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Networking & Wireless | News

Bonjour Gateway To Make Services Available Across Subnets

Aerohive Networks has begun showing off a new bit of technology that's expected to help organizations--including schools--enable users with Apple devices to exploit other resources on their networks. The Bonjour Gateway will make Apple services such as AirPrint and AirPlay usable across subnets. The company said the gateway product is expected to be available for beta trials in the second quarter of 2012 and will ship mid-year. It will be delivered as a software upgrade for existing customers or as a separate device to work on legacy wired or wireless networks from Aerohive or other companies.

The release is an important one for education environments, which struggle to integrate a growing number of Apple devices into existing Windows-powered networks. Apple's Bonjour is a service advertisement and configuration technology. Matthew Gast, Aerohive's director of product management, notes in a video demonstration of the new gateway that Bonjour isn't a service itself; it's "like a phonebook for services on the network. It says, 'Here's a printer'; 'Here's a file server...'"

But Apple chose ease of use over other considerations when it designed Bonjour. It's fast and simple to set up in a home or classroom environment that has a single subnet. The user doesn't need to understand IP address configuration to get devices "talking" to each other. It's less useful in networks that have more than a single subnet.

Bonjour Gateway overcomes that limitation by advertising services that may exist across subnets, simplifying the deployment of Apple devices into existing networks without having to change the current network topology.

For example, a school that has separate student and teacher networks may need to cross those LAN borders in order to use equipment residing on the teacher network by way of devices such as an iPad that's accessing the Internet on the student or public Wi-Fi.

The Bonjour Gateway also does filtering, giving network administrators the ability to expose only those services such as printers or file servers that he or she wishes to advertise.

"We're very excited by this feature because we use iPads and iPod touches in our one-to-one programs in the school system," said Phil Hardin, executive director of technology for the Rowan-Salisbury School System in North Carolina. "Our programs use these mobile devices to improve the teaching and learning environment in the classroom by enabling teachers and students to share information and multimedia projects through AirPlay. Aerohive's new technology will enable us to use AirPlay and AirPrint with multi-subnet network architectures and will preserve the ease of use we have and expect from our Apple devices."

Added Damian Glasfurd-Brown, director of IT for The Leys, a school in Cambridge, UK, "We like the look of this feature very much." This school is experimenting with the use of AirPlay for delivering iPad screens to classroom projectors via Apple TVs. "We will eventually have teachers' iPads, pupils' iPads, and Apple TVs in separate subnets," said Glasfurd-Brown. "The ability to have the Bonjour traffic carried through the Aerohive network will potentially save us quite a lot of effort in router configuration."

Aerohive has put together a blog entry and video demo at blogs.aerohive.com and a technology brief at aerohive.com.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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