Mist Wi-Fi no longer just cloud

The Mist Wi-Fi is no longer cloud only. The company's new Mist Edge appliance splits some management components between the cloud and on premises.

Mist, a Juniper Networks company, introduced a campus appliance that connects the Wi-Fi networks of multiple offices to the company's cloud-based management software for the wireless LAN. Also, Mist unveiled this week its first Wi-Fi 6 access points.

The Mist Edge hardware appliance avoids having access points (APs) in each office on a campus communicate directly with Mist's WxLAN technology in the cloud. Instead, WxLAN policies created through Mist's cloud-based dashboard are stored in the on-premises appliance.

WxLAN policies assign resources, such as servers and printers, to groups of users. Network managers can also create a service set identifier for a select group of users and assign services or devices that only they can access.

Mist Edge is available only as a stand-alone appliance. Mist plans to ship the appliance's software on a virtual machine this year.

Mist Edge reflects the preference of some enterprises to split management technology between the cloud and on premises. Companies more comfortable with an on-site WLAN controller, for example, could switch to Mist Edge, said Brandon Butler, an analyst at IDC.

"Overall, we see more and more enterprises gaining comfort with managing their WLAN environments from the cloud but giving customers a choice in how to manage their environments is always good," he said.

Mist Wi-Fi 6 APs

Mist's new AP43 access points mark the company's entry into the Wi-Fi 6 market, which has many options from other networking vendors, including Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company; Arista, and Cisco.

Each of the vendors offers cloud-based management software for their respective WLANs. Mist has tweaked its system to bring features such as load balancing across radio frequencies to a Wi-Fi 6 network, which can accommodate significantly more mobile and IoT devices than previous generations of the wireless technology.

IDC expects early adopters of Wi-Fi 6 to be sports arenas and other organizations with high-density networks. Other potential customers include companies that have reached the end-of-life of current WLAN technology.

"Overall, we expect Wi-Fi 6 sales to pick up throughout the rest of this year and even more so next year and 2021," Butler said.

Mist's strengths in the WLAN

Mist's "core competency and innovation" is in delivering its product portfolio as a service from the cloud and applying AI to simplify network management, Gartner said in a report published last summer. As a startup, Mist had managed to sign up some large companies, including seven of the top 40 retailers, one of the three largest airlines and three of the Fortune 10.

Juniper, which acquired Mist this year, plans to incorporate the access layer provider into Juniper's campus portfolio. The latest announcement offered no insight on how Juniper planned to combine its edge switches, software-defined WAN and firewalls with Mist technology.

However, Jeff Aaron, vice president of marketing at Mist, said Juniper would introduce switches integrated with Mist in a couple of months. The integration would extend Mist's management platform to a Juniper wired network on the campus.

In 2018, Cisco accounted for 45% of worldwide enterprise WLAN revenues, which grew 7% to $6.1 billion, according to IDC. Aruba was second with 14% of the market.

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