Aerohive's Bonjour Gateway Tackles Apple-Related BYOD Hassles

That's the rationale, anyway, behind a new product from wireless LAN upstart Aerohive -- a "Bonjour Gateway" for enabling Apple's wireless AirPlay and AirPrint functions to easily run across multisubnet enterprise networks. Practically speaking, Aerohive says such a gateway will allow users to simplify the use of iPad and Apple TV on their wireless networks, particularly in vertical markets like education, where demand for those devices as teaching tools is skyrocketing.

The focus of Aerohive's software release is Bonjour, the service advertisement and configuration technology used by Apple in services such as printing from an Apple device, such as an iPad, or remote display using Apple TV. But as Stephen Philip, vice president of corporate and product marketing, points out, multicast DNS-based Bonjour is a Layer 2 nonroutable protocol, thus, can't easily work across the multiple subnets that exist at most every enterprise and many education institutions.

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How Aerohive solves that problem is with the Gateway -- software on an Aerohive wireless networking device that can be connected out-of-band to provide Bonjour "advertisements" across each subnet.

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"This is a Bonjour service that is enterprise-ready," Philip explained. "The way Bonjour works is that it broadcasts the availability of services out, but doesn't pass through a router or a subnet or a VLAN. That means it's great in your house, but it becomes problematic in your workplace."

Philip mentioned two particular use cases: schools that use AirPlay with Apple TVs to mirror iPad screens to projector screens for presenting to classrooms, and enterprises or schools that want to use AirPrint from iOS devices.

"The reality is that enterprise and educational organizations have all segmented their networks for security reasons and for performance reasons," Philip said. "That means these wonderful Apple devices aren't quite plug-and-play for accessing these services."

That Bonjour Gateway connects out-of-band is crucial, Philip said, because it means the software only provides the network service advertisement and not the service itself. Organizations don't have to change their security policies to accommodate the Gateway, nor will the Gateway clog up network traffic.

Even customers with non-Aerohive wireless networking products can use the Gateway, Philip added, by connecting an Aerohive device with Bonjour Gateway on it via a virtual LAN trunk.

The Bonjour Gateway will ship later this year following beta trials in Q2, according to Aerohive.

Damian Glasfurd-Brown, director of IT for The Leys School in Cambridge, England, said in a prepared statement that Leys is experimenting with AirPlay for getting iPad content onto classroom projectors using AppleTV.

"We will eventually have teachers' iPads, pupils' iPads and Apple TVs in separate subnets," he said. "The ability to have the Bonjour traffic carried through the Aerohive network will potentially save us quite a lot of effort in router configuration."

Aerohive has seen about $70 million in venture capital investment since its 2007 emergence from stealth mode, and has continued to attract wireless-focused channel partners interested in its "cooperative control architecture" -- deploying 802.11 access points in a controller-less approach that moves wireless controller functions onto the APs themselves.

In the past year, especially, Aerohive has sought to broaden its footprint to include cloud services, behind its January 2011 acquisition of Pareto Networks.

The company has also continued to attract top wireless industry talent. In November, it added Joe Epstein, the co-founder of Meru Networks and CEO of start-up Virtuata, to its advisory board, and in late February confirmed Andrew VonNagy -- former technical architect for Target Corp. and author of the well-known industry blog "Revolution Wi-Fi" -- as Senior Wi-Fi Architect.