Mojo (Arista) Answers The Layer 2 Situation for WLAN Migration To Cloud

I recently wrote about the challenges, as I see them, with the Layer 2 aspects of moving from an established controller-based WLAN solution to one like Aerohive, Meraki, Mist, or Ubiquiti that is managed in the cloud. That article is here, at IT Toolbox.

Want the short version of The Layer 2 Situation? Being all about value, I can help you out… Let’s start with the simple view of VLANs that underpin a controller-based WLAN environment:

L2-1

Betwixt the switch and the AP you have a single VLAN. It’s simple, it’s clean. It’s not a spanning tree asspain. But cut into that single VLAN with your magic network knife, and you’ll find a CAPWAP tunnel with as many VLANs as you need. In large environments, that may be dozens o’ VLANs for various SSIDs scattered across thousands of APs.

Contrast that with the typical fat AP/cloud AP VLAN underlay:
L2-2

Ugh- see the difference? In those large WLAN environments- where thousands of APs equals hundreds of switches- you might have to configure thousands and thousands of switch interfaces to convert the simple CAPWAP-oriented LAN to the VLAN-heavy LAN needed by fatty-fat APs- AND most cloud APs.

Ugh.

Mojo evidently agrees with that ugh and offers an option that preserves the goodness of the cloud approach (No NMS to keep up, easier code upgrades, no buggy controllers to babysit, etc) while providing an easy way to NOT go down VLAN rabbit holes when converting from controller to cloud. This magical hybrid approach features the Multiservice Platform:

multiservice_platform_3

Tres sexy, no? I had heard about Mojo’s Multiservice Platform last year at Mobility Field Day 2, but will admit I lost some of the messaging in the din of all the “Cognitive blah blah blah”. But when I recently wrote about The Layer 2 Situation, two good citizens from WLAN land came forward and reminded me that this nut has indeed been cracked, and by Mojo.

Recall if you will- Mojo has been acquired by Arista Networks since Mobility Field Day 2. I also happened to be present at the Mojorista MFD3 presentation, which I wrote about here.

So… will Arista continue with the Multiservice Platform? I have to say that I really hope so. I hope they promote the heck out of it, and that other cloud Wi-Fi vendors follow suite. I don’t know whether I’ll ever run a massive cloud AP WLAN (I do currently run a massive controller-based Wi-Fi network and a lot of cloud-based branches), but if I do it’s nice to know that there is at least hope for The Layer 2 Situation.

Say Hello to Ooklahau

ooklahau 3 If you’ve been in the business of professional wireless networking for any amount of time, you no doubt have at least a familiarization with Ekahau. For many of us, our networks would not be what they are today if it weren’t for the long-running design and survey reliability and excellence baked into Ekahau’s magic. I’ve been a customer for somewhere around 15 years, and the Ekahau experience with both predictive designs and active surveys has only gotten better with each release. The addition of Sidekick to the ESS suite was a game-changer, and the future looks bright for this Finnish company who also happens to be well-connected to their end users, open to ideas for product improvements, and… well, downright fun to work with.

ooklahau 1Then there’s Ookla- the Seattle-based speedtest.net people that pretty much anybody and everybody on the planet with a connected to device has likely used at some point. They have a huge end-user facing presence with their speedtest apps, but also an impressive global presence that services enterprise customers as well. Ookla started in 2006, and has been growing their cloud-based service offerings and brand -recognition ever since.

Let’s not be coy… you know where this is going. Despite my cheesy logo play, a name change IS NOT imminent to either company. But Ekahau has been acquired by Ookla, as you can read about here on Ekahau’s own blog. I did get a chance to talk with my pal Jussi Kiviniemi (Senior VP for Solution Strategy and Customer Experience) at Ekahau about the news just moments before writing this.

Customers can expect Ekahau to stay largely the same operationally for the foreseeable future, but behind the scenes the global human and technical resources of Ookla are going to mean good things over time. Jussi was practically beaming, even over the phone. This is going to make for really interesting days ahead for wireless and network performance testing for sure, and could enable some pretty fascinating things on the design side when the cloud aspect is figured in.

Congrats, Ekahau! Well done, and well-deserved.

Inspired Flight- An American Commercial Drone Company

I recently got wind of Inspired Flight, a drone company based in San Louis Obispo, California, through one of the many professional drone pilot groups I belong to on Facebook. Ever interested in new companies in this fascinating space, I had to do what bloggers do and reach out to them to get the inside scoop.

InspiredFlight

If you’re not familiar with commercial-grade drones versus those you can grab at the hobby shop, the delta generally comes down to build quality, sophistication of components, variety of payloads that can be supported, and yes- cost. beyond the hobby space, drones are tools. They are analytics platforms. They are the building blocks of careers and success stories in a variety of realms from agriculture to videography to military operations.

Back to Inspired Flight.  One look at their latest IF750A drone, and it’s obvious that the company is serious about their commercial offerings.

IF750A

There’s a lot there to appreciate, and I got a good overview from Adam Bilmes, Inspired Flight’s Marketing Program Director. I hit Adam with my questions that come from the perspective of an FAA-certificated (yes that’s the word for it) Remote Pilot, but also one interested in seeing domestic drone companies gain share in a market dominated by foreign platforms. I hope to one day take an Inspired Flight bird for a spin, but meanwhile it’s exciting just to learn more about the company.

Here’s the discussion:

As a compan­­­y, what should people know and appreciate about Inspired Flight?

Inspired Flight is a San Luis Obispo, California based company that develops and produces various modular commercial quadcopter platforms. We take pride in being able to offer an American-made system at a price significantly lower and higher quality than that of overseas competitors. People should know that our mission is to provide safe, cost-effective, and reliable solutions for the endless applications that drones can provide for businesses and consumers.

Your gear looks beautiful, definite eye candy that’s easy to appreciate. Beyond the really slick appearance, what can you tell me about the IF750A’s performance specs and payload options?

The IF750 & IF750A platform was designed to be extremely modular and customizable. Payload options are easily swappable through our mounting system and the drone can carry a payload up to 2.5 kg (5.5 lb). A user can easily go from a professional DSLR camera being used for photogrammetry, to a LIDAR system being used to take 3D maps, to a thermal camera being used to monitor wildfires. This level of modularity and amount of payload options isn’t available in any other enterprise level drone. The IF750A has: an Intel Nuc running 4 Intel RealSense cameras for obstacle avoidance; Trimble RTK for extremely stable flight, geotagging of data and images, and position hold within 1 cm; full SDK integration with Sony cameras; a ballistic parachute recovery system; Auterion’s enterprise support system. [These specs are BEEFY -Lee]

The IF750A was fully designed with the end user in mind. That is why our platform has a virtually unlimited amount of payload options that a user can use for their particular need. We guarantee an optimal user experience right out of the box and a drone that will get whatever is required of it done.

What are key product differentiators that perspective buyers should really consider about Inspired Flight?

One of the biggest differentiators of Inspired Flight’s products that buyers should consider is that we are an American company through and through. The large majority of our parts are made in America and everything is designed and tested by us in San Luis Obispo, California. Besides that, they should know that there isn’t another commercial drone platform currently on the market with the level of modularity, programmability, and customizability as the ones offered by Inspired Flight.

What is Inspired Flight’s support model?

Our support model is something very important to us as we each have experienced the pains of having something go wrong with a drone and not being able to receive proper help from the manufacturer. We offer two levels of support, basic and advanced. Our basic support model includes a 90-day warranty on everything we sell with the ability to extend that to a full year simply by registering your purchase through us. If anything were to go wrong with your drone we will get you on the phone with our engineering team so that we can help you get your drone back in the air as soon as possible.

Our advanced support model works at an autonomous level with the drone itself. We integrated many diagnostic capabilities into the IF750A and with advanced support we can alert the user if anything was detected to be going wrong within the drone. For example, if the drone starts to develop an abnormal vibration the aircraft can autonomously alert our support staff and send us a flight log, thereby allowing us to preemptively offer replacement parts and or service before it causes a larger failure. With this advanced support we also offer free propeller replacements if they were to break and free parachute re-packing in the event of an emergency deployment.

Do you tend to sell more kits or assembled aircraft? What options tend to be the most popular?

We sell more fully assembled IF700 quadcopter compared to unassembled kits. The IF700 comes with a Pelican drone case, Pixhawk 2.1 flight controller, ballistic parachute and a retractable landing gear.

Our most exciting option is the ballistic parachute system, which is designed to protect the drone and the camera against crashes. Our rail mount system underneath the drone allows for the swapping of gimbal plates, which gives the user flexibility of payloads. Our retractable landing gear is another awesome feature as it provides 360 degree viewing capability.

However, the IF750A is soon to be the pinnacle product of our company. The IF750A combines the latest sensors such as Intel’s RealSense for obstacle avoidance, Trimble for high-precision navigation, Sony for professional imaging, and Airmap software integration for UTM services. It supports numerous applications with open interfaces, and has cutting edge software technology for flight.

Who are Inspired Flight’s main customers? Any markets you’re not quite in yet that you want to enter?

 Our main customers tend to be in the inspection, photography, and agriculture industries because our drones have the capability of switching between payloads to accommodate whatever application the user needs. A market that we are going after very aggressively right now is the security and defense industries as we see a lot of potential for our platform to be leveraged for those applications.

Our main markets are are in the advanced level imaging fields: professional aerial photography, surveying & mapping, security, and inspection. The IF750 is designed to carry a DSLR camera, Thermal Camera, full spectrum camera, and LIDAR; exploring more markets that utilize these technologies is our main priority right now. In the future we would like to go after heavier payloads like full cinema cameras, crop sprayers, and package delivery.

Finally- Any customer stories that you are particularly excited about?

One of our favorite current uses of our product is an educational curriculum a professor created around the IF700 at California University of Pennsylvania. The distinguished professor who teaches in the department of applied engineering and technology, created a course designed to introduce young engineers into the field of drones. By utilizing our unassembled IF700 kit, the students are able to receive a hands-on experience through building and understanding the components and technology necessary to get the quadcopters flying. The end result in being able to fly a drone that they personally put hours of effort into is a rewarding feeling for the students and is a great way to learn and have fun in the same process. Even if students suffer a crash, and specific components break on the drone, we are able to ship replacement parts the next day and get them back to flying as soon as possible. The modularity and payload capabilities are very important in a learning environment because it allows the students to be creative and think outside the box in terms of how they want to utilize the drones that they are responsible for creating.

Learn more at the company’s web site

And more about Auterion

Catching Up With NETSCOUT at MFD3, Big News, and “Body Fade” Explained

Touching Base at Mobility Field Day 3

Everybody’s favorite handheld network tool tester provided updates on their G2 and AirMagnet tools at Mobility Field Day 3. NETSCOUT hosted those of us in attendance at their San Jose office, while simultaneously live-streaming to a lot of interested folks out on the interwebs. We heard about product evolutions coming to the AirCheck G2, the LinkRunner G2, the very handy Link-Live web service, and a little bit on the AirMagnet product line. The G2 improvements are incremental, well-designed, and show that NETSCOUT is not letting grass grow under it’s flagship testers. The AirMagnet brief sounded a bit apologist and fairly thin, but also not unexpected given that the line has gone almost stagnant for long periods of time.

You can watch the presentations for yourself here.

Big News

This one took us by surprise… It’s a bit weird to find out only a couple of days after being at Netscout’s offices that the very product line we were discussing has been sold off to Nacho Libre… or is it StoneCalibre? Whatever… it just feels funky to those of us who know and love our AirCheck and LinkRunner products.  What goes in this move?

  • LinkSprinter
  • LinkRunner (AT & G2)
  • AirCheck
  • OneTouch AT
  • AirMagnet Mobile (Spectrum, Survey, Planner, Wi-Fi analyzer)

Hopefully whoever this new backer is does not mess with all that’s good in the toolbox, and either breathes new life into AirMagnet or retires it. Read about the acquisition here.

Netscout HQ

What the Heck is Body Fade?

bodyfade

During the MFD sessions, we heard about several improvements- including refinements to the AirCheck G2’s Locator Tool. I tweeted out my recent success with the tool, and suggested that anyone using become familiar with “body fade” as technique to make the locator tool even more effective.

A couple of folks gave a thumbs-up, retweet, or similar affirmation, but one fellow emailed me to ask “what are you talking about with body fade?”  Let’s talk about that just a little, using a real-world case from my adventures in G2 Land.

The notion of body fade comes into play in any situation where you have a hand-held receiver in your hand (like the AirCheck G2 or a small ham radio with a bandscope display) and are trying to locate the origin of a signal of interest. By putting my body- including my rock-hard abs- between the signal and the tester, you can make the signal strength drop enough to notice. That means that the signal is somewhere behind you… do this enough times, and you get a really good sense of where to go look for the device faster than just running around staring at the dancing signal needle.

In my example, we see this rascally rogue running rebellious somewhere in another part of my building:
locate5By golly, that’s not one of mine. We gotta find the interloper and teach him or her some manners, I tellya. I fire up the AirCheck G2, invoke the locate option, and see what I see in my office.
Locate4
Not so impressive yet. We have a fairly weak signal somewhere. But how to get started on this foxhunt? BODY FADE to the rescue. I hold the G2 in front of my Adonis-like physique and slowly turn (the slowly part is important)… until I see a 3-4 dBm DROP in signal strength. This is my body inducing loss to the signal and thus showing you where to turn around and what direction to walk towards…

OK… so I start walking, and I’m making progress. The signal is getting stronger, and I use body fade to help further refine my path. But alas- I hit an obstacle! Once I get to THIS signal strength, I’m bamboozled:

Locate 3Nothing I can do from the spot of this reading with body fade changes the signal strength at all. If I walk away from the spot in any direction, the signal drops, but it is strong in this one spot. Yet the rogue is absolutely not there (in a hallway). What gives?

Remember that we’re dealing with signaling in three dimensions. When body fade at X-marks-the-spot yields no changes in signal strength, it means it’s time to go upstairs or down. In my case, there is no downstairs, so up I went. I picked up the trail, and soon hit the jackpot:
locate2
This was screen-shotted in the doorway of the office where the offending device was found. After roughing up both the rogue router and the gent who dared to plug it in, balance was restored to The Force.

Body fade is pivotal to some really neat radio hobbies- like this one.

 

 

 

 

Figuring Out What Bothers Me About Wi-Fi and “Analytics”

I’ve been to the well, my friends. And I have drank the water. 

I was most fortunate in being a participant in the by-invitation Mobility Field Day 3 event, this past week. Few events get you this close to so many primary WLAN industry companies and their technical big-guns, on such an intimate level and on their own turf. For months leading up to MFD3, something  has been bothering me about the discreet topic of “analytics” as collectively presented by the industry- but I haven’t been able to nail down my unease until this past week.

And with the help of an email I received on the trip back east after Mobility Field Day was over.

Email Subject Line: fixing the wifi sucks problem

That was the subject in the email, sent by an employee of one of the companies that presented on their analytics solution at MFD3 (Nyansa, Cisco, Aruba Networks, Fortinet, and Mist Systems all presented on their own analytics platforms). The sender of this email knew enough about me to do a little ego stroking, but not enough to know that only a matter of hours earlier I was interacting with his company’s top folks, or that I’ve already had an extensive eval with the product he’s pitching at my own site. No matter… a polite “no thanks” and I was on my way. But his email did ring a bell in my brain, and for that I owe this person a thank you.

The subject line in that email set several dominoes of realization falling for me. For example-  at least some in the WLAN industry are working hard to plant seeds in our minds that “your WLAN sucks. You NEED us.” Once that hook is set, their work in pushing the fruits of their labor gets easier. The problem is, all of our networks don’t suck. Why? These are just some of the reasons:

  • Many of our wireless networks are well-designed by trained professionals
  • Those trained professionals often have a lot of experience, and wide-ranging portfolios of successful examples of their work
  • Many of our WLAN environments are well-instrumented with vendor-provided NMS systems, monitoring systems like Solar Winds and AKIPS, and log everything under the sun to syslog power-houses like Splunk
  • We often have strong operational policies that help keep wireless operations humming right
  • We use a wealth of metrics to monitor client satisfaction (and dis-satisfaction)

To put it another way: we’re not all just bumbling along like chuckleheads waiting for some Analytics Wizard in a Can to come along and scrape the dumbness off of our asses.

In all fairness, that’s not a global message that ALL vendors are conveying.  But it does make you do a double-take when you consider that a whole bunch of data science has gone into popping up a window that identifies a client that likely needs a driver update, when those of us who have been around awhile know how to identify a client that needs a driver update by alternate means.  Sure, “analytics” does a lot more, but it all comes as a trade-off (I’ll get into that in a minute) and can still leave you short on your biggest issues.

Like in my world, where the SINGLE BIGGEST problem since 2006, hands-down and frequently catastrophic, has been the buggy nature of my WLAN vendor’s code. Yet this vendor’s new analytics do nothing to identify when one of it’s own bugs has come to call. That intelligence would be a lot more useful than some of the other stuff “analytics” wants to show.

Trade-Offs Aplenty

I’m probably too deep into this article to say “I’m really not trying to be negative…” but I’ll hazard that offering anyways. Sitting in the conference rooms of Silicon Valley and hearing from many of the industry’s finest Analytics product’s management teams is impressive and its obvious that each believes passionately in their solutions. I’m not panning concepts like AI, machine learning, data mining, etc as being un-useful as I’d be an idiot to do so. But there is a lot of nuance to the whole paradigm to consider:

  • Money spent on analytics solutions is money diverted from elsewhere in the budget
  • Another information-rich dashboard to pour through takes time away from other taskings
  • Much of the information presented won’t be actionable, and you likely could have found it in tools you already have (depending on what tools you have)
  • Unlike RADIUS/NAC, DHCP/DNS, and other critical services, you don’t NEED Analytics. If you are so bad off that you do, you may want to audit who is doing your network and how

Despite being a bit on the pissy side here, I actually believe that any of the Analytics systems I saw this week could bring value to environments where they are used, in an “accessory” role.  My main concerns:

  • Price and recurrent revenue models for something that is essentially an accessory
  • How well these platforms scale in large, complicated environments
  • False alarms, excessive notifications for non-actionable events and factors
  • Being marketed at helpdesk environments where Tier 1 support staff have zero clue how to digest the alerts and everything becomes yet another frivolous trouble ticket
  •  That a vendor may re-tool their overall WLAN product line and architecture so that Analytics is no longer an accessory but a mandatory part of operations- at a fat price
  • Dollars spent on big analytics solutions might be better allocated to network design skills,  beefy syslog environments, or to writing RFPs to replace your current WLAN pain points once and for all
  • If 3rd party analytics have a place in an industry where each WLAN vendor is developing their own

If all of that could be reconciled to my liking, much of my skepticism would boil off. I will say after this last week at MFD3, both Aruba and Fortinet did a good job of conveying that analytics plays a support role, and that it’s not the spotlight technology in a network environment.

Have a look for yourself at Arista,  Aruba, Cisco, Fortinet, Mist and Nyansa telling their analytics stories, linked to from the MFD3 website.

Thanks for reading.

The Bonus Value Photo Blog

Actually, it’s not really a blog. Here’s a bunch of random pics from the area around the hotel at this event called Mobility Field Day that I’m attending. Sleep isn’t working so well, so I’ve done the legwork and created this… The Bonus Value Photo whatever. There’s even some dorking around with long exposure times- because VALUE.