Category Archives: Mobility Field Day

Fortinet Leads With Security at Forti-Field Day

You are the reason
I’ve been FortiWaiting for so long
Some FortiThing holds the key
And I’m FortiWasted
And I can’t FortiFind my way home

(Apologies to Steve Winwood there.) Having watched Fortinet do their thing at Mobility Field Day 6 as a delegate at the event, I was struck by a handful of realizations:

  1. Fortinet faithfully gets their message of security-at-every-level out with each presentation. On this point they are remarkably consistent and articulate.
  2. They have a product line that is expansive beyond what I tend to think I know of the company- from hardware, software, monitoring, and performance measurement, they are generally on par with anyone else in the game.
  3. The company continues to buck the trend of licensing the living shit out of EVERYTHING, like their competitors tend to do. In this regard, Fortinet has not flushed their customer empathy chip down the toilet as others have, and their execs aren’t out writing BS-blogs explaining to customers how being gouged with endless micro-subscriptions is somehow innovative.
  4. They overplay the Forti-prefix to the point of FortiDistracting from the FortiMessage. I personally FortiStruggle to FortiFocus during the FortiPresentations. That may just be me, but I’m guessing it’s not, for whatever that is FortiWorth… (hmmm… reminds me of a George Straight song- Does FortiWorth Ever Cross Your Mind?)

Where Fortinet can be FortiFrigginExhausting in their FortiSpeak, I cannot say the same about their security messaging- the company does a solid job of weaving their security priorities through the product narrative without overplaying it. You’ll see the focus on security in all their MFD6 presentations. Given the daily spate of network breeches in the media these days, you’d be a FortiChump not to listen.

For their bits and pieces, I like this slide that summarizes their various network building FortiBlocks:

FortiStuff

Without even watching any of their presentations, this graphic gives the un-FortiFamiliar a sense of the robustness of their offerings. But there’s a heck of a lot more to the FortiStory, so I do recommend watching the presentations.

Having seen a couple of other vendors present before Fortinet, I realized when the FortiAiOps session unfolded that the notion of “AI Ops” is one of those “all the cool kids are doing it” things that every vendor has to have to compete. That’s not to throw dirt in any way, it’s more of a statement on where the industry is right now- AI has become a fact of life as an important underpinning of various solutions, but is still new enough to be held up to the light as if Zeus himself gave birth to it. I’m glad Fortinet has a hand in the AI card game, too.

We all have our own frames of reference, and to me Fortinet is still somewhat exotic in that I don’t see a lot of their wireless gear in my own corner of the world. I do know colleagues in other areas that use Fortinet, and also truly appreciate several Fortinet employees as just awesome people. With the likes of Wi-Fi 6/6E, AI in the house, and many customers considering how to evolve their WLANs (and frequently being tired of the incumbent vendor) all potentially catalyzing market shifts, perhaps we’ll see more Fortinet in more places in the days to come. They certainly are equipped to compete and do have interesting differentiators, from what I can see.

I Friggin LOVE You, NetAlly LANBERT

His name was LANBERT and he came from the west
To show which cables sucks and which are best
With a push of a button it’s doing it’s stuff
Hopefully for mGig the existing wire is enough…
Oh looky there, this one passes just fine
That LANBERT just saved us money and time

–Ode to LANBERT, by Wendall Pissmont Jr

There’s a new Bert in town… forget about Reynolds*, Bacharach*, and that whiny neurotic muppet from Sesame Street. Them cats is yesterday. NetAlly has recently introduced LANBERT (at Mobility Field Day 6), and if you are in the business of network wiring then you should pay attention.

This was easily one of the more thought provoking sessions of MFD6, says I. Let’s set the stage: you have an installed cable base, and are migrating access points to Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, and at long last we hopefully will see the massive throughputs that WLAN industry marketers have been telling us we should expect for years… like to the point where the old reliable 1 Gig uplink may not cut it. Do you need to replace that cable to get mGig performance?

LANBERT to the rescue! There should be no mystery when it comes to cabling performance capabilities. Many of us grew up knowing the value of cable certification testing, and now the free LANBERT app adds a much needed evolution to the notion.

Working with NetAlly’s Etherscope nXG and and LinkRunner 10G portable analyzers, LANBERT “generates and measures the transmission of line rate Ethernet frames over your network cabling infrastructure, qualifying its ability to support 1G/10G on fiber and 100M/1G/2.5G/5G/10G on copper links.” You are proving what an installed UTP or fiber run can really do despite what a certification report might say, without needing a standalone certification tester.

Test that existing cable for mGig before the new AP goes in, and don’t assume that “old” runs can’t support the new speeds.

I’ve long beaten the drum that the physical layer is critical to good networking. I’ve always viewed each part of a structured wiring system as it’s own component, worthy of note when it comes time for labeling, troubleshooting, and yes- performance testing. I’ve seen old cable work surprisingly well, and new cable disappoint for a number of reasons. There is simply no reason to guess how UTP and fiber will perform FOR REAL, with LANBERT. It’s the shizzle, baby!

View this fascinating Field Day presentation here.

*Yes, I know these dudes are actually named Burt and not Bert. Shut up.

VenVolt 2- Power to the (Survey) People

Hello wireless friends,

My name is VenVolt 2. I’m soon to be sent by the excellent folks at Ventev to assist you with your wireless site surveys in those situations where you need to power an access point. If you caught Mobility Field Day 6, then you saw Ventev Product Line Manager Chris Jufer introduce me… it’s a little daunting being shown off, but I can handle it. I was born for this role- some of you probably know my dad, VenVolt 1:

VenVolt 1

The Old Man still has his own magic, and quite the following. But we all know the drill… everything changes. If you get lucky, the change is for the better- and that’s where I come in. Here’s my profile pic, in case you missed it:

VenVolt 2

I’m sleek, I’m sexy, and I got the juice. Ventev learned a lot from my pappy, and I’m proud to be his follow-on in the product line. V1 uses Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries, but I’m LiPo, baby! V1 was also a bit of a porker at 4 1/2 pounds, but I go a svelt 2.2 pounds for you less macho types. And I’m rated at 26,400 mAh- just at the edge of legal airline carry-on. I charge in about 3 hours, and will power an AP for around 6-8 hours, depending on model. I could go on, but I’m already bragging a bit so maybe I’ll just show you some specs.

But first I gotta tell you- they are shipping me with this very cool bag!

You can already see the benefit there, I’m guessing. It’s not just a protective case for my handsome finish, it’s also an accessory at survey time when you need to attach me to something. (Think safety, says I.)

Now back to some specs and application notes from my demo reel. I think you’re gonna like what you see… Look for me around late September or early October of this year. Meanwhile, feast your eyes on this goodness:

VenVolt 2 by Ventev, ports, etc

I trust that you dig it? Of course you do. Because you’re smart and good-looking, too. Or maybe just smart, as I take a second look. But what matters is that I’m (almost) here for you, and you’re gonna want to make sure we get together for your Q4 surveys. I’ll see you then.

Hugs,

Ventev’s VenVolt 2

Mist Systems Has an Advantage- but Also Gets a Yellow Card

Now the race is on
And here comes pride up the backstretch
Heartaches are goin’ to the inside
My tears are holdin’ back
They’re tryin’ not to fall
My heart’s out of the runnin’
True love’s scratched for another’s sake
The race is on and it looks like heartache
And the winner loses all

-Sang by George Jones

Though events like Mobility Field Day 6 may not be typically thought of as being contests, I can only imagine that those participating from the vendor side feel the competitive heat. The spotlight is on, the dollars to participate have been spent, the camera is rolling, and there is a tight window to differentiate your offerings and approach from the rest of the pack- all while a group of delegates interrupts your presentation and peppers you with questions. Success is measured by Twitter conversations, blog posts, and ultimately sales numbers. As a long-time Field Day participant from the delegate side of the paradigm, I can’t help but think that Mist still has an advantage of sorts when they present. I’ll explain that here, but will also point out that cockiness can sometimes cost you based on one comment made by Mist during MFD6.

The Mist Advantage

Mist was a late-comer to the mature WLAN industry, being founded in 2014. But those involved with starting the company are hardly newcomers to the game, and they have done a good job of making a start-up extremely relevant in a competitive market. I’d dare say they have been disruptive. And of course they were bought for a zillion dollars by Juniper. So what is The Mist Advantage when it comes to these presentation-oriented events?

Their short history.

Sure, they have decent technology, and even if you get tired of AI-everything in the company’s messaging, that is obviously working for them. But it’s what Mist DOESN’T have that’s just as significant to their appeal: they don’t have years and years of messaging fog and technical bloat to overcome. Their story is still fresh, and when you sit down to listen to them, your mind doesn’t involuntarily think about their long history of bugs, frequently changing “campaigns” and named networking frameworks, and all the ways customers have been frustrated with their licensing and support. Because… that history doesn’t exist yet.

The irony with Mist is that many of their key corporate players have come from companies that DO suffer from the effects of simply having a long history, and were likely personally responsible on some level for at least some of the baggage left behind at the companies they left. Such is life in Silly Valley, and I applaud anyone who recreates themselves and learns from the past.

How long will the Mist story remain untainted by it’s own longevity? This will be an interesting question to watch play out. But I have yet to hear of any customer switching FROM having a Mist WLAN to a legacy vendor, and the continual development of products and underlying magic is impressive on Mist’s part as evidenced by what you’ll see in the MFD videos.

Yellow Card Thrown

I recommend that anyone interested in Mist or wireless networking in general watch the Mobility Field Day videos from the company’s presentations. These folks know their stuff, and the enthusiasm is palpable. But I do have to call out one thing that didn’t set well, and sounded maybe a bit beneath the Mist Team.

The day before Mist presented, Aruba Networks showed their Wi-Fi 6E AP630, a fairly ground-breaking offering that brings real-world networking in new 6 GHz spectrum to the wireless space. For months now we’ve all been giddy about 6 GHz being made available for use by the FCC, so Aruba giving the world an early 6E AP and being able to show what it does in a controlled environment is a good thing.

I’ve heard every single vendor so far at Mobility Field Day 6, including Mist, say things like “you gotta start somewhere” or “this is just our first step towards blah blah blah”- reasonable utterances for companies who need to innovate or wither. So when the topic of 6E access points came up and Mist seemingly slighted Aruba for putting out a lowly 2×2 6E AP while Mist has nothing to show yet in 6E, it seemed a bit low-brow. The comment was noticed by a few other folks out there as well, and I’m curious your take on this if you happened to catch the dialogue.

Aruba Said the Right Words Regarding Dashboards

I wanna be a dashboard ranger
Live a life of guts and danger
I better stop before this song gets stranger…

Ah, dashboards. We got ’em these days, in quantity. We got so many freakin dashboards we need a dashboard to keep track of our dashboards when it comes to networking. But beyond dashboards, we got… AI.

That’s right- we got Artificial Intelligence, baby. And it’s teamed up with Dashboards, Inc. to make sure we have ALL KINDS OF STUFF to worry about. And maybe, if we’re lucky, some time those alerts will actually be actionable…

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m dashboard-jaded. I’ve seen many dashboards from market leaders that cost a fortune (they gotta make money, no fault there), that are fraught with Chicken-Little noise that is so overwhelming and uncorroborated by any other practical metric that they become one more Glass of Pain that gets ignored. Will AI help that? The answer will depend on how that AI is coded- like does the team behind the AI actually GET that endless petty alerts aren’t really a good thing?

Which brings us back to REAL intelligence… and Aruba Networks at Mobility Field Day 6. In particular, the presentation on what Aruba calls AIOPS– their version of system monitoring, root cause analysis, system adjustment, etc. This is something all the major vendors are doing these days, and all make sure that “AI” is sprinkled liberally in the marketing so you know that you are good to go. Unless you’re not, because the AI flags a bunch of stuff you don’t care about that takes you away from real work.

But Robin Jellum at Aruba said something profound in it’s simplicity as he presented on AIOPS… The exact wording escapes me, but Robin alluded to the fact that we all get bombarded with data. There’s no shortage of it in today’s network systems. But turning that data into MEANINGFUL alerts versus just lots of red and yellow dots to get lost in is the challenge, and Aruba recognizes that gratuitous, copious amounts of alerting on transient stuff does no one any good.

As a customer, I don’t want to buy ALERTS by the pound. I want to buy INFORMATION that comes from my data. It’s nice to hear Aruba recognize the difference. Time will tell if AIOPS can deliver.

Best Danger Will Robinson GIFs | Gfycat

Celona Tees Up Bigtime on CBRS

Private 5G networking has been discussed a lot over the last year. Engineers and installers are getting trained on design, installation, and support. Though it’s not exactly a new topic, it is still fairly exotic. It’s like we’re all kind of waiting for CBRS to take some big, meaningful step forward that signals “OK, it’s really finally here. Really, like for real.” With Celona’s latest news, that big step has arguably just been taken.

Back in February of this year, I pondered on the past and short future of CBRS in this blog. I’ve gotten to know Celona (the private mobile network company) up close and personal at Mobility Field Day events last year and in 2020 and through a number of private briefings. From where I sit, the entire CBRS and Celona thing has been kind of a slow simmer- waiting for things to break open and get real.

We’re there now.

Platform, Products

Celona is ready to rock and roll the CBRS-hungry enterprise crowd with all the makings of a build-it-yourself 5G networking solution. The details are here, but the short version goes like this- product components of Celona’s integrated solution architecture include:

Celona RAN: Indoor and outdoor CBRS LTE access points built for Enterprise environments. They provide up to 25K indoor sqft and 1M outdoor sqft of coverage. Radio functions are fully automated via Celona software with their power level and frequency channel assignments in the CBRS spectrum, no manual configurations required.

Celona Edge: Private LTE/5G core Enterprise appliance that’s designed to integrate with any existing network environment. Deployable on-premises for strict SLA enforcement for local applications, within private / public / edge clouds for service scalability, or both.

Celona Orchestrator: The AIOps platform that enables remote installation of Celona’s access points and Edge software, across multiple enterprise sites. Orchestrator provisions Celona SIM cards against required device level access control policies within the enterprise network. Providing more than monitoring of infrastructure components, Orchestrator also keeps track of application and device KPIs for Celona MicroSlicing™ (think QoS on steroids, but there’s more to it than just that).

Everything you need to build your own private 5G environment.

Aruba Networks Partnership

Celona has also formed a partnership with Aruba networks, who will sell Celona gear where a given customer is looking for not just Wi-Fi but also private mobile networking. Given Aruba’s lofty position in the WLAN space, this is a good thing for Celona as they set out to conquer this new market.

A Fat Wad of Series B Funding Never Hurts

Not that further validation that Celona is doing things right is needed, but one could argue that the cash the company has just secured is another indicator that industry is taking both Celona and their new tech solution seriously.

There are some decent folks at Celona that I’ve known in different roles at other companies, and it’s exciting to see them move their collective vision forward. I’m looking forward to seeing how this unfolds for Celona, the fledging CBRS industry, and for the customers about to go down this road.

See the new Celona Platform.

Ventev Products Make the WLAN Better

As I watched the Ventev presentations being delivered as a delegate at Mobility Field Day 5, I couldn’t help but think of my own positive experiences with the company’s antennas, enclosures, and site survey power supply products.

A quick aside- if you didn’t realize: Ventev=Terrawave=Tessco. All same-same. It is what it is.

Problems Solved.

To me, Ventev has frequently been the answer to “We got a unique wireless network situation, we need a unique solution” scenarios. Sometimes i’s a mounting issue, other times its a question of pushing signal in a specific direction. One thing I LOVE about Ventev in this era of hyper-complicated WLAN systems, licensing, and code bugs is that their products play in the “No BS zone” of wireless networking. You need a thing, you need that thing to work right and for a very long time, you pay for it once, and you enjoy the fruits of making a good choice. 

That zone is getting smaller when it comes to enterprise WLAN, sadly… as the space ventures deeper into Marketing And Gratuitous Complexity That We Can License The Hell Out Of Above All for certain vendors. Thankfully Ventev  is outside of those games, and will be an important player in reliably putting the icing on any vendor’s wireless cake.

A Look Behind the Technical Curtain

I have made my share of antennas. Some have worked fantastically, and some were complete duds. I’ve been doing Wi-Fi since the early days, when making your own Pringles Can antenna for 2.4 GHz was a thing, and have been a licensed amateur radio operator (KI2K, Extra Class) for longer. Pieces of wire, coaxial cable, copper pipes,  threaded rods, and all sorts of bits and pieces have been fashioned into antennas by my my hands. When you make your own then test for performance, you get a different appreciation for antennas that do what you want and need them to.

img_5076

During the Mobility Field Day 5 presentations, Ventev gave us feel for how they approach antenna design, then iterate that design for whatever important criteria is in play. For example, sometimes an antenna is big, sometimes it is small with the same general coverage- this comes about by manipulating wavelength fractions and other parameters to end up with similar electrical characteristics despite antennas having different dimensions and shapes. Modeling the designs is imperative, and Ventev uses the very cool CST suite for that.

There is a lot more to Ventev’s presentation at Mobility Field Day 5, and I don’t want to give it all away. Suffice it to say that they are an important player with a lot to offer to any WLAN environment, and to be familiar with their offerings is to be equipped with what you need to make your wireless projects more successful.

Here are the links to Ventev’s sessions at MFD5:
Not All Antennas are Created Equal
Antenna Innovation With Dennis Burrell
Taking the Telecom Closet Outdoors

 

 

The “Not to Be a Jerk, But…” Mist #MDF5 Blog

I write this piece fresh on the heels of Day 1 of 2020’s Mobility Field Day 5. Mist (Now a Juniper company) talked for about six years yesterday, and it was fairly riveting, end to end. It was one of those marathon sessions that needs a little time to settle in your brain before you can resolve it, figuring out what you actually liked to hear and what maybe raised some red flags. Let’s talk about those red (well, maybe a pale red, sorta orangey-pink) flags that sprouted in my mind as I slumbered on the whole thing.jerk

Mist Systems has had a fantastic run as a late-comer to a competitive industry filled with incumbents. That’s not easy, and their AI-inspired story has served them well. Now, we see the company moving i’s own cheese, and I can’t help but think about maybe  a few areas of concern.

  • Mist is no longer its own little WLAN product line bubble. Mist started off as a wireless-only product line. That let it focus on one discreet area with all of its development and quest for excellence. Sure, AI has been a key ingredient. But AI is not a magic wand. Just because you use it, doesn’t mean you have the Golden Ticket forever. NOW, Mist is spreading its methodology into the Juniper LAN side of its new house… the bigger you go, the more places there are for things to go wrong. The more opportunities there are for code bugs…
  • Mist has finally introduced a respectable AP product line. Again, Mist has had the luxury of not offering many APs to date. Life has got to be easier on the development side when your product set is smaller, I’m guessing. We see it frequently from other vendors- certain model APs are prone to issues and bugs. Will Mist bump into the same sort of customer-facing shame now that they have some diversity of AP lineup? Or will their promised self-debugging whizz-banginess eliminate that as a potential? Time will tell.
  • The um… well… uncomfortable thing to mention. I have the utmost respect for Mist’s senior leadership. Their results to date with injecting the AI/higher reliability story into an industry often fraught with overpriced buggy code suck speak for themselves. However- some of Mist’s senior folks come from that world of buggy code suck. They helped to author the very realm they now take potshots at. I mention this only to make the point that nobody is  perfect with a perfect past, and that history sometimes repeats itself. In the buggy code suck world, complexity only exasperates the buggy stuff, and Mist, as an overall operational paradigm, is very much becoming more complex as it matures. Ergo… more opportunities to stumble? Hopefully, they can keep it on the rails and not fall victim to the past woes that some of their own Bigs have at least partial ownership of elsewhere in the industry.

That little burst of sunshine aside, it really was a thought-provoking session. See it for yourself here, and feel free to leave me a comment below.

 

Mobility Field Day 5: The “Morning of”

In just a couple of hours we’ll dive deep into Mobility Field Day 5. I’m a delegate- one of those blogger/analyst/whatever folks fortunate enough to be part of this unique experience that lets us interact directly with Industry companies. Normally, this would be a week of limos, conference rooms, deep discussion, good food, and lots of fun. Instead, we’re all home-bound because of a pandemic. Whatever…

So what am I- the World’s Most Interesting Delegate- thinking about as I sip my coffee and contemplate the hours and days to come during hashtag #MFD5? Take these for what you will.

  • Please No Politics. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear one CEO is running for public office based on their Tweet volumes related to political issues. I don’t want to hear it this week, personally. Not as a delegate, not as a customer. Move those communications to internal channels.
  • Sensitivity to Budgets During COVID. Somewhat related to that first bullet… you don’t have to look very deep into the news to find that individuals, businesses, colleges, and organizations of every type are struggling or folding because of COVID. Budgets have been decimated for many out there. Now is not the time for the companies doing Field Day to be “giving” millions away to political causes while turning the screws on customers with heavy licensing that gets ever more granular with each product or feature announcement. You’re already making us rent what we bought in many cases. Read the headlines and show mercy.
  • The Big Lie.  By my reckoning, we’re years-deep into what I call The Big Lie in the wireless industry. A new standard comes out, yet many of the more exciting and heavily-marketed features simply can’t be used “yet”. Sometimes “yet” turns into “never”, but the marketing machines convince customers that by not going to the new stuff they are missing out on something. That something, as we’re seeing with the so far absent sexy features in 802.11ax, may or may not  ever get here. Hopefully this week we hear some honesty and some hope in this regard.
  • Super Systems are Nice- BUT RELIABILITY TRUMPS ALL. Year in and year out vendors come to these industry events to show off their most exciting innovations- as determined by them. Generally architectures get ever more complicated, ever more closed to assure Vendor Lock, and maybe a little more functional for day to day operations if we’re lucky. In some spots, corporate cultures never really embraced that QUALITY COUNTS. Our end users simply want to use the networks without constant bugs biting, and we on the network support side have long grown tired of playing Code Roulette. Maybe somebody will acknowledge that stability and reliability are as important as new features this week. That would be refreshing.
  • APIs as a Copout? Let me start by saying that I understand and appreciate the general value of the API when it comes to wireless and networking systems in general. It’s a nice option. But… I also fear that certain vendors will skew the API paradigm in their own favors by giving us shitty Network Management Systems and touting that “oh that important feature is in the API” and then even worse charging us to be our own coders by requiring licenses to use the API to get at the features that should have been in the NMS to begin with. I hope I hear that I am wrong about that this week.

OK, so maybe I’m a little grumpy in the morning. At the same time, I’m guessing a lot of you reading this can relate. Agree? Don’t agree? Leave me a comment below.

Looking forward to an excellent remote Mobility Field Day.

NetAlly Adds WLAN Survey Capabilities to Etherscope nXG

Step right up and don’t be shy
Because you will not believe your eyes
It’s right here behind the glass
And you’re gonna like it
‘Cause it’s got class

(Apologies to the The Tubes for butchering up “She’s a Beauty”)

It’s not a stretch to say that the Etherscope nXG has class. It feels good in your hand. And it tells you A LOT. It tells you things that you may not have realized you even needed to know about your LAN and wireless networks. And with every firmware release, it gets more powerful. Like a magic network Jedi in a well-put together hand-held tester.

I watched the Etherscope nXG make it’s debut mid-last last year. And then I saw it get better before 2019 gave way to 2020. Now, we see yet another update to this uber-capable analysis platform, with one particular feature I want to focus on:
Etherscope1

This is such a handy add, as it brings an important and very useful graphical element to the gathering and reporting of Wi-Fi signals with the new AirMapper functionality. Here’s just a tiny taste from my own environment:
etherscope3

Remember- this tool also works the LAN like a boss (including mGig switching environments), does the same thorough WLAN support that we’ve all come to appreciate from predecessor tools like the AirCheck G2, and now is making it’s way into wireless survey duties-  expanding the synergies between the powerful Link-Live cloud repository and the Etherscope nXG.

A quick video on AirMapper is here, and longer overview on the full suit of features in the latest Etherscope nXG is here.

It’s probably obvious that I’m a fan of both NetAlly and Etherscope nXG. One thing I have come to appreciate with the vendor and the tools is that they only gets better, with improved functionality always on the horizon. To that point, the current AirMapper abilities are the first step for the feature, with more coming within a few months. For example, NetAlly expects  to release interference heatmaps at the end of May to show both co-channel and adjacent-channel interference. We’ll also see AirMapper for the AirCheck G2, and both AirCheck and EtherScope will become collectors for AirMagnet SurveyPro.

Given the impact that the current crisis is having on networking budgets, it’s really nice to see a tool like this truly become an investment as more features are added.