Network Types

Controller-based / Autonomous Networks:

Fat APs, or Autonomous APs, were the first type of access points that were introduced onto the wireless market.  These were ideal for small-scale, wireless network solutions that needed no more than 10-15 clients per an access point or were just providing “hot-spot” type of services. These APs are called autonomous APs since each of them is their own entity.  Each fat AP needs to be manually configured for the network and security settings you would want running on your network. This is a great solution if you only plan on having a few APs. Scalability is a large obstacle for this type of solution.  Having to manually configure each device is cumbersome, but once configured, will function with little interaction by the administrator.

WLAN Controllers with thin APs was the next evolution in wireless networks. A thin AP is simply an access point that is managed by a WLAN controller.  The WLAN controller provides the thin AP its configuration and also functions as a switch for all the wireless traffic.  The WLAN controller also consolidated management for the entire wireless network in one place.  Some WLAN controllers perform functions such as a stateful firewall between the wired/wireless networks, VPN connectivity, intrusion detection/prevention services, spectrum monitoring/analysis, and much more.  WLAN controllers are physical devices that are rack mounted in the core data room and communicate with each AP at the same time. This allows for easy and quick configuration of multiple APs without having to manually configure each and every one.  It also eliminates the need to re-architect your wired network to host a WLAN.  As you might have assumed, scalability is greatly improved by the addition of a WLAN controller since it easily allows the installation of more APs onto the network and reduces deployment and management complexities.

If you would like more information on any of the concepts discussed here, or have any questions, feel free to contact us here and let us help you decide what type of solution is best for your needs. We are experts in building completely secure wireless networks. Our goal is to be a resource for you.