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Q&A: Interview with Xirrus, Designing Wireless Networks in the Cloud

I recently sat down with Bruce Miller of Xirrus to discuss the company's latest announcement, Xirrus Wi-Fi Designer-Cloud, to learn how Xirrus leverages the cloud to wirelessly enable more locations and people.

VMblog: For VMblog.com readers who do not know, can you tell us a bit more about Xirrus and your solutions?

Bruce Miller: Xirrus was founded in 2004 by Dirk Gates, Patrick Parker and Steve DeGennaro; Gates had previously founded Xircom in 1988, a company which sold computer memory cards, LAN adapters, modems, and remote access server products. Xirrus began selling wireless networking equipment, including the patented Wireless Array, in 2006. Today, with over 4,000 customers, you can find Xirrus solutions serving multiple verticals including general enterprise, education, public venues, healthcare, retail, government, hospitality, and manufacturing. In all of these environments, Xirrus Wireless Arrays and access points (APs) are designed to deliver a wired-like experience to users who rely on wireless connectivity for both business and recreation. Wireless can do so much more than just provide access to the web.

VMblog: Can you give us an example of how "wireless can do so much more than just provide access to the web"?

Miller: Sure.  We recently outfitted Liverpool Football Club's Anfield Stadium. For some context: in a stadium or an arena, you're dealing with extreme wireless device density - thousands of devices. These types of environments are not easy to deliver a predictable user experience, beyond just connecting that many devices. Our solution has solved many of the challenges to achieve such high density wireless. But beyond just getting the fans online, we worked with Liverpool to deliver services over the wireless network that enhance the fan experience. These include access to premium content, such as in-game stats and replays, trivia, betting, and best-play voting. On top of all this, the network can be used to support mobile POS devices, digital displays, and ticket scanners, or location-based services such as GPS navigation to seats, restrooms, and concessions. Anfield also created concession offers and an online retail web portal, where fans can purchase club apparel and gear. All of this is enabled by the wireless network infrastructure.

VMblog: I recently read your press release about the Wi-Fi Designer Cloud.  Can you tell us a little bit more about how that fits into the Xirrus product portfolio?

Miller: To quote Gartner, "By 2015, 80 percent of newly installed wireless networks will be obsolete because of a lack of proper planning." We regularly see this as we talk with end users everywhere - poor planning, or perhaps planning that does not account for sufficient growth. Xirrus provides a tool called the Wi-Fi Designer that enables network architects to use predictive analysis and active site surveys to plan a wireless network. First available as a Windows application, the tool ensures that networks are planned with sufficient coverage and capacity to meet deployment requirements. Our reseller partners and many customers use it to ensure the wireless network is designed right. With this latest announcement, we have added a cloud-based version of the application that makes it simple and fast to use anywhere. As a Software-as-a-service (SaaS) application, Wi-Fi Designer-Cloud requires no installation, upgrade, or maintenance. The tool lets you test "what-if" scenarios, taking into account building characteristics and types and numbers of APs and Arrays, and then provides its analysis as graphical feedback.  It can be accessed from anywhere over the web from a browser, and the designs are stored in the cloud.

VMblog: How else is Xirrus leveraging cloud solutions to support its access points and wireless arrays?

Miller: Our first Xirrus Cloud Services application was our Xirrus Management System (XMS). The XMS is a robust wireless network management application for managing Xirrus wireless networks. The application provides central configuration management for the network; monitors network performance, traffic, and client stations; provides administrators a graphical map of devices and coverage; and providers security monitoring, alerting and mitigation for rogues and security events. Moving the XMS to the cloud, we have been better able to simplify wireless management for our customers since we operationally maintain the application and provide firmware upgrades to wireless APs and Arrays to ease the burden on IT. In addition, we have rolled out Mobilize - a completely free turn up and provisioning service available to any Xirrus AP, Array, or Switch customer. Once the customer sets up Mobilize in the Cloud, the installation of any new Xirrus product is as simple as just plugging it in.

VMblog: So I have to ask.  What's in store for Xirrus in the second half of 2013?

Miller: There is a lot going on so watch us for some exciting announcements in the months ahead. We continue to expand our portfolio of solutions that enable our customers to deploy robust wireless networks that simply work and enable wireless service in more and more places. We will continue to simplify the roll out and operation of wireless networks. And as always, we will continue to raise the bar on wireless performance.

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Published Thursday, August 22, 2013 6:32 AM by David Marshall
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