Monday, July 16, 2012

Education Institutions want Apple Bonjour Improvements

Members of the Educause community are drafting a petition to Apple for improvements in Bonjour network services for enterprise environments with larger and more complex networking needs than consumer home networks. Specifically, they want the applications to work across routed layer 3 networks natively instead of being limited to the local subnet.

A well-respected blogger, Lee H. Badman, who works for Syracuse University writes about the petition over on Network Computing:

BYOD hype tends to center on the likes of smartphones and tablets. These self-owned devices usually do just fine on the network from the technical perspective, while causing a policy ruckus that has spawned new product markets. But Apple has a family of popular devices and protocols that are decidedly sub-par enterprise network clients, and higher education network administrators want Apple to provide some relief. 
Apple has built this market niche on the extremely limited Bonjour protocol, which is non-routable and extremely difficult to scale and administer on large wireless networks. Users want to make use of these very slick living-room-oriented devices at work, as they have a lot of potential cool uses. Network admins want to help, but not at the expense of wholesale network redesign. 
So what's Apple's answer thus far to individual pleas for a change in paradigm? Find a workaround.

Solutions exist out in the market, but only from 3rd party Wi-Fi vendors. Aerohive Networks is leading the charge with the only currently available solution in Bonjour Gateway. Aruba networks has announced a solution with AirGroup, but it will not be available for quite a while yet (rumored Q1 2013 September 2012).

Apple has turned into a computing behemoth with the rapid adoption of their iOS and OS X platforms in enterprise environments. Whether it's BYOD or corporate issued mobile devices, enabling services like Bonjour across the enterprise network in a simple and scalable fashion will only become of greater importance. 

It will be interesting to see how Apple's growth in the enterprise coupled with the greater demands on devices in such environments will be reflected in Apple's product development moving forward. Will they listen to the Educasue community and the larger enterprise demands? Or will they rely on 3rd party vendor partners to continue to pick up the slack?


P.S. - Updated the AirGroup release timing information based on feedback from Aruba.


  1. Hey Andrew,

    Quick clarification on Aruba AirGroup: Currently in beta, successful trials in K-12 and Higher Ed. General Availability is September 2012 for: (1) ClearPass Guest for registration of user-based, location-based, role-based mDNS / Apple Bonjour services and (2) Aruba Mobility Controllers + Aruba Instant for mDNS proxy function, multiple VLAN traversal of mDNS and use of unicast Wi-Fi header for mDNS responses to improve Wi-Fi efficiency.


    1. Awesome! Thanks for the update Ozer. I'll update the blog post accordingly.