The writing is on the wall for on-premises wireless LAN controllers (WLCs). In the past, enterprises needed to purchase a wireless LAN controller to deploy, manage, and configure access points.
With the shift to cloud technologies, a WLC is no longer required. WLCs brought in additional overhead. WLCs are complex and challenging to manage. There is a high cost to purchasing a controller – the physical appliance and the licensing required to manage access points.
Let's dive into some specific challenges induced by on-prem wireless LAN controllers.
Not Enough Time
Business moves quickly. End-users are frustrated with technology that impedes their work. A significant amount of planning and preparation goes into upgrading a WLC.
A network engineer must peruse release notes to identify bugs and vulnerabilities with a specific WLC software version.
After identifying the desired software version, scheduling a maintenance window is also a challenge. The network engineer must wake up at an ungodly hour to perform the upgrade.
Upgrading a WLC involves upgrading the software on the access points. While the software can be pre-downloaded, sometimes it is forgotten. The time required to upgrade hundreds and even thousands of access points can take too long.
A WLC can only handle so many file downloads from access points at a given time. The network engineer crosses their fingers and prays to the wireless gods that the WLC comes back online as they wait for it to respond to pings.
The exact process applies to access points, hoping that not many will need replacing due to bad flashing or other boot-up issues.
Dealing With Open Caveats
Upgrading WLC software involves taking a calculated risk. An upgrade only occurs for a good reason. Either there is a bug to fix or a vulnerability to plug.
But open caveats are another reason to tread carefully with WLC software upgrades.
Sometimes, new bugs are introduced. Some create a high impact.
These new bugs cause headaches for network engineers and increase frustration for end-users.
Access Point Support
Don't act too quickly on upgrading to the latest WLC version of the software.
Take inventory of which access points will be unsupported with the desired software version for large deployments.
Unsupported access points are usually due to age. They'll be left stranded after the upgrade, unable to join the WLC.
An organization may be limited to a specific WLC software version.
The High Cost of High Availability
Network architecture requires redundancy and high availability. WLC falls under this category. If a sole WLC fails, all access points stop providing service to devices.
WLCs solve the single point of failure with N+1 to provide redundancy.
Often, one WLC serves the access points, with the other sitting idle as a backup.
The organization purchases two controllers—a waste of money. Higher cost to buy, higher costs to maintain and deal with licensing headaches.
Each WLC is independent of the other and managed separately.
The Efficient Way
Now's the time to embrace cloud-native and cloud-managed Wi-Fi.
The time to deploy and be connected is instantaneous. Access points download their configuration from the cloud after acquiring Internet access.
Eliminate controllers. No more spending early morning maintenance windows to upgrade controllers and access points. Schedule software upgrades for access points without waking up at 3 am. And updates are under continuous development. A network operator can get new features, bug fixes, and security fixes faster.
Access points software is configurable to specific versions, so an access point won't be left stranded no matter what “version” the cloud is using.
Controllers are no longer needed. High availability is in the cloud provider. Look for cloud-native technologies used, not just a cloud controller.
Make a move to cloud-native and cloud-managed Wi-Fi today!