The number of wireless access points deployed in the typical enterprise continues to expand. The global enterprise wireless local area network (WLAN) market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32% through 2023. The proliferation of smart devices and increased media intensive applications are some of the factors contributing to this explosion.
When searching for a wireless access infrastructure solution, network leaders should look for the following key attributes:
- Provides reliable performancefor data, voice, and video applications.
- Scales easilyto prevent poor performance during spikes in activity.
- Optimizes trafficto handle surging volumes.
- Supports multiple channelsand RF management capabilities.
- Protects against new threat vectorsthat tap into wireless access vulnerabilities.
Fortinet offers three solutions for managing the performance and the security of wireless networks. All Fortinet current-model access points can be managed by at least two of the solution approaches described below, and FortiAP Universal Access Point devices can be managed by all three. In addition, all three solutions provide superior wireless access performance.
- FortiGate Integrated Wireless Management. With the FortiGateintegrated wireless management solution, businesses can leverage FortiGate Next Generation Firewalls (NGFWs)already deployed to protect their networks. These NGFWs can also serve as wireless controllers for managing access points. Businesses with one small/medium location, or those with numerous small/medium locations such as a chain of retail stores or restaurants, or businesses with remote sales and service offices, often prefer this approach. In these scenarios, the network security team can manage access points through their FortiGate NGFW without needing to buy any extra licenses to manage the system. Network staff doesn’t need to learn a new interface since they are already managing the FortiGate NGFW.
- Dedicated WLAN Controller Wireless Management. Fortinet’s dedicated controller wireless management solutionutilizes standalone controller-based wireless management, which is ideal for sites with hundreds to thousands of access points, such as large hospitals and college campuses. With networks of this size, it generally makes sense to segment firewall management from wireless management. This approach may involve the use of a series of FortiGate NGFWs with dedicated FortiWLC wireless controllersand FortiWLM management devices.
The advantage here, in addition to scale, is that a dedicated wireless controller like FortiWLC can handle more complex radio frequency functionality. The FortiWLC devices offer a technology that’s unique to the wireless industry called virtual cell management. In a virtual cell, all access points operate on the same channel, and the network is in charge of managing which AP is transmitting to which clients at any given time, while the client sees the entire network as one large AP. Continual centralized computation and updating ensure clients on the network are serviced optimally. Layering of virtual cells allows disparate networks to be installed that are both physically and logically segmented from each other.
- Cloud-Based Wireless Management. Whether or not to use the Fortinet cloud-based wireless management solutionusually comes down to how a business approaches cloud computing. If most applications are provisioned from the cloud, then it probably makes sense to also manage wireless network security and performance from the cloud. We generally recommend FortiCloudfor very small environments with one or two access points per site where a FortiGate NGFW has not already been deployed. We also feature APs with unified threat management (UTM) services onboard that can provide security in remote environments with cloud management. The cloud can also be used for installations, all the way up to thousands of access points if so desired. Regardless, if FortiGate NGFWs are already in place, it typically makes sense to use them for management rather than moving to a cloud-based environment.