Unplugging My Airespace Controller (sniff)


A little over 10 years ago, a fellowship of engineers and business folks at Airespace turned the WLAN market upside down.  As the head of marketing and product management at Airespace, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with an amazing team who proudly launched the first viable centralized enterprise WLAN system into a market dominated by two giants, Cisco Systems and Symbol Technologies (now Motorola).   The lead dog in a pack of 15 wannabes – who knows, maybe more — we outstripped the industry for several years through a range of innovations, including:

  • Split MAC architecture
  • First WLAN controller (Symbol launched a direct connect switch)
  • Airewave Director, real-time monitoring and analysis capabilities, coupled with intelligent radio resource algorithms.
  • Multiple SSIDs (10 years ago this was a big deal!)
  • Location Tracking, including RF Fingerprinting for granular indoor GPS
  • LWAPP control plane protocol (now CAPWAP)
  • Remote Edge Access Points, and the most important capability,
  • The Wireless Control System: the [then] industry-leading platform for WLAN systems management, including graphical tools and centralized policy engines for WLAN planning, intelligent RF management, wireless intrusion protection, and wireless client location tracking.

This relentless pace of innovation resulted in moving from zero to third place market share in 18 months in the hotly contested enterprise segment.  A relentless TME and Product Management team took 19 consecutive industry awards and bakeoff wins.  Ultimately we were acquired by Cisco in 2005 and helped double a giant business in about 3 years.

So with a tear in my eye and nostalgia on my mind, here, on a late Friday afternoon, I came home and unplugged my Airespace controller (an updated Cisco version) and connected my Ubiquiti UniFi 802.11ac kit and the controller on my home Mac.

It was eye opening.

What immediately struck me

  • Feature richness.  Everything one would expect in an enterprise system.
  • The ease of installation aided by the clean, intuitive controller.  No CLI.  Everything worked perfectly of the box.
  • The reach and performance of the APs connecting to my Apple TV to stream video.
  • The amazing community of users and enthusiasts on the forums.
  • The overall value for an enterprise-class product.  When we launched Airespace, we were close to $1000/connected AP.  For the most part, the industry has tacked close to that number (or exceeded it).  Ubiquiti is a fraction.
  • And did I mention it took minutes.

When you build great technology and achieve success, you believe it will last forever.  Well nostalgia is not a good attribute when software is eating the world, where Moore’s is the law of the land.    I stand aside.  Ubiquiti excelsior.

“Don’t cry when I die

When it’s my time I probably won’t die

I’ll just lie down and close my eyes

And think about stuff

These eyes got too wise

Seeing too much of life’s goodbyes”

– Train, You Can Finally Meet My Mom



One thought on “Unplugging My Airespace Controller (sniff)

  1. One Average Joe in the RF LANd says:

    I have used both and I am getting ready to do a Cisco LWAP PI managed controller install. Yep it is a bit more complex but so is the network. Ubiquiti has it’s place but in the enterprise the techies need all that stuff Cisco/AireSpace shoved into the bag. I use the Apple stuff at home and would move to Ubiquiti if I could get a cloud controller or $99 Edge Router Lite to handle the AP’s at home.

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