As I wrote in the first part of this blog series, as Enterprise Wireless continues its journey to building Intent-Based Networking, Mobility Express is becoming more and more an integral part. I want to share all of the exciting things which we have been doing with the Mobility Express solution, specifically the AireOS 8.7 and AireOS 8.8 releases. Most of the features below are applicable to every deployment – whether you are a small office with limited or no IT staff or a larger distributed enterprise deployment deploying Mobility Express at scale.
What’s new in the AireOS 8.7 and 8.8 releases? Below are few key features amongst many.
Multi-Site Deployment – Software Update during Day 0
For zero-touch multi-site bring up, network admins can leverage Network Plug and Play to push the controller configuration to the Master AP at each site. In addition, they can now automatically trigger software update to the desired code at each of these sites.
What’s the benefit? This allows network administrators to not only bring up a site but also update the software in a single task during Day 0.
mDNS gateway support
Whether your organization sits in the education, hospitality and even some enterprise environments; we’ve heard of use cases where clients want to access devices which support services like Airplay, Airprint, file service, among others. Prior to introduction of this new feature, it was required to have both services and clients in the same VLAN. In order to address this challenge, a Master Access Point running AireOS 8.8 can now act as an mDNS gateway.
Now a customer can now have deployments where clients can access services which are in a different VLAN. For example, teachers connected to school Wi-Fi can play content via Airplay on Apple TVs that are on a different VLAN in the classrooms.
Guest enhancements with Central Web authentication & Walled Garden
Providing a flexible and superior experience to guest users is one of the most important requirements for customers in any walk of life, but this is especially true for those in hospitality, retail and multi-site deployments. To achieve this, Cisco Mobility Express now supports Central Web Authentication (CWA) and Walled Garden in AireOS 8.7 release.
With CWA, customers can centrally manage guest onboarding and network access control using Cisco’s Identity Services Engine or any third-party RADIUS server.
With Walled Garden support on Mobility Express in the AireOS 8.7 release, besides allowing selective URLs to be accessed during pre-authentication phase, social logins can also be supported on guest splash pages providing greater flexibility for guest onboarding.
Efficient AP Join – Ease of Use
The one consistent piece of feedback we have received from our customers is: how can we avoid using an external server (SFTP or TFTP) for updating software on the access point when it is added to the network or minimize the number of software downloads over WAN?
I am happy to announce that we have heard your feedback and starting with AireOS 8.8, when an access point is added to the network, it can download software from another access point present in network as long as it is of the same access point family. For example, if a Cisco Aironet 2800 Access Point is present in the network, one can seamlessly add another Cisco Aironet 2800, 3800 or even 1560 access point to the network. This feature eliminates the dependency on an external server for downloading the software.
Bi-directional Rate Limiting and Schedule WLAN Support
Many small businesses offer wireless connection as a service to their customers. In this case, they want to be able to offer a free, low-throughput service to everyone and charge users for a high-throughput service as well as control when to shut down SSID broadcast or simply avoid bandwidth overuse. Bi-directional rate limiting per WLAN, BSSID or client with AireOS 8.7 allows customers to enforce limits on upload/download bandwidth. Schedule WLAN feature in AireOS 8.8 allows customers to manage SSID broadcast during weekdays and weekends and also avoid possible attacks on their network during non-business hours.
Hospitality – Remote LAN(RLAN) Support
We have purposely built access points like the Cisco Aironet 1815w Access point for hotel and dorm rooms. These access points have wired ethernet ports to connect IP Phones, IPTV devices, set top boxes and more. Remote LAN (RLAN) allows customers to manage these wired ports. With AireOS 8.7, one can deploy a 1815w in a Mobility Express network for both wireless and wired client access. In addition, many of the ceiling APs also have an additional AUX port which can now be used to connect devices such as video cameras, projectors or other IoT devices. This allows the customers to avoid running long cables as well as save costs by potentially eliminating the need for additional switches.