The Wi-Fi market has been moving to controller-less solutions, and Cisco appears to be walking the controller-less management walk.” This statement by Zeus Kerravala, who wrote this statement for an article he penned for Network World has raised some thoughts in the industry. Let’s examine this and start by looking at this from a historical perspective.

Around a decade ago, wireless started transitioning from the nomadic Wi-Fi deployments to pervasive Access Point deployments. The market evolved from Autonomous Access Point Architecture to Controller-based to avail of the benefits of Centralization. This allowed users to manage the firmware and real-time configuration of hundreds and thousands of Access Points. Over time, the wireless controller evolved from simply managing the Firmware and Configuration to enabling customers to deploy policy-rich services across the whole network.

For the last five or so years Cisco has introduced multiple offerings whereby wireless control is a network function integrated into the network. This control can live essentially anywhere in the network example. It is deployed within our Catalyst 3850, 3650 and 4500 Switches that support the converged access network deployment mode. It can be deployed within our Cisco Integrated Services Routers (ISRs) to bring wireless control functionality to the branch. It can be deployed as a virtual machine in your virtual environment. We have deployed wireless control on our access points for our Mobility Express Solution and of course we have dedicated wireless controller appliances that serve this function. If you take a look at our Cisco Meraki solution, we also provide wireless control from the cloud.

Wireless control is still a critical function of any wireless network solution delivering both basic and advanced functionality to meet any customer use case:

WLAN Control_GD blog

You may ask, “Why does Cisco have so many ways of providing this function?” The answer is simple. We do not live in a one size fits all world and Cisco has been dedicated to meet the needs of today’s smaller to world’s largest organizations without asking them to compromise.

Together, Cisco and our customers are moving to a new digital reality and this is only one example of how Cisco has been leading this change.

Because these functions are as vital today as ever, the need for wireless control anywhere and everywhere is necessary. The control function will always be there as it is required for ease of automation and assurance. In the future, it may not be a physical appliance but instead reside anywhere in the network.  It can be tailored to different users from allowing advanced users the ability to reconfigure through Command Line Interface, WebUI to open API or be a plug and play function that has the best practices installed by default. Additionally Controllers may evolve to supporting IoT technologies and newer protocols.

It is our goal to do what is right for our customers and the industry as a whole and that means the way we deliver technology has to evolve as new opportunities and changes industry show themselves.


Greg Dorai

Senior Vice President & General Manager, Cisco Networking Experiences - Campus Connectivity

Networking Experiences