Virtual Wi-Fi allows end-users to create multiple wireless networks visible on the host (virtual) network, but these are connected via software, not hardware. This allows administrators of the parent network to configure access policies for each virtual SSID (Service Set Identifier). A virtual SSID can be configured with different WLAN security policies and functionality than the parent.
Deployments of Virtual Wi-Fi allow service providers to separate guest users from their customers using existing infrastructure while maintaining control over what services are provided in each case. For example, a coffee shop might have Virtual Wi-Fi that provides an open public guest access point along with its private Virtual Wi-Fi that keeps customer traffic separate. The coffee shop owner could use the public access point to advertise his business and offer free Internet while keeping its private network for paying customers only.
The most common use case for Virtual Wi-Fi is enterprise guest access. Guest users are identified by their MAC (Media Access Control) address, which is like a device's fingerprint. This allows administrators to control how they connect, what type of network access they receive, and what level of services they can use on that connection. Network policies can be different depending on the type of user or where that user connects. For example, employees connecting to their corporate network from home would have full access with fast speeds and high priority. A guest arriving at an airport wanting limited web browsing would get less than half the bandwidth with slower speeds, no access to corporate resources, and lower priority.
How Does Virtual Wi-Fi Work?
Most virtualization solutions allow multiple physical devices to share a single hardware root of trust by abstracting the physical device at the firmware level. These virtualized systems also provide shared management tools that make it easy for network administrators to manage each virtual system via a single interface.
Virtual Wi-Fi is simply an application of this technology to wireless clients. Virtualizing the access point provides the same level of security, reliability, and manageability that server consolidation has given data center administrators for traditional computing resources. Wireless controllers are the best example of this type of unified management, but virtualization can be applied to any device or service that requires separate instances on hardware sharing a common resource pool.
Do I need the Microsoft virtual WiFi mini port adapter?
No, there is no need for a Microsoft virtual WiFi mini port adapter. You can configure Virtual Wi-Fi on any third-party hypervisor that supports the virtualization of wireless network adapters. You just have to add the "VirtualWiFi" VLAN from the parent interface in the virtual infrastructure and assign a Wireless Network Name (SSID) and security parameters.
Virtual Wi-Fi is a new technology that can be used in many areas, including guest access and wireless controller consolidation. These are just two practical examples of how Virtual Wi-Fi can benefit organizations of various sizes. Since it is easier to manage and maintain than traditional hardware deployments, Virtual Wi-Fi provides the operational and capital expenditure advantages large enterprises require while at the same time giving smaller businesses all of the features they need for their vital networks.