Mist Systems, an enterprise WLAN vendor, has announced a new 802.11ax access point (AP).
The company has also announced a new edge device that enables some local, rather than cloud-based, management capabilities.
Last but not least, Mist has revised its tech support model so that customers talk to a Tier 3 expert the first time they call TAC—if the company’s automated analytics can’t diagnose or remediate a problem.
Let’s start with the last point.
Tiers For Fears
Mist makes a big deal about how it uses AI and machine learning for automation, anomaly detection, predictive analytics to anticipate problems, and root-cause identification to speed troubleshooting.
Using metadata collected from customer APs and switches, Mist says its cloud-based analytics platform can proactively notify customers of problems or potential problems before IT becomes aware of them, and offer recommendations to fix those problems.
The more a tech vendor talks about AI, the more dubious I get. Marketing departments tend to be loose with their definitions–particularly when it comes to AI and machine learning–and generous with their promises.
But Mist is putting its AI money where its AI mouth is.
Mist says it’s removing the first two tiers of technical support. If customers can’t resolve problems using recommendations from the analytics system, they can call TAC and be immediately connected to a Tier 3, human expert.
The TAC engineer will run the customer’s ticket through its AI systems to see if a fix can be determined. If not, the engineer will work with the customer to resolve the problem.
That’s an interesting move. The IT industry in general does not have a good reputation when it comes to support. It can be an effort just to get the vendor to acknowledge and understand the problem, and then escalate a ticket through a series of tiers until you get someone who knows what they’re doing.
Mist hopes to eliminate this hassle, and it’s betting that its analytics system will be good enough to satisfy a majority of customer support needs. If not, it’s going to have to pull experienced engineers from other projects to handle troubleshooting.
“It drives us to create a product that has no false positives, because it costs us money if it does,” said Jeff Aaron, VP of Marketing at Mist.
I’m still suspicious of AI hype, but I like that Mist is putting its analytics capabilities into the crucible of tech support, where it will either get stronger or crack.
This technical support play also aligns with Juniper’s broader strategy for acquiring Mist. Juniper bought the WLAN vendor not just to plug a portfolio gap, but to extend analytics into to day-to-day IT operations. I’m curious to see how this goes.
Don’t Call It A Controller
As mentioned above, Mist has announced Mist Edge, a hardware appliance that resides on the customer premises.
The appliance supports tunneling capabilities for campus use cases and network designs that require them, including on-premises tunnel termination of traffic, split tunneling for guest and employee access, extending VLANs to branches, and traffic segmentation for IoT devices.
While Mist Edge provides controller-like functions, Mist insists it’s not a controller. “It’s still managed from the cloud, and other services are hosted in the cloud,” said Aaron. “A subset of services, like tunnel termination, are hosted on prem.”
Mist Edge appliances currently come in four models that support from 500 to 10,000 APs. The company says a virtual appliance will also be available soon.
New AP For 11ax/Wi-Fi 6
Mist has announced a new 802.11ax AP, the AP43.
As with other WLAN vendors rolling out .11ax APs ahead of official ratification, Mist promises the AP will be 11ax-compliant when the IEEE and the Wi-Fi Alliance finally anoint the standard, expected in Q3 of 2019.
The AP43 supports 4X4 MU-MIMO in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands with two radios. A third radio in the AP is available for location tracking, WIPS, synthetic tests, and spectrum monitoring.
As you’d expect with an 11ax device, the AP43 relies on ODFMA to boost performance and support high-density client environments.
The new AP also comes with a BLE antenna array to enable location tracking with BLE beacons. It also includes three IoT sensors, one each for pressure, temperature, and humidity.
The AP43 lists at $1,585.