The Tyranny of the Controller

    Intelligence, much like information, wants to be distributed as much as possible. So when it comes to wireless networks, the question is, why is so much intelligence consolidated inside the wireless controller?

    We know that controlling the flow of information is power. In the case of the wireless controller, it also means creating an artificial requirement to buy an additional piece of network hardware.

    Devin Akin, chief Wi-Fi architect for Aerohive, argues that the intelligence required to manage a distributed network should be distributed to the access points, thereby effectively eliminating the need for the controller. Aerohive has been quietly making that argument for the past several years. But as wireless networks become a mainstay of corporate networks, chief technologists should start asking themselves what kind of wireless network architecture they want.

    Key considerations in the process should be how much throughput is ultimately going to go over this wireless network and, based on that number, does the controller represent a probable traffic bottleneck? The other thing to consider is how much network bandwidth intelligence is going to reside on the next generation of clients. If the clients are smarter about signalling their bandwidth requirements, doesn’t that mean the access point needs to be smarter about serving those requests?

    Controllers were a necessary evil when wireless networking started out. But increasingly, it’s looking like they have outlived their usefulness unless, of course, you happen to be the company that makes them.


    Mike Vizard
    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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