Cisco Wireless Local vs FlexConnect

In Cisco wireless networks, “FlexConnect” and “Local Mode” are two different deployment options for Cisco Lightweight Access Points (LAPs) that provide distinct features and functionality. Let’s explore the differences between FlexConnect and Local Mode and discuss some best practices for implementing them:

FlexConnect Mode:

FlexConnect (formerly known as H-REAP – Hybrid Remote Edge Access Point) is a deployment mode that allows access points to locally switch and locally authenticate client traffic at the remote site. In FlexConnect mode, the LAPs are able to handle client data traffic without the need to backhaul it to the central controller.

Key features and benefits of FlexConnect mode include:

  • Local data switching: Clients’ data traffic is locally switched at the remote site, enhancing network performance and reducing latency.
  • Local authentication: Clients can be authenticated locally, reducing dependency on the central controller for authentication.
  • Offline operation: FlexConnect allows APs to continue serving clients even when the connection to the central controller is lost.
  • Centralized management: The FlexConnect APs are still managed centrally by the wireless controller, simplifying configuration and monitoring.

Best practices for implementing FlexConnect mode:

  • Identify remote sites with limited or unreliable WAN connectivity, where local switching and local authentication would benefit network performance.
  • Configure appropriate VLANs at remote sites and ensure the necessary routing and security policies are in place for local traffic.
  • Implement backup WAN connectivity or redundant controllers at remote sites to ensure continuous operation even during WAN failures.
  • Regularly monitor and maintain the FlexConnect APs and their local switching configurations.

Local Mode:

Local Mode is the default deployment mode for Cisco LAPs, where the APs act as lightweight devices and all client traffic is tunneled back to the central wireless controller. In this mode, all client data traffic is backhauled to the controller for processing, including authentication, switching, and forwarding.

Key features and benefits of Local Mode include:

  • Centralized control: All client traffic is processed by the central wireless controller, providing consistent policies and configuration management.
  • Simplified deployment: LAPs in Local Mode are typically easier to configure and deploy since they rely on the centralized controller for most functions.
  • Enhanced security: By backhauling all client traffic to the controller, security policies and access controls can be enforced uniformly across the network.

Best practices for implementing Local Mode:

  • Deploy Local Mode LAPs in scenarios where there is reliable and high-bandwidth connectivity between the APs and the central controller.
  • Design the network infrastructure to handle the traffic load between the APs and the controller.
  • Ensure proper VLAN and routing configurations are in place to support the tunneling of client traffic to the controller.
  • Regularly monitor and maintain the controller’s hardware and software to ensure optimal performance.

Ultimately, the choice between FlexConnect and Local Mode depends on your specific network requirements and the characteristics of your remote sites. FlexConnect is typically recommended for remote sites with limited or unreliable connectivity, while Local Mode is suitable for scenarios where there is reliable and high-bandwidth connectivity to the central controller. It’s important to consider factors such as network performance, reliability, security, and management simplicity when making the deployment mode decision.