresh cycle is anywhere from 4-7 years depending on each specific market, and there’s no way to know if there’s a perfect time for certain until the decision is made. Maybe you are considering the cloud but are not quite ready, or maybe you have multiple sites and are on different upgrade cycles, or maybe you’re an MSP and support multiple clients with varied requirements; either way, IT administrators have a tough decision to make. Stick with the existing on-premises managed solutions for another cycle, jump now to cloud, or deploy mixed environments— what’s a CIO to do?
The point of this blog is not to get into the cloud vs on-prem discussion and which is the best option, as this is dependent on many factors including regulatory concerns, goals, and even making the right financial decision. I want to talk about eliminating one of the major challenges of going cloud or on-prem: selecting the hardware. Today’s top-level networking infrastructure vendors offer some choice of on-prem or cloud management of network infrastructure, specifically the access points (APs). But there are strings attached, as the choice of APs (and even switches) are management system dependent. If you elect to manage via cloud, you’ll get one portfolio of products, and if you select on-prem you’ll see an entirely separate set of products.
This was the result of products evolving as the industry changed. Once you selected the management system you were usually tied to the related family of products. Migrating to a different management model not only required new hardware but also required purchasing and learning a new management system, often with varied capabilities. With some vendors, there is even a separate management system for each design, requiring a commitment to either an on-prem or cloud solution for that time frame. As the Clash said, “If I go there will be trouble, and if I stay it will be double.”
Extreme’s networking solutions initially evolved in a similar fashion as all others. But we’ve recognized the challenges our customers face and chose a different path, one that offers choice without complexity, something we call the Effortless Experience. Networking today is dynamic, and customers need to be able to make simple choices and then change their minds as their requirements change alongside rapidly shifting business models. Customers (and partners) needed the ability to choose from different operating systems based on their capabilities, helping to improve usability, speed up deployment, simplifying sparing extend the useful lifespan of a site.
As a result, we have created what we call universal platforms, eliminating the on-prem/cloud decision process. The same APs and switches can support on-prem or cloud deployments, providing greater flexibility and choice via a single product portfolio for deployments and minimizing total cost of ownership. Our new series of APs come with a dual-persona capability, allowing user choice of the Wi-Fi operating system (OS), either the IQ Engine OS for cloud or our WiNG OS for on-prem. The desired persona can be selected at start-up or changed at a later stage and, once selected, the AP assumes the features/capabilities of the selected OS. As a component of our effortless experience, the persona activation can also be automated in Extreme’s cloud management system or manually at bootup if so desired. The new universal APs are no more expensive – and in some cases are less expensive – than existing fixed capability APs.
The bottom line is choice, flexibility, and complete control (more wisdom from The Clash) are essential when selecting your next network infrastructure to help you eliminate a restrictive decision point.
And if you thought you were excited now, wait until you read about our NEW ExtremeCloud Essentials. When is the last time you got something for free from your vendor? In addition to this universal deployment capability, we are adding wireless intrusion detection, location, guest, and IoT management services into our existing ExtremeCloud IQ platform at no additional cost to Pilot subscribers.