Two years ago, while I was still working for my previous company, I took care of the project to set up the company wireless network with a single primary requirement “Centralized Management”. At that time we were using SMB grade router, several LinkSys WRT54 that loaded with the 3rd party firmware DD-WRT, configured under one single SSID to support seamless roaming. These units worked quite well, and required minimum investment (only 40-50 euros per unit) by that time. Although these routers only support 802.11bg thus the bandwidth limits to only 54Mbps but that far more than enough for a company with less than 20 wireless user.About 4-5 routers were in use so the cost is roughly 250 euros only …
However the board demanded a better solution with centralized management,authentication against company Active Directory users, multiple SSID and support VoIP, also capability of providing HotSpot for guest …etc. Practically, DD-WRT can support almost every requirement, except the centralized management function. Each router must be configured individually. Although you can import a template configuration from a single router, but this task still need to be done per router. Also if there is any change (like extra SSID, or simply change SSID name …) every router must be tended to.
Thus in the end we abandoned the WRT54, and ended up with an enterprise solution from ARUBA network, which worked quite well but … horribly expensive. Since I am tied to the NDA after leaving the company, so could not disclose the exact price tag. Let’s just say a thin access-point costs more than all the Linksys combined and we used several of them. That, is still without the WLAN controller.
The solution from ARUBA network is a neat one. One single WLAN controller (could have extra running in cluster for redundancy), that automatically discoveries, configures and pushes change to the client within the same network. It could also connect to the thin access-point in VPN mode, so you basically can install an access-point at home and access to the company wireless. Config/administration support both WEB and CLI.
BUT IT IS EXPENSIVE !!! All most every WLAN controller from major vendor is. Let’s say if a company only have less than 10 routers and limited number of users, investing in the centralized solution is a no-go and thus leave the network admin with the frustrated task of maintaining 10 individual routers.
During the R & D phase for the project, I also looked up for a similar controller solution for DD-WRT and find none. It seem nobody has attempted to implement such a thing. DD-WRT remains popular with users and now support a wide range of home-routers. So I think it is time for me to start pick this project up and see how it goes. Not a programmer myself but I hope I can improve programming skill after this project …