02 Jul

Juniper’s Mist adds WiFi 6, AI-based cloud services to enterprise edge

    Mist, now a Juniper Networks company, has rolled out an artificial-intelligence, cloud-based appliance and a WiFi 6 access point that together aim at helping users deploy smart, high-density wireless networks.

    Leading the rollout is the Mist Edge appliance that extends Mist’s cloud services to the branch and lets enterprises manage the distributed Wi-Fi infrastructure from a central location.

    The Mist Edge device features the company’s artificial-intelligence engine that helps automate tasks such as adjusting Wi-Fi signal strength and troubleshooting.  According to Mist, some other potential use cases for Mist Edge include:

    • Seamless roaming for large campus networks through on-premises tunnel termination of traffic to/from access points.
    • Extending virtual LANs (VLANs) to distributed branches and telecommuters to replace remote virtual private network (VPN) technology.
    • Dynamic traffic segmentation for IoT devices.
    • The ability to split tunneling to keep guest access and corporate traffic separate.

    The company says a software-only version of Mist Edge will be available in the future.

    Mist’s strength is its AI-based wireless platform which makes Wi-Fi more predictable, reliable and measurable. Mist is also unique in how it has delivered applications via cloud microservices and containers which could be attractive to enterprise users looking to reduce wireless operational costs, experts say.

    Mist’s cloud-based system brings patented dynamic packet capture and machine learning technology to automatically identify, adapt and fix network issues, Gartner wrote in a recent Magic Quadrant report. The Mist system is delivered and managed via cloud services.

    “Mist’s AI-driven Wi-Fi provides guest access, network management, policy applications and a virtual network assistant as well as analytics, IoT segmentation, and behavioral analysis at scale,” Gartner stated.  “Mist offers a new and unique approach to high-accuracy location services through a cloud-based machine-learning engine that uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-based signals from its multielement directional-antenna access points. The same platform can be used for Real Time Location System (RTLS) usage scenarios, static or zonal applications, and engagement use cases like wayfinding and proximity notifications.”

    Juniper bought Mist in March for $405 million for this AI-based WIFI technology.  For Juniper the Mist buy was significant as it had depended on agreements with partners such as Aerohive and Aruba to deliver wireless, according to Gartner.

    Mist, too, has partners and recently announced joint product development with VMware that integrates Mist WLAN technology and VMware’s VeloCloud-based NSX SD-WAN.

    “Mist has focused on large enterprises and has won some very well known brands,” said Chris Depuy, technology analyst with the 650 Group.  “The [Mist/Juniper] combination is a good fit because both product lines are focusing on larger enterprises and over time, we expect Mist AI will be used to benefit the entire Juniper campus portfolio.”

    The other part of the company’s rollout is a WiFi 6 (802.11ax) access point, the Mist AP43, a cloud-managed WiFi 6 access point with integrated support for Mist’s AI automation and manageability.

    “The new access point gets Juniper to 802.11ax on the same time frame as other major competitors like Cisco,” said Depuy. “Juniper could not address customers who were upgrading wireless and wired at the same time without Mist. With 802.11ax, we expect new switches to be necessary because 1 GB isn’t fast enough to support these new APs. Thus, Juniper can now upgrade customers to 802.11ax and MultiGig switches instead of bringing in another vendor. “

    WiFi 6 is designed for high-density public or private environments. But it also will be beneficial in internet of things (IoT) deployments, and in offices that use bandwidth-hogging applications like videoconferencing. Products promising WIFI 6 support have been rolling out across the industry with HPECiscoArista and others recently tossing their hats into the ring.

    The enterprise WLAN is now dominated by the 802.11ac standard, which makes up 86.4% of dependent access point (AP) shipments and 93.1% of enterprise WLAN dependent AP revenues. The next iteration of the standard, 802.11ax or WiFi 6, will increase in the market throughout the rest of 2019 and into 2020. In the consumer WLAN market, the 802.11ac standard accounted for 58.0% of shipments and 79.2% of revenue in 1Q19, according to IDC’s most recent Worldwide Quarterly WLAN Tracker report.

    “The WLAN market continues to see steady, moderate growth as enterprises invest in wireless connectivity to support the continued demand for access technology,” said Brandon Butler, senior research analyst, Network Infrastructure at IDC in the report. “Meanwhile, the coming Wi-Fi 6 standard will be a major driver of growth in the WLAN market in the coming years, especially in the advanced enterprise segments of the market.”

    The AP43 lists at $1,585.

    Mist also announced a strategic relationship with ForeScout to automate management and security control of Wi-Fi client and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.  The Juniper and Forescout mashup lets customers monitor and profile devices and mobile clients including smartphones, tablets, laptops, robots and IoT devices (HVAC systems, security devices, displays, sensors, lights) based on their network traffic patterns. Then if anomalous or threatening behavior is observed, customers can launch trouble tickets, remediate software on devices as needed or quarantine devices.

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