Catching Up With Ekahau Now That Sidekick Has Been Out Awhile

When Ekahau’s Sidekick Wi-Fi measurement hardware product came out, I was fortunate to be a pre-release beta tester and to be along for the ride when Sidekick went public. I wrote about it here at wirednot and on my IT Toolbox blog as well. There was a lot of buzz and energy around Sidekick’s debut, but that sort of excitement doesn’t always last very long. Being the inquizitive type, I got wondering about how Ekahau themselves thought the launch of Sidekick went. To satisfy my curiosity, I called my my favorite Finnish guy Jussi Kiviniemi- Ekahau’s Senior Vice President (and someone I consider a pal). Our conversation is summarized here.

Lee: So Jussi- It’s been a few months since product release. Did Sidekick meet Ekahau’s expectations as far as customer response goes?

Jussi: I have to tell you, Lee, that response has been wonderful. It’s been beyond our expectations, which is why we’ve had a bit of a backlog of units to ship. Now that our factory line has reached pretty much full speed, the unit wait time has decreased to a couple of weeks. Our customers themselves have helped to spread the word, and we’ve also been busy working different events like Cisco Live and Aruba Atmosphere to raise awareness.

Lee: Awareness has definitely been raised, I’d say. Does the favorable response at this level surprise you at all?

Jussi: Thankfully a lot of bloggers and Ekahau believers have been great advocates for us and Sidekick. We are really lucky like, that, and appreciate it very highly. If anything surprises me, it would be that despite the cost and that there isn’t another product like this out there to compare to, there has been this overwhelming response.

Lee: Have you found that Sidekick’s warm reception has bought any tangential benefits to Ekahau in general?

Jussi: We’re selling A LOT more of our Ekahau Site Survey / Planner software as well, which is wonderful. Some of that is certainly due to Sidekick, but truth be told, our strengthened sales team has also successfully got the new distributor framework going on at the same time, which is further getting both Sidekick and ESS more exposure in the US and globally.

Lee: So what distributors are on board now?

Jussi: Within the last year, we’ve added more than a dozen new distributors all across the world. Ingram Micro is a big new one, Synnex is another big, they’ve been with us for a while already. I also have to mention that we’ve got our long-running Technology Partners as part of our family, too. And it’s not just the CIscos, Arubas, Ruckuses and Huaweis of the world we work very closely with. Think about Keith Parsons of Wireless LAN Professionals as an example- the Ekahau training that he and his all-star team provides is so good… because his services are excellent, our tools look that much better, and that helps spread the word.

Lee: Awesome- and agreed on WLAN Pros. So I have to ask: what comes next for Sidekick? I learned as an early user that this tool is expected to evolve. Anything you can share yet in that direction?

Jussi: Oh you’re right, Lee, that we’re far from “done” with Sidekick’s capabilities. It’s the foundation of our future business – the future software products of coming years will be built around the Sidekick that was released in September. I can’t really say too much specifically, but I will share that in early 2018 we’ll be announcing additional capabilities for the currently shipping Sidekick that will make the survey process significantly easier and more convenient. Let’s just leave that one there for now.

Lee: Aw, you big tease! At least you’re giving us all something to dream about… Now what about ESS- what else is coming there?

Jussi: Again, I can’t spill too many beans right now. But we know we have competition, and we respect where maybe they have a discreet feature that we lack in ESS. We’re working on those…Also our customers ask us if we’ll be doing any cloud-based project management and sharing kind of stuff. Ekahau is well aware that the world is moving to the cloud. We’re living in the world, too, so all I can say is keep watching for announcements.

Lee: Alright, Jussi. Fair enough. Congrats again on Sidekick’s success to date. When am I going to cross paths with you again- maybe WLPC?

Jussi: Thank you, and absolutely, I’ll be there to talk through some of our upcoming stuff with our team. BTW, the registration for WLPC is now open, and it always sells out. Just saying… Always great talking to you Lee!

And there you have it! To learn more about Ekahau:

Company Web Site

Enterprise Site Survey (ESS)

Sidekick

The Horrible Bags We Hold For WLAN Vendors

Conventional wisdom says that “you get what you pay for” and “buy the best that you can afford” when it comes to quality in networking gear. Yeah… if only. Let me share what one of the most expensive solutions on the market gets you if you’re not careful. No vendor names will be named.

The call comes in. “Suddenly in this one area, I can see the Wi-Fi signal but just can’t get on the network. If I walk down the hallway the same device gets right on.” You look and see that the AP serving the area in question has the same uptime as those around it. The radios are on, and there are clients seemingly associated. Channel utilization is low on both radios, and there is no sign of RF trouble. Hmmm.

So you methodically rule everything out, and the end user who trusts that you keep a tight wireless ship waits. You’re both going on the assumption that the WLAN building blocks that you shell out fat coin for should be an operational foundation that you can trust. But when you’ve factored out all of the realistic possibilities, that little voice in your head starts questioning how solid that foundation is.

Too often, the one thing that we have very little control over (code) is the issue, and we find that suddenly there is a very ugly bag in our collective hand.

Welcome to the bug zone, Axl Rose.

Welcome to the bug zone we got fun and games
We got everything you don’t want- honey, you’ll call us names
We are the people that can’t find code you actually need
If you got the money honey we got your disease
In the bug zone, welcome to the bug zone
Watch it bring your Wi-Fi to it’s sha na na na na knees knees
I wanna watch your network bleed

(Sorry, Guns ‘n Roses- love you guys)

Maybe you open a support case, or take your angst to private channels where you share information with other wireless professionals who live the same pain are happy to compare notes. However you get there, you do get there… and then you find this sort of thing:

Yikes. Freaking yikes. The fix? (Always) migrate to new code.

That word “migrate” is kinda funny, too. Sounds adventurous… leave where you are, and go to someplace new.  Kind of exotic, even.

But there are no guarantees that Someplace New is any better than Where You Were, especially when it comes to expensive WLAN systems. Yet we find ourselves migratin’ all over the freakin place, outrunning one bug after another. Sigh…

Which brings us to yet another song, by the great Moe Bandy:

You always leave me holding the bag
Don’t you know it’s gettin’ purty heavy to drag
You think it’s funny but it ain’t no gag
How come you always leave me holding the bag

Indeed.

Something Different From Ubiquiti- FrontRow

Ubiquiti is a fairly well-known name in the network world as a provider of interesting, innovative network gear at often ridiculously attractive prices. There’s always something new from Ubiquiti around the corner, be it in networking and Wi-Fi, point-to-point bridging, video surveillance, or even solar- while the older stuff tends to just roll along working well long after it’s paid for itself with reliable service. I’ve had a busy year using and touching a lot of Ubiquiti gear, but the latest product that I’m using is really a fun diversion.

If I tell you that I’m evaluating a Ubuiti camera, you might first think along the lines of this:

shedcam

Sure, I’ve got some of that UniFi Video stuff going on, but we’re talking about a different camera, and a different Ubiquiti.

U Labs Gives Us FrontRow

If you didn’t know, there is a consumer division under the Ubiquiti umbrella called Ubiquiti Labs. And they have brought the world the FrontRow camera.

IMG_20171208_121739755-1.jpg

It’s a really interesting device, with a lot of capabilities. The product home page is here. Rather than do “just another review”, let me point you to a couple and then get on to aspects of owning a FrontRow that aren’t mentioned much in the reviews.

There are plenty more reports out there if you look for them. I’m having great fun learning to use FrontRow not just in all the social/sharing ways it was intended, but also as a work accessory to photograph and video different work sites and network settings I have business in. It frees up my hands, and lets me record without trying very hard. FrontRow also happens to have a decent  dual-band Wi-Fi radio built in!

Customers Have a Say

Ubiquiti has a great track record of listening to their customers, and providing avenues for feedback to get to product managers. The FrontRow user community pages are full of how-to, testimonials, shared discussions between customers and company staff on what functionality should be added to the product, and a lot more.FrontRowForum

I’ve had roadmap discussions with the FrontRow folks as I get to know the device, and have also engaged FrontRow support on a technical question. Though I can’t spill secrets, I can tell you that energy behind development for the FrontRow is strong and that even more functional goodness is on it’s way. And, the support folks are quick to respond, polite, and not quick to dismiss your concerns- that’s a bonus on consumer-grade products.

Time will tell how much a semi-social fellow like me will make use of FrontRow’s sharing capabilities, but so far I’m enjoying the occasional Facebook Live and Story Mode capabilities the most (beyond simple photo/video recording).

I’d be interested in hearing from other FrontRow users- please feel free to comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NETSCOUT’s Next-Gen LinkRunner Tester Is Ready For The Changing Network Landscape

Just when you thought that maybe all of the cool testing innovation was reserved for Wi-Fi and the likes of the AirCheck G2, NETSCOUT brings out an equally impressive wired networking tester. The new LinkRunner G2  (shown on left below) sports the same color scheme and physical profile as the AirCheck G2:

IMG_20171127_140442975

But a closer look topside reveals some tell-tale features:

IMG_20171127_142046889_BURST000_COVER_TOP

What isn’t obvious from these images is that NETSCOUT made the LinkRunner G2 with a whole new user-customizable philosophy in mind that applies to both hardware and software. See the fiber SFP on the left and the USB WLAN adapter on the right side in the second image? You don’t HAVE TO get those from NETSCOUT if you find a better price on similar interfaces elsewhere. Unlike some vendors, NETSCOUT opted to be very accommodating of 3rd party adapters. And the LinkRunner G2 is actually a hardened Android computing platform that you can tweak in a number of ways- but let’s come back to that in a bit.

Recognizing the LAN-Scape For What It’s Becoming

In talking with LinkRunner’s product management, I was able to hear the inside scoop on where the company sees the product fitting into the connected world. It’s no secret that the number and type of network-connected devices “out there” is skyrocketing, but investment in support staff and their capabilities isn’t for many organizations. That being said, the LinkRunner G2 is viewed by NETSCOUT as the “smart network tester for the connected world”. Now, I’m as buzzphrase-adverse as anyone, but the deeper you dig into the LRG2, the more you realize that NETSCOUT is not over-hyping the new tester’s capabilities. With strong physical layer support capabilities, LRG2 is handy before the network even goes live. On active networks, Ethenet and core services are tested and characterized nicely. Then there are the true differentiators- and Power over Ethernet (PoE) functionality is a prime example.

Robust PoE Measurement and Charging

NETSCOUT points out that today’s LAN environment is no longer just a client-access domain, it’s also a power-distribution system for a growing number of devices. Beyond VoIP phones, CCTV cameras and wireless access points, we now have lighting systems, locks, and Bluetooth sensors among the many devices using PoE for operating power.

Netscout describes the LRG2 as the only current tester fully able to support all versions of PoE including Universal PoE (UPOE) that sources 60 watts at the switchport and up to 51 watts at the field jack. And this LinkSprinter also charges off of PoE!

Screenshot_20171127-184138

Link-Live

Depending what other NETSCOUT (or Fluke Networks) tools you use, you may already be a Link-Live user.

 

Link-Live makes the storing, sharing, and reporting of test results and absolute cakewalk. When you have a number of staff with varying skillsets, NETSCOUT’s Link-Live-capable tools can bring a uniformity of testing that reduces errors and faulty troubleshooting, and makes the results available for reference and escalation. It’s a free service, and LinkSprinter G2’s tests are as well formatted as the likes of the AirCheck G2’s. I’m a fan.

The Multi-Function Tester That You Can Customize

This tester is still a LinkSprinter, so you’d expect to see views like this on the crystal-clear touchscreen as you test copper and fiber links:

 

But there is sooooo much more. Remember, I said that this is a full-blown Android device. It also happens to have many “phone-like” features including a built-in flashlight, camera (attach pictures to Link-Live reports or email them from the LRG2), web browser, screen shot capabilities, Micro SD slot for file storage and portability, and even access to other apps that can be installed on the tester.

Screenshot_20171127-184637

This is so handy, and almost too good to be true. The caveat to the starting app paradigm? You don’t have access to the full Play Store. This is a hardened Android device after all, and you do not log in to the Play Store with your own account. But you do have access to a wide range of vetted network/documentation/productivity apps via NETSCOUT’s partnership with Google. If you find an app that you’d like, NETSCOUT provides an easy path to request it.

Within five minutes after discovering this capability, I had my test unit nicely loaded with some of the same Wi-Fi and network apps I use on my own Android phone and tablets, and the ability to run them all off of a robust network tester feels incredibly empowering.

Screenshot_20171127-184155

There is just a lot here to appreciate in the LinkRunner G2. It’s clear that NETSCOUT was shooting for versatility and expandibility with this network tester, and they hit both targets nicely.

Learn more at product web site.

 

Things I Have Yet To Try Out, But Would Like To

First of all, get your mind out of the gutter, Sean.

Now I know  what you think when you think about me. Your mind wonders “Is there anything this guy hasn’t done? He’s the bee’s knees… when it comes to Wi-Fi he’s got the moves. He’s got the tools, the style, and the energy.” Yes, thank you for the sentiments- I get that a lot. But my friends, I’m here to tell you that I have NOT seen it all or done it all quite yet.

Even I have a wish list. I have products that I dream of  setting up, and gadgets I’d like to play with that I may never get around to. Let me share just a few, and I’d love to hear what’s on your own “Gee, I’d like to evaluate_________” list.

Siklu

Not to be confused with Sulu from Star Trek, Siklu is a wireless company. And I hear dreamy things about them. They don’t do Wi-Fi style wireless, but they are in the last miles/backhaul/point-to-point game.

Siklu

Evidently the city of Wichita just fell in love with Siklu, as you can read about here. Being a gonzo bloggist, I get a lot of PR from different companies. Very little of it ever raises to the level of “man, that looks like great stuff”, but Siklu gear has always tickled my curiosity. Perhaps someday…

WiFiMetrix (Nuts About Nets)

Just look at this thing. Anyone who gazes at the WiFiMetrix and doesn’t feel a stirring in their loins IS NOT A WLAN PROFESSIONAL (or a patriot) I tellya. I’m a softy for spectrum analyzers as it is, and anything that stands alone in this role without requiring a PC gets me interested. It’s nice to travel light on occasion, and this just looks neat (with a decent spec and feature set, to boot.)

wifimetrix-device-trans-717x730

Anyone have any first-hand testimonials on the WiFiMetrix?

Ubiquiti SunMAX Solar

I have taken some solar classes in the past for a specific international project I was involved with, and have long imagined a wide range of Wi-Fi, IT, and amateur radio projects powered with solar. In my mind, each is absolutely magnificent. But in reality I haven’t done all that much with solar “for real” yet.

Enter Ubiquiti’s SunMAX.

sunmax-software-collage

I currently am putting my exquisitely manly hands all over a bunch of Ubiquiti networking and video equipment. It just works, and the pricing tends to be nothing less than astounding compared to the competition.  I’m guessing that Ubiquiti’s approach to solar is as innovative and (hopefully) cost-effective as the rest of their portfolio. And with this slogan:

Democratizing Solar Technology for the World

Ubiquiti speaks to my globe-trotting, fighting-for-the-oppressed background as a Cold Warrior. ‘Merica, baby. 

There you have it. Each of the above to me is a white whale that I covet, but Christmas IS coming. If those of you reading this make some sacrifices and pool your resources, I’m guessing you could scrape together enough to set me up with all of them!

Thanks for reading- and please share your own wish list.

Future-Proofing Networks with Fabric-Attached Wi-Fi: Q&A with Extreme Networks’ Director of Wireless Product Management & Strategy

It’s easy to become desensitized to the onslaught of marketing that surrounds networking concepts like “fabric” and “unified networks” when every vendor has their own version of them. Naturally, each marketing department promises that their solution is the best, but reality shines through when you start to look past the buzzwords for substance. I was recently  introduced to (and impressed by) Extreme Networks’ own fabric accomplishments, and wrote about my impressions here. Soon after, I had the chance to talk with Extreme’s director of wireless product management and strategy, Mike Leibovitz, about where WLAN specifically fits into the company’s fabric approach.

Leibovitz is one of those people that I’m always glad to catch up with. I’ve spent time with him at different Tech Field Day events and  IT conferences, and have had opportunities to socialize with him. Beyond just being an all-around nice guy, Leibovitz has a passion for his job and believes strongly in Extreme’s products, methods and his company’s future. Our most recent conversation evolved into an informal Q& A about the Extreme Automated Campus solution and Wi-Fi. Here are the highlights from that discussion (I’m in italics).

Mike, Extreme has been busy integrating the likes of ExtremeWireless WiNG from Zebra/Motorola and Avaya’s fabric portfolio (from recent acquisitions) with Extreme’s own wireless product lines. How’s all that going?

It’s been a great run, for us and our customers. We’re fully supporting all product lines, and it’s only getting better for the end users, regardless of which hardware they use. Looking forward, the best of all our product lines will be fused into new feature options that customers of either ExtremeWireless WiNG or ExtremeWireless can take advantage of without forklift upgrades.

We’ll get to fabric and Wi-Fi in a bit, but first- is there anything on the horizon that is particularly driving Extreme’s WLAN-specific evolution, and do you have any examples of where ExtremeWireless WiNG might bring something new to Extreme’s story that customers can appreciate?

Aside from our fabric architecture taking deeper root, we see the coming of 802.11ax as significant, and that does figure into our current product evolution. As the radio side of the equation gets higher in performance, we’ll continue to leverage things like Motorola’s unique excellence in access point design for challenging and high-ceiling environments, for instance. Also, we have the successful integration of the Azara Cloud into ExtremeCloud as an example of how we make what’s good even better.

It seems that Extreme goes to great lengths to make sure that new customers gained through acquisitions are treated just as well as long-time Extreme customers. Is that a fair characterization?

Absolutely, and that’s something we work hard at. You’ve experienced and written first-hand about being a customer on the losing end of an acquisition, when the purchasing company doesn’t get it right when it comes to integrating support for its new customers. Despite being well-established, Extreme has more of a start-up mentality in that all of our customers matter. We take none of them for granted. No one should have to guess at what’s going to happen when they need support just because their vendor was acquired.

Amen to that, Mike. Now onto fabric, Extreme Automated Campus, and wireless specifically. I know that you are pumped up about this area. What’s the first thing that potential customers should know about Extreme when it comes to fabric and WLAN?

I’d say first that people should realize that our fabric offering is mature, proven, and is shipping now. That includes how our Wireless solution connects to the fabric. Other market leaders have their fabric stories ahead of their deliverables to a certain degree, but Extreme doesn’t use customers as guinea pigs while we figure out how to keep promises.

Give me a sense of how that integration of Wi-Fi to the fabric works. Do you have any  examples?

Sure. Let’s start with ExtremeControl, which competes with ISE and Clearpass for functions like onboarding, authorization, and role-based policies. ExtremeControl has always excelled at extremely granular policy constructs used to program per-session behavior of the access point, the data plane, and the likes of QoS and analytics. That’s what we’ve been doing for years. Now add in the Avaya fabric contribution. Instead of just bridging traffic to a controller or to an AP you can now bridge wireless sessions to different fabric segments, uniquely for each connected device. That’s a new level of micro-segmentation that basically means you can traffic engineer wireless user traffic literally anywhere in the enterprise campus with the policies you set for RBAC, Layer7 control, QoS, and analytics carried all the way through.

So… we’re used to thinking of wireless access points or AP/controller pairings as bridges that have 802.11 on the radio side, and 802.3 Ethernet on the wired side. Am I reasonable in suggesting that now we can replace Ethernet with fabric on the wired side when we think about access at the WLAN edge?

That’s a good way of picturing it for functional discussion.

Can you give a specific scenario where fabric-attached Wi-Fi yields obvious, easy-to-highlight benefits that solve real-world problems?

We’re already leveraging fabric-connected WLAN in healthcare environments. As a wireless networker, you know the technical importance of reducing the number of SSIDs in a given wireless environment. Think about having one single SSID for everything, with a slew of different security and policy constructs going on behind it with no dependence on VLANs. From doctors’ unique security requirements to guest access to IoT devices and their various limitations – all are configured via ExtremeControl and micro-segmentation on the fabric. We can bridge traffic anywhere it needs to be for any user or use case. It’s really impressive, and no other vendor is even close to this level of functionality yet.

 Does the new magic come at the cost of CPU or memory utilization anywhere?

 That’s a great question, but actually the opposite is true. You can even add new policies on the fly, non-disruptively, directly on our access points. The flow technology that came way back from our Enterasys purchase works wonders in keeping resource utilization low.

This is great information, Mike. It’s awesome to learn of real-world, low-hype network fabric technology that is proven, shipping, and mature. What else do you want people to know as we close?

It sounds silly to say that “fabric is the future” because for Extreme Networks, fabric is now. At the same time, our fabric today does future-proof customer environments by providing unparalleled flexibility in security, segmentation, simplicity, control, and analytics that will only evolve for the better. Extreme will be ready to add 802.11ax into our fabric-connected Wi-Fi strategy when it comes, and we’re a natural fit for IoT in its many incarnations. Our roadmap is exciting, and I encourage our customers and analysts like you to watch us as we evolve.

FTC-required disclosure: I was compensated to comment on the Extreme Networks Automated Campus referenced in this blog, by PR company Racepoint Global. I have no direct business relationship with Extreme Networks, and in no way claim to be an Extreme Networks customer or representative of Extreme Networks. At the same time, I have known Mike Leibovitz for years.

Help Shape an Excellent WLAN Conference Agenda- WLPC ’18

There are conferences, then there conferences. As a wireless network professional, my own absolute favorite, not-to-be-missed event for total immersion in quality WLAN-oriented sessions is WLPC (Wireless LAN Professionals Conference). The conference link is here– check back occasionally for updates.

But I’m not just shilling for my pals that run the event (OK, maybe I am). Those of you reading this have the opportunity to shape the event. The event managers have solicited and received pitches for a really impressive range of topics to be presented at WLPC 2018, and now it’s time to take those submissions and build an event.

There can be no bad outcome here. However the agenda shakes out, it’s going to be excellent, educational, and enjoyable. Now, we need YOU to take a couple minutes and share what you would like the agenda to be.

I just did mine- took me about 10 minutes… the survey link is here. Make your voice heard! Hope to see you at WLPC.

 

WLPC