Don’t Forget About Aruba When Considering Ruckus-Juniper Partnership

Just a few day’s ago I shared the new Ruckus and Juniper announcement. Following that, there were a number of comments out and about predicated on the notion that Juniper must have severed ties with Aruba (connected to HP’s acquisition of Aruba). I have to admit, I too assumed that Juniper and Aruba were no longer pals when I heard the Ruckus news… Ah, but things are not always what they might seem.

I did get a reach-out today reminding me that Aruba and Juniper ARE VERY MUCH still an item, despite the Juniper/Ruckus teaming. (Yeah, it does sound a bit odd, doesn’t it?) What differentiates Juniper/Aruba from Juniper/Ruckus? According to a well-place Aruba camper:

Unlike the agreement between Ruckus and Juniper which is a “meet in the channel” rather than resale agreement, Aruba remains the only partner that is technology-integrated with Juniper.

– Aruba and Juniper will continue joint development efforts and go-to-market collaboration, with the goal of providing open, innovative solutions for the enterprises.

– Collaboration to integrate Aruba mobility solutions with Juniper enterprise switches and routers will continue, delivering ongoing product innovation, simplified management, visibility and policy across company product lines to streamline recurring network operations.

Hmmm. Again, that’s how Aruba sees it. Which in itself has a weird vibe, knowing that Ruckus is also on the same dance floor- but what the heck. Hopefully there’s enough demand and use casses to go around for everyone involved. The Aruba contact also reminded me that The Letter signed by both Juniper and Aruba CEOs is still valid, in case anyone was assuming otherwise.

2015 04 – Joint Aruba Juniper Letter from CEOs-FINAL

It’s certainly been an interesting year for wireless, and we’re only half-way through 2015!

(See Network Computing’s article on the same, by Editor Marcia Savage)


Any thoughts on Juniper’s relationships with both Aruba and Ruckus for WLAN?

Ruckus and Juniper Form Alliance For Total Networking Solution

Quick and dirty: Ruckus Wireless needed a wired-side offering to compete long-term. And… Juniper Networks hasn’t exactly been setting the enterprise wireless world on fire.

See where this is going?

Yep- The Dog and Big J are now pals, and word on the street is that Ruckus might actually get to smell the rarefied air of Gartner’s Confusing Quadrant this year! As Madonna herself once sang “we are living in a unified world, and I am a unified girl…” or something like that.

More on the announcement here, and best of luck to both companies in an increasingly competitive market. (You wanna click that link- it’s more of a solution brief than simple PR).

Any predictions for what might come next in the fast and frequently changing WLAN industry?

Xirrus Debuts EasyPass for Simplified WLAN Access

I say it often: any more, access points have become secondary players in the bigger Wi-Fi story. Sure, it’s fun to read about new APs- especially with Wave 2 fueling whopping performance claims- but what makes a WLAN system truly usable is all of the other stuff that vendors are adding to their WLAN solutions. APs either work well enough to keep a company in business, or they don’t. But the magic for Wi-Fi goes way past RF doings, as evidenced by Xirrus’ newly announced EasyPass.

easypass

EasyPass isn’t exactly revolutionary unto itself, but seeing Xirrus join others in the field doing similar means that wireless users are also getting the attention they deserve amidst the running hype of new hardware announcements. That’s a good thing- and Xirrus delivers it’s new onboarding solution without added appliances to manage.

Read more on EasyPass.

As I reviewed the PR materials on EasyPass, I was struck by one notion in particular: with no need for certificates,etc, Xirrus’ new feature set has a similar feel to Aerohive’s Private PSK. I’m a huge fan, and wish every vendor offered this for guest WLAN. I did query Xirrus to make sure I was on target for EasyPass’ secure onboarding.

From Bruce Miller, Xirrus VP of product marketing (I run in those circles, you know):

Yes, security for EasyPass Onboarding is achieved through what we call a User PSK with every user assigned a unique PSK. The number of devices per user  allowed can be controlled, e.g. 1, 2, 3, etc. This allows individual Wi-Fi security and control per user without captive portals and without the complexity of 802.1x/RADIUS, for example for BYOD users and headless devices. 802.1x security with a captive portal is supported as an option. EasyPass eliminates the agent / app downloads of other onboarding systems that add significant complexity to the process. We have seen that many organizations find their employees defaulting to use the non-secured guest network for access because of its relative simplicity.

Well done, Xirrus.

A Little More on Beacons- Promise and Frustrations

Last week, Beacon Fever bit me, as I described here. Since then, I’ve made little progress in actually doing anything of real-world value with the three Qualcomm Gimbal beacons that I have on hand. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t gained a bit of an education in the few hours I’ve noodled around with them as I’ve consorted with The Google on where to go next. Allow me to share just a little more on Beacons, then I’ll likely put the topic away for a while.

What I’ve Learned:

  • There is a good variety of beacon hardware out there. Here’s another list
  • If you don’t want to $pend, Android and iDevices can be configured to act as beacons for testing
  • There are lots of mobile beacon management and scanning apps out there- some from the beacon manufacturers and some from 3rd party developers
  • The entire proximity paradigm with beacons is built on leveraging “degrees of nearby-ness” like near, far, immediate vicinity, out of range
  • Beacons can be USB powered, or battery powered. If using battery, there will be administrative burden of battery upkeep in large deployments over time
  • Beacons don’t just magically come to life, you have to activate them and do a basic config
  • Every beacon maker seems to have their own management console
  • You can see where heavy beacon use would very much be “another thing to manage”, despite having really cool real-world use cases
  • A “UUID” gets assigned to all beacons in an organization that will be part of the same “system”
  • Each beacon can make use of a Major and Minor field to further segment/identify them
  • Without an application to use with them, beacons aren’t real exciting
  • To leverage beacons, SOMEBODY has to do some coding, and there are a number of frameworks to do that in
  • For people like me, who are definitely not endowed with coding skills, some companies are trying to make “getting started” a little easier
  • There are a lot of beacon videos on YouTube, and blogs from others’ efforts to be had online
  • It doesn’t look like all vendors beacons are welcome in each other’s development environments
  • Connected users “opt in” by enabling Bluetooth on their smartphones, tablets, etc.

That’s the short of it for me, so far, on actual knowledge gained. I also tried to do more with my Gimbal beacons, but found some frustrations- like simply setting the UUID, Major and Minor fields. It looks like other vendors make this a lot more intuitive, but perhaps my lack of experience is the problem here. On my Gimbal developer account, I understand each individual word but get foggy when you put it all together in phrases and sentences. There is a Gimbal iOS management app, but none for Android that I have found yet.

I did discover a couple of promising leads for myself in learning more, as a mental-midget when it comes to programming. Estimote makes a popular kit that comes with three beacons, and from what I can tell their app-building tools seem to have folks like me in mind. But… each kit is $99, and indoor location requires two kits (for some unspecified reason). I’m not ready to drop $200 on beacons yet, but maybe at some point.  And… Meridian (An Aruba HP company) also seems to understand that some of us need all the help we can get. They put a very friendly face on getting started, and I hope to learn more about this product set/application framework in the months to come.

So… that’s all on beacons from me for now. If anyone reading gets further with these fascinating little transmitters, please share what you learn.

How to Score With Trashy, Fictitious Chicks on Twitter

Twitter is an amazing framework for sharing information and connecting with a large, dynamic network of contacts. As an IT professional, I’ve come to value Twitter as a a unique tool that enhances both my own personal brand and that lets me leach knowledge off of others. But recently I’ve realized there’s more to Twitter… oh so much more.

(Before you get offended, realize this blog is about raising awareness of Twitter “bots”- automated accounts that act like real people for whatever gain the creator has in mind. See the comments for better sense of that.)

We’re talking ooh la la. We’re talking l’amore, you sweet thing.

It turns out, there’s an army of horny, made-up Twitter personas out there that are hooked on tech! If you’d like to “get with” these strange hot-blooded nasty types, here’s what you do.

1. Post something of a technical nature. We’ll call this “the bait”:Kaylee 1

Here, you see in the right-hand column I asked my daily #WIFIQ discussion question. A few hours later, Kaylee Singleton “favorited” it. The previous day, the same thing happened with that day’s question, but with another young lady. Going back, it turns out there’s a trend here, with many “pretty young things” digging the tech posts.  Kaylee couldn’t resist the bait- she evidently has a thirst for all things tech, and in particular 802.11ac, wiring, and multi-gig switching. 

2. Get to know your new friend!Kaylee 2
This angel not only has an interest in WLAN, but she’s also pursuing a degree while trying to enjoy herself at the occasional social event.
Admirable, indeed.

3. Enjoy the payoff- lots of butt-grabbing and booby/bootie pics, because those go well with technology discussions!
Kaylee 3

I can’t say that I quite understand the phenomena, but man these gals are into technology!

(But seriously folks… I’ve blocked/reported for spam dozens of these “people”. I get that the Internet and Twitter are double-edged swords- lots of good/lots of stupid, but I don’t fathom the hoped-for gain of these nuisance accounts or why they are so prolific. Any theories?)

Beacon Baby Steps

As I put this blog together, I do so knowing that I risk the ridicule of those who have gotten a lot farther in both understanding beacons and using them for some real-world value proposition. Though I understand transmitters of all types very well and I’ve covered other beacon-related initiatives (like Aerohive’s integration of beacons in APs ) and done my share of reading on how beacons are gaining in popularity as building blocks in a number of applications, I’ll admit to really not “getting” them yet to any technical depth. But that is starting to change, as I’ll tell you about here. And as an added bonus to you, I get to drop a few names of really smart people that I have the privilege of interacting with on occasion.

Free Beacons!

Awhile back, Ryan Adzima turned me on to a beacon giveaway that netted me three of these. Not being one to pass up free cool stuff , I got my beacons- and they ended up sitting on a shelf almost a year (I basically didn’t know what the hell to do with them.)

Fast Forward- Renewed Interest

I follow a lot of industry goings on as a freelance analyst. It’s no secret that Location-Based Services/Analytics is a running topic du jour in the tech media, and many a WLAN vendor has announced their own beacon story- like Aruba and Cisco’s Meraki. Knowing that there’s a lot of buzz around beacons, I worked them into my daily Twitter #WIFIQ question on June 4. The conversation that ensued reminded me that I was overdue to play with my Qualcomm beacons.

What sparked me to get back on the path that Ryan Adzima started me down was conversation with AccessAgility’s Zaib Kaleem and Extreme Networks’ Mike Leibovitz. Zaib turned me on to some beacon-related apps, and Mike triggered my interest on proximity to beacons being used as one component in banking authentication. Newly energized (see what I did there?), I busted out my Qualcomm Gimbals and got busy gettin’ busy.

Time to Play

Laying hands on my three neglected Gimbals first brought back the clueless feeling I had when I first looked at them and put them on the shelf. But this time I wasn’t content to stay in the dark. I took the bold step of cracking each one open and getting the watch battery connected, then I found the Gimbal Management App in the Apple app store.

At first, the App couldn’t see my beacons! Gotta be dead batteries, I thought… but then I went to the Gimbal Manager site, recovered my long-forgotten password, and figured out that I needed to activate each beacon.Gimbal

I also needed to configure each and upgrade firmware, which was quite easy. (We’ll come back to the “configure” thing.) Bingo! They showed up in the iPhone app.beacons

At this point, I realized/reminded myself of a few basic important facts:

  • Until the beacons were added to my account online, they were dead to me despite being powered up. (Private is default, you can make them “public” so anyone can see them, btw.)
  • My online account and my iOS account are synced for beacon management.
  • The beacons report their battery strength and the ambient temperature, and the mobile app tells how strong each beacon is being received
  • Though I now have three live beacons that can be managed, I still don’t know what to really do with them… no use case, no business application to hook them to, etc.

Knowing that beacons are all about proximity and location, I embarked on a simple exercise. Down a long hallway with three pictures hanging on the wall, I put one beacon on each picture frame, then watched my app show signal strength for each as I walked the hall.hall

This seemed like a reasonable way to see what might go on behind the scenes at the signal level on a walking tour, or in a retail environment where different app events are triggered by a customer coming close to a beacon. Here, this is the view as I transitioned from Beacon 1 and got close to Beacon 2, with Beacon 3 at farthest point down the hall.
.beacons1

Big deal, right? To me, it is. That’s because yesterday, I had ZERO first-hand working knowledge of beacons. With this these simple steps, I now get the technology and how it’s managed at a very, very basic level. I feel like I get the foundation, and I do understand many of the big use cases for beacons. It’s that middle ground of real-world implementation that I have yet to learn. Baby steps…

Back to the beacon config thing. For such a simple device, there are infinite permutations for what you can do with them. I think this is what is so hard to wrap your head around, especially given that along the line you may have to do some coding (or steal somebody else’s code). Zooming in on the menu gives a sense of just how many directions you might go bringing beacon-based use cases to life:
beacon menu

So… I now know a little, and know that I still don’t understand really USING beacons despite understanding the scenarios where they are employed. But with what little I now have touched and brought to life, I do understand links like this and this a bit better. Still a long way to go though, but ya gotta start somewhere!

WiTuners Wants to Optimize Your WLAN

Some days it feels like there’s nothing new under the wireless sun. But every now and then a unique offering wiggles its way onto your radar, and if you’re the curious type you just have to dig a little bit beyond what meets the eye. Recently a Wi-Fi colleague asked me if I’d heard of a startup called WiTuners, which is the impetus for this blog. It turns out, I had not heard of WiTuners. But, being both a crack analyst and master sleuth, I set out to find out more about this intriguing company with the peppy website.

My first question about WiTuners was “are they still in business?” or are they a ghost ship like Nira Wireless seems to have become- having a flashy website and interesting premise but no update announcement in like a bazillion years. I looked at the WiTuners Twitter account and saw little to no activity over the past year and figured that this company must be a mis-fire. But then I put my powers of interrogation to work and asked them via a webform “hey, are you guys still in business?” The reply came quickly and decisively, and my inquiry was met with an inquiry- “Sure we are. Who the hell are you, and why do you ask?” (or something to that effect). And that’s how I came to know Luke Qian, President and CEO of WiTuners (and long time wireless industry veteran). We exchanged a few emails, and eventually connected via telephone so I could learn a bit more about this company that promises to help you optimize the performance of your pricey WLAN. (Luke conceded they’d gotten inattentive to their Twitter thing, and the account has since gotten much more active.)

Please note: I have yet to try WiTuners, and this blog is in no way an endorsement of the capabilities offered by the company. But WiTuners is an interesting story, and I salute anyone who attempts to bring a new performance angle to our important WLAN environments (well, except for these guys.)

So WHAT IS WiTuners about? I can’t say that I yet fully understand the model, but I do grasp large parts of it. When you’re done reading this blog, pop over to this WiTuners page to hear it in their own words. Here’s a stab at it:

  • There are no hardware components, only software
  • Survey and planning utilities are available
  • There is a cloud approach to much of what WiTuners does
  • It’s aimed at both MSPs and enterprises
  • WiTuners doesn’t replace RRM and such, it complements it
  • Optimization can be done on demand or automagically with continuous monitoring
  • You can see proposed optimizations before invoking them after doing a quick audit
  • The framework does not replace NMS, though it does promise certain life-cycle and system monitoring capabilities
  • SNMP figures largely into what goes on here, leveraging standard MIBs to “significantly reduce … costs of WLAN deployment and maintenance while simultaneously…[providing] better WLAN performance.”
  • Is compatible with Cisco, Aruba, Extreme, Ruckus, Moto/Zebra, Juniper, and other modern WLAN systems
  • Optimizations can be proven by reported decreases in channel utilization or by the survey tool with boots on the ground
  • WiTuners aggressively keeps up with code/MIB updates from the vendors they support

This list is far from an eloquent portrayal of the WiTuners model, I realize. I’m providing it more to spark your curiosity in case you’d like to learn more than to act like an expert on the offerings as I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole thing. WiTuners is a well-funded startup, and Luke is a good ambassador for the company if you get a chance to talk with him (it turns out that Luke and I know some of the same people in the WLAN industry). WiTuners expects to become more visible to target customers later this year.

Whether there is room and demand for the WiTuners optimization services remains to be seen, but anything that promises to make busy WLANs perform better is at least worth hearing out. 

wituners

For me, I’d have to see WiTuners in action before I could pass judgement. But I would be curious to hear what you think about the notion of WiFi system optimization as a service offering. Please leave a comment, and thanks for reading.