The Sunsetting of AireOS: One Dynasty’s End & One Dynasty’s Start

As I write this blog, I feel nostalgic. Rose in Titanic explained that it had been 84 year since she was on Titanic, and that she could still smell the fresh paint.

It’s been 20 years since I made the phone call that would change my life and career. In 2001, I was working at Outsource Incorporated in central Florida. They were a Cisco Premier partner and outsourced hardware and services to large enterprise accounts. Our offerings included wireless LocalArea Network solutions (LAN), which were very basic in terms of their features and design in their early days. We mainly promoted solutions from Madge Networks, who had a management server called Smart Wireless Enterprise Access Server (SWEAS). This was the precursor toWireless LAN Controllers(WLC). SWEAS required a SWEAS at each corporate site.

Airespace Launches the Next Generation of Wireless
I vividly recall the day in late 2001, when I was closing the order for a large supermarket chain. I received a call from the customer’s lead engineer requesting that I postpone the order because they had seen the new wireless solution by Airespace, a small startup. I drove thirty minutes to their headquarters and was asked by the customer if I would be willing to evaluate the new solution. It was absolutely stunning what I saw. It was not only a game-changer for the industry, it was also going be a game-changer in my life and career. The Airespace Air Control System (ACS) was a new management solution that allowed for layer-3 roaming and a tiered management system that allowed effective management of access points at multiple locations from a single pane. I called Airespace from Tennessee that afternoon and asked for someone to explain the new controller-based platform. My call was transferred to the laboratory area of the company. This call was the beginning a friendship with Bob Friday, one of Airespace’s founders. I was convinced by the solution and asked how to be a part of the next generation of wireless.

My company became an Airespace partner quickly and I was introduced by Bill Aniszewski to whom I was the Southeast US and Caribbean Airespace account manager at the time. Bill Aniszewski was my partner for the next four-years. I still work closely with him today, as he is the wireless product sales specialist at Cisco. Airespace signed an Original Equipment Manager agreement (OEM) with NEC in 2003. Then came 2004 agreements with Alcatel, Nortel, and Nortel. Airespace had taken over the market from Cisco in three years.

Cisco AcquiresAirespace
The wireless world was forever changed in 2005. Outsource was made a Cisco partner when Cisco acquired Airespace. Soon after, we had our first virtual partner team meeting. It consisted of approximately twelve practice leads from the new Cisco partnership community. These are the people I still have friendship with today. They are my original twelve disciples, which I love to call. Cisco ported their Aironet access to the Airespace controllerOS code and shut down their S-WAN wireless architecture. The Airespace controllers and ACS system were rebranded to Cisco devices in 2006. ACS became the Wireless Control System (WCS), due to an acronym conflicting with Cisco’s AAA server ACS. The Cisco 4400 WLC was released shortly after. This marked the beginning of the transition from Cisco blue to Cisco green. 2007 was the year I moved to Internetwork Engineering, a Cisco Gold Partner based in Charlotte NC.

Over the years, I have seen the rise of Cisco’s AireOS controllers as well as the rebranding WCSto Cisco Prime Infrastructure to the pinnacle technology that could support, the 5520 WLCs and 8540 WLCs. It’s been a great ride, and I mean GREAT, but the technology was becoming outdated and needed a major overhaul. Cisco announced last week that the final AireOS controllers would no longer be available for sale, signaling the end of a dynasty. This is not the end of the story. Cisco continues to roll out the new IOSXE platform, the Catalyst9k wireless architecture, for the past year. This platform is the result of years of learning and delivers what enterprise customers wanted from the technology. It also makes management, maintenance and security much easier and more flexible. Meraki’s 2012 acquisition of Meraki is a part of this knowledge. Meraki provided a cloud solution that was very easy to use and manage.

Simplification is a key driver of technology, and it is no different with wi-fi. The Catalyst 9k architecture not only supports the flex and local modes we all love, but also provides a fabric mode for enterpriseSoftware Defined Access (SDA) solutions. The Catalyst solution offers wireless assurance and allows AIand the engineer to troubleshoot actual client quality of experience issues. The Catalyst solution can be used to secure the wireless edge using Cisco’s newSecureXframework.

Say Goodbye to theAireOSLegacy
AireOS has been a great ride! Airespace and the technology have changed the way we communicate. This week, I was involved in designing hospitals, universities, large sporting venues and warehouses, as well as COVID-19 mass vaccination sites. Every aspect of our lives is affected by wireless. The new Catalyst architecture will carry on that legacy and help us to embrace the 5g and 6g future technologies. It will also complement those carrier-based solutions by providing indoor coverage at similar speeds and feeds. The future holds true virtual reality and augmented realities offerings. These solutions, when deployed using Wi-Fi or 5g technologies will continue to improve the hu

Author: Victoria