They have a VM available for on premises deployment or they have a cloud based function. I have a physical 1U appliance in my location.
There is actually no controller. The VM and the Cloud are NMS systems. They have no participation in the real-time decision making (like radio power, security and QoS enforcement, etc.). That stuff is virtualized and distributed to the APs.
So with a typical enterprise class wireless network you have a controller that monitors a whole bunch of different metrics and then makes decisions about how to handle different situations. Two of the biggest cons to that type of architecture are: one it's expensive and two if the controller ever goes down (whether someone accidentally bumped the power switch, unplugged the wrong cable, or there was a hardware failure) you lose a lot of functionality. Typically the network can still function but at a much lower level than normal. With aerohive you get the central management of a controller through Hive Manager but the intelligence is built into the AP's not into a controller. So you save a nice chunk of change because you don't have to pay for a controller. Hive Manager comes in two different flavors Hive Manager online is a cloud solution that you can utilize or you can purchase Hive Manager as a VM. The important thing to remember is that once the configuration is pushed from hive manager to the AP's they can function autonomously. Hive Manager does also provide at a glance reporting and monitoring of all your AP's but the actual intelligence is built into the AP's and not into Hive Manager.
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