Mesh networks are an old technology, but it’s only recently became affordable for small offices/home offices (SOHO) and small businesses. Still, if you used mesh you were stuck with a single vendor. One mesh network was not compatible with another. Thanks to the Wi-Fi Alliance‘s EasyMesh, that’s changing.
Mesh networks solve the problem of covering a large area, more than about 1,000 square feet on a single floor, or a multi-floor home or office. Yes, you could use powerline networking or string CAT5 Ethernet cable in your office, but that’s not always practical.
EasyMesh is a new standard for creating efficient, self-organizing networks that deliver a broad footprint of uniform Wi-Fi service. It promises to create mesh networks using adaptable networks made up multiple access points (AP)s from different vendors. This, in turn, extends Wi-Fi coverage and enhances performance.
From a networking admin or user viewpoint this approach sounds great. There’s only one little problem, and it has nothing to do with the technology. Companies love to lock-in customers to their technology. Some businesses realize it’s better to use open-source and standards to grow a market in which each gains a larger share. But, other vendors are still stuck on lock-in business plans.
Which way the Wi-Fi networking companies will go remains an open question. But, if customers demand EasyMesh from their vendors, then EasyMesh will live up to its promise.
Wi-Fi EasyMesh technology coordinates multiple APs into a unified and intelligent Wi-Fi network minimal effort required by the administrator or user. The technology also self monitors network conditions and self-adapts if needed.
Specifically, Wi-Fi EasyMesh guides mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, their optimal AP as they move about. This network hopping is done seamlessly.
Technically, EasyMesh does this with an AP or gateway set as the EasyMesh controller The controller provides the functionality to onboard and provision other Wi-Fi EasyMesh network devices and manages the EasyMesh firmware agents. The controller receives metrics and capability data from all devices in the network and controls the operating parameters of the agent APs in the network, such as channel of operation, data flow topology, and client roaming between agents. It also sends control commands to the agents to improve load balancing and other management functions.
These moving parts are coordinated via the IEEE 1905.1 standard, Convergent Digital Home Network for Heterogeneous Technologies. This technology enables networked devices connected by different network media–say Gigabit Ethernet 2.4Ghz, and 5Ghz Wi-Fi, to operate as if they were connected across a single network. In EasyMesh, the controllers use data from it to configure each agent’s AP radios. It also includes mechanisms to configure control-related policies on agents, such as metrics and steering. Additionally, the controller determines the topology of the network of agents, so it can adapt to changing network conditions.
Wi-Fi EasyMesh networks also utilize mechanisms from the new Wi-Fi Alliance Agile Multiband standard. New Agile Multiband certified devices will work better as they’re moved from spot to spot with intelligent steering and faster network transitions.
“Wi-Fi EasyMesh offers both service providers and Wi-Fi users a consistent approach to multiple AP solutions,” said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance, in a statement. Now, we’ll see if the vendors follow up on this promising technology.