Category Archives: Wi-Fi

Are Wi-Fi Networks in General THAT Bad?

Let me start by apologizing for a long absence here. It would seem it was my turn for life for a while. People and animals I love got sick and passed on, and those inevitable changes to each of our existences came knocking on my own door. I also had some demons that poke me at night sometimes to exercise.

But a couple of recent vendor and VAR interactions brought me back here.

Really? You Don’t NEED us?
I’ve been operating in the collective big overall networking universe for at least a quarter of a century now, so I get the rhythm of the music. Everyone has a part, and I begrudge few individuals for playing theirs (except maybe the vendor exec that has the gall to try to explain how sucking my bank account dry with complicated licensing schemes suddenly equals value or perhaps innovation). Still I’m occasionally surprised when I’m presented with some new solution, dashboard, or service that I was doing fine without yesterday and today, but if I don’t get on board my tomorrow will certainly be disappointing for my end users.

THEM: We have it to offer, so you MUST need it. It solves all kinds of problems.
ME: I’m not sure what we’re doing differently, but we don’t seem to have the problems you mention.
THEM: Bah. Everyone has those problems. Lots of them. In mass quantities. The freakin’ sky is falling!
ME: I’m gonna get some coffee now. Good talk, thanks.
THEM: You are pretty lucky then. Everyone else has problems that they need our stuff to find.

I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has been part of that kind of conversation.

Let’s unpack that a bit.
I always find the messaging that “lots of networks are just fraught with endless problems that you need help with” to be a little confounding. Why? I ask myself that, and I think I can answer it- beyond the “I’ve been doing this a while and have arguably seen it all” effect. I offer these:

We are on what generation of Wi-Fi now? Sixth? Sixth extra special? Shouldn’t the general kinks be worked out by now? With the Wi-Fi Alliance chest-thumping about all their certification programs and the IEEE putting out wireless “standards”, everything should generally just click, no?

No. I’m being sarcastic of course. This many DECADES after the original 802.11 miracle, we’re still dealing with driver issues. And that fuzzy, ill-defined gap between enterprise and consumer end devices, and the denial by groups like the Wi-Fi Alliance that this is a serious problem. After all, there is middleware kinda solutions that make it all right, no? Again, no. Not without paying through the nose in upfront and ongoing costs. Pffft.

So what is the expensive new dashboard, or managed services, exactly delivering? Is it telling me I got driver issues on a given client? Newsflash- I can tell that without the dashboard when a client stops working right after an OS update.

Shouldn’t proper WLAN design mitigate a lot of what the magic dashboard is supposedly figuring out? Price out Ekahau or iBwave (both fantastic tools) and the training and ongoing licensing for both. They are not inexpensive. Yet, somehow, you can design your networks perfectly using high end tools, and STILL need “help” with all the inevitable Wi-Fi issues you are going to have. Smells funny…

Speaking of expensive… Have you looked at the pricing on the latest access points? We have reached INSANITY in this area, when indoor Wi-Fi access points list prices EACH top $3K. For an access point. Without the mandatory licensing that The Industry now gets fat on. And for that lofty expenditure, you still need all the professional services and pricey dashboards because that increased pricing solves… nothing? Same problems are still with us, evidently.

You suck, Lee. You’re a real freakin’ downer, man. Perhaps. A lot of gloomy shit has been happening for me lately, but that aside- something is wrong here. Either I’m doing networking wrong, because I don’t have all the problems that I’m supposed to, OR those problems are the bogey man maybe created by The Industry to have more to sell us. We just can’t collectively be this far down the Wi-Fi timeline and be that bad off, can we? If we are, then everyone from the IEEE to the Alliance to vendors have screwed up. And if we AREN’T that bad off, then we’re being bilked for solutions that we really shouldn’t need.

Is there a point here? Whether I’m articulating it clearly or not, something isn’t quite right in Denmark, or in Silly Valley. Or is it just me?

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.


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

Contemplations on Large-Scale Cloud Wi-Fi in Higher Education

For so many years, the Wi-Fi story at most campuses has been pretty similar: hundreds or thousands of access points connect to some number of controllers, and it’s all managed by a network management system. Sounds simple enough, but this basic formula of WLAN building blocks has a number of implications that many of us who keep these networks up frequently get weary of. I recently took part in a panel discussion webinar where some notable wireless network managers and architects from the higher ed space discussed these implications. Let me share what we talked about, and we’ll see if any of it resonates with you- and I’m sure that you’d agree that the topics covered here certainly apply well beyond higher ed.

Mist Systems Hosts the Panel Discussion
Mist Systems isn’t the first company to bring cloud-managed wireless to market, but they do offer some fairly comprehensive strategies for those interested in different options. During the panel session, we talked with Bryan Ward from Dartmouth College and Brian Stephens from MIT. Both of these gents are now using Mist for their respective campus WLAN environments, albeit in different topologies. Rounding out the panel was Rowell Dionicio of, Wes Purvis and Jussi Kiviniemi (Mist Product Management team), and myself. Though Rowell and I both have deep backgrounds in higher ed wireless, we joined this session as independent consultants.

The Layer 2 Elephant in the Room
Back in the day when controllers first hit the market, they gave the WLAN world a major gift at Layer 2. With “fat APs”, any VLAN in use by the access point needs to be part of a trunk on the Ethernet uplink. But when the AP is controller based, a single management VLAN can be used to encapsulate a number of VLANs using CAPWAP tunnels. Using controllers allows for a much simpler L2 paradigm from the perspective of AP-uplink switch and switchport configurations- by an order of magnitude in large environments. To me, this is perhaps one of the most significant single benefits of using controller-based WLAN, and is one potential obstacle when going to a cloud-managed model. Old L2 concerns come back to haunt us when the controller gives way to a cloud-managed management plane, and not all vendors have an answer to the dilemma.

During our discussion, we learned that Dartmouth re-engineered their LAN network and embraced configuration automation to reduce the L2 admin burden when they migrated away from their old Cisco controllers to Mist’s cloud-managed WLAN. By contrast, MIT’s timeline for WLAN upgrades required that they NOT re-engineer their L2 environment, meaning they needed a solution to the L2 dilemma.

How do you take advantage of CAPWAP/similiar tunnel terminations afforded by controllers, when you are abandoning controllers? Mist provides an appliance called the Mist Edge which allows for termination of AP-management tunnels and VLAN aggregation, while still keeping the rest of Management Plane functions out in the cloud. This option allowed MIT to quickly get their Wi-Fi moved to the cloud paradigm while preserving their legacy LAN topology.

There was a lot of good discussion about what exactly a controller is versus solutions like Mist Edge and similar building blocks from other vendors. Wes presented this graphic to guide discussion:

Why Else is the Controller Construct so Important When Considering Cloud W-Fi?
Aside from Layer 2 concerns, we heard from both MIT and Dartmouth the various ways their admin time has gotten more productive since they jettisoned controllers. We all spoke of reliability and such, and there is no doubt that a move to the cloud simplifies major administrative tasks. I’ve used cloud-managed networking in almost twenty branch locations of varying sizes for at least a decade, and I can say that not having to upkeep both controller code and quirky, feature-bloated management servers is nothing short of liberating.

The panel as a group seemed to agree that many WLAN professionals get hung up on the loss of nerd-knobs and command-line deep debug capabilities when they consider a move away from controllers to cloud. I wasn’t the only one to vocalize that often the deeper debugs we do on controllers are when we are troubleshooting controller code for TAC rather than actually trying to figure out Wi-Fi or client issues (this gets extremely old). Dartmouth’s Bryan Ward spoke highly of the ease of use and effectiveness of Mist’s API capabilities from first-hand experience when deeper-than-GUI information is needed, while MIT’s Brian Stephens reflected on the Mist interface being comprehensive enough for daily use. Both perspectives are good news for the controller-weary. Competing cloud systems have similar API functionality, and one point of analysis at evaluation time is always “is there the right balance between GUI and API?” from the usability perspective.

A Lot to Consider, Digest
For me, this discussion does scrape off a significant portion of apprehension about potentially moving a large WLAN of many thousands of access points to the cloud-managed paradigm. (In my perfect world, I’d be able to keep my existing very expensive controller-based APs and use them with another vendor’s cloud solution- but the world doesn’t work that way, and likely never really will at enterprise scale.) We covered a lot of ground, with these among some of the other details to ponder:

• Rowell asked a great question- can we make a Mist Edge in VM? Wes replied that it could be done, but most customers don’t.
• Bryan Ward pointed out that SNMP completely goes away with the Mist deployment.
• Brian Stephens made the case that so many other enterprise systems are moving to a cloud-managed model that taking Wi-Fi there really isn’t that much of a leap.
• We all talked about the “what if your Internet connection goes down?” I’ll say that your Mist Wi-Fi will be fine during the downtime, but let you hear the rest of the conversation for yourself when you watch the session.
• We also hit on how funding changes from Capex to Opex with cloud management, and the value of scripting skills for network admins

There’s a lot more to hear, and it’s better firsthand so I hope you spend an hour or so and watch it. I will close by saying this: regardless of what system you are contemplating, you really have to do an honest eval with it the way you would actually use it daily, and you also have to talk to real-world customers that have been empowered to speak freely about the good and less-than-great of the solution you’re interested in.

This panel discussion was especially useful to me because Bryan and Brian have already gone down a road I think about often, and Rowell’s insights are always right on. I’m now better equipped to think about the WLAN future of environments that I manage.

If you missed one of the embedded links above, find the webinar here.

Interfering Personal Hotspots- Beyond Simply a Technical Issue

After 20-some odd years in the Wi-Fi business, I can safely say that I both love and hate personal wireless hotspots. Before I get into all that, let’s go back in time. If you want some zesty background, here are a few easy, compelling reads written by me from the way back machine:

If you don’t want to review the above links, here’s the poor man’s executive summary:

FCC: Don’t use de-auth frames- that equals jamming (depending on which one of our own definitions you stumble across). Selling jammers is illegal. We let Wi-Fi vendors sell illegal jammers because they provide tools that do de-auth. But that is illegal. You can’t sell jammers except when you can sell jammers. Confused? Shut up, or maybe we’ll fine your ass for our lack of clarity. Our annual fund-raiser is coming up- how’d you like to “donate” several thousand dollars?

Hotspot Makers: We use only the highest power and some really cocked up channel selection algorithms to ensure your device delivers the absolute finest in RF interference to the Wi-Fi environment you are sitting in the middle of.


Network Customers, WLAN Admins: WTF?

It all makes perfect sense if you don’t think about it.

The Technical Frustrations

Anyone else in the biz knows that hotspots can be annoying, or they can be WLAN-killers. It all depends on the day, the device, the location, and the density of the WLAN where those hotspots are fired up. You can only play so many frequency-stomping games with spectrum, then physics shows through and Wi-Fi sucks for everyone until the contention is eliminated. This is the technical side of hotspot frustration.

And nobody of title has done a shittin’ thing to improve the situation- not the FCC, not the WI-Fi Alliance whose members make all of the devices that step on each other, not anybody. Everyone is in it for themselves… (Soapbox moment brought to you by the good folks at Shamwowsers & McKracken, LLC).

Ah well.

The Cultural Component to the Whole Mess

Cell phones and Mi-Fi devices have come soooo far since WLAN administrators first played whack-a-mole with hotspot-induced network issues. Data plans have also evolved, to the point where many of us are walking around with dual-band, unlimited data hotspots in our pockets ready to put into service at the slightest notion.

Let’s turn to rocker Ted Nugent for his take on the situation, as written about in his mega-hit “Free For All”:

Well looky here, you sweet young thing: the magic’s in my hands
When in doubt, I’ll whip it out. I got me a hotspot- dual-band
It’s a free for all

Or something like that… It ABSOLUTELY IS a free for all. That’s the culture right now. If I can’t get on the business network because I don’t know how to configure meself for 802.1X, I’m gonna WHIP IT OUT, Nugent-style, and get myself off to the Internet. The business Wi-Fi can suck it, and how dare you expect me to open a trouble ticket to get help with your 802.1X noise? THE MAGIC IS IN MY HANDS. Any collateral damage is NOT MY PROBLEM.

So what if your stupid police cars can’t transfer dashcam video because of interference? Why do I give two figs if your expensive Wi-Fi locks and clocks are acting up because of my RF pride and joy? Spare me the lecture on how your wireless VoIP handsets are getting walked on… Maybe YOU shouldn’t be using Wi-Fi-equipped medical devices. IT’S A FREE FOR ALL, DID YOU NOT GET THAT MEMO FROM TED NUGENT?

Hate ’em, Love ’em

Yeah, hotspots are a big fat PITA. They really do create problems. Some are dual-band, high power beasts that insist on obliterating your WLAN, while others seem to have a little more common sense and lower power built in, but in dense WLAN environments it still gets ugly.

But I’m here to confess that I too hear their siren song.

I get WHY people fire up their hotspots. At hotels, at camp, while troubleshooting systems that have potential ISP issues and so on. My phone’s hotspot gets it’s share of exercise, and I can’t imagine not having it available in a number of situations. But as a WLAN professional, I have the knowledge and (usually) the discipline to not hose up someone else’s WLAN with my hotspot when I’m at their place of business. Most people- not so much.

We’re way past the opportunity for THE INDUSTRY PLAYERS to responsibly to educate end users on why hotspots shouldn’t just be whipped out Ted Nugent-style. So we’re stuck with the problem.

Suck it up, Buttercup

What really sucks about all of this is that WLAN components are only getting ever more expensive. The tools that are used to design and support WLANs are only getting more expensive. Collectively, the security stakes in almost all WLAN environments are only getting higher. We can pump endless dollars and man-hours into delivering really good Wi-Fi, yet hotspots can lay waste to parts of our infrastructures, and there isn’t much anyone can do except to ask the offender to put them away, if we can pinpoint them and get them to listen to our appeal that they think of their fellow man…

Strange times, says I.

Linksys Leverages Tanaza for Cost-Conscious Cloud-Managed Wi-Fi

You’ve heard of Linksys, everybody has. But Tanaza? Is that an energy drink? No, but it is what fuels Linksys’ latest go at cloud-managed Wi-Fi. Let’s get the Tanaza thing out of the way first, then we’ll talk about what Linksys is up to (if you’ve had with expensive vendor license paradigms, you’ll want to read on).

Tanaza Explained

Tanaza – Logos Download

Tanaza is a cloud-managed networking platform based in Italy, I’ve been tire-kicking and following the evolution of the Tanaza system for a while now, Here’s a blog I wrote on Tanaza, to get you started. I like the company, their people, and the UI. As an enterprise WLAN guy myself, I sometime have to stretch my mind to get the appeal of a company that (so far) only manages Wi-Fi and not “the full network stack”, but once you get that it’s easy to appreciate Tanaza’s effectiveness. Recognizing a company’s Wi-Fi as the thing that many SMB customers interact with the most with, Tanaza makes providing well-managed and feature-rich WLAN environments easy for single sites or distributed locations likely served by MSP types or savvy in-house staff that need the most for their precious network budget dollars.

Linksys Cloud-Managed Wi-Fi 2.0

As a reminder, Linksys is part of Belkin, which is part of Foxconn. You of a certain age may be pre-disposed to think of Linksys as a home router vendor, but the company has long since evolved to having business-grade products in several spaces. With its latest strategy for cloud-managed WLAN, Linksys replaces it’s old in-house magic with Tenaza’s very polished dashboard and management framework and pairs it with a so-far modest handful of decent indoor 802.11ac wireless access points.

So what is the actual news here?

Tanaza has the cloud-management thing down pretty well. The case can be made that Foxconn/Belkin/Linksys using Tanaza’s framework validates Tanaza’s suitability for the SMB/MSP masses. The Linksys empire includes manufacturing, support, various channel relationships, and the ability to capitalize on Tanaza’s native cloud goodness to offer a decent SMB solution at compelling prices. And what makes those prices compelling? Probably the biggest selling point is that no licenses are required when you compare to other cloud-managed solutions. In my opinion, many of the bigger guys have gotten so license-happy they have priced themselves out of the SMB market.

Good Stuff, But Is It Enough?

Linksys Cloud Management 2.0 promises unlimited scaling (again, think MSP), easy pre-configurations and new access point adds (think Meraki-style), and has a good road map for options that will help customers to either directly or indirectly monetize their guest WLAN environments. All that sounds good when you can get it for cheap with no licenses, and I will say that the Tanaza access point I’ve been running works well. But I also can’t help but think that sooner or later “cloud managed Wi-Fi only” is going to be an issue for some potential customers. Even Open Mesh, before they were acquired by Datto, had a pretty effective cloud managed switch and edge router offering to go with their wireless APs, as does Ubiquiti- who is always the elephant in the room in this space. An outdoor AP option with external antenna capabilities would also be nice.

Linksys Cloud Manager 2.0 web page

Its Time to Let the WAP Rage Go and Move On

It’s an often-repeated cycle: someone says WAP in reference to a wireless access point, while those of us who consider the device to be an AP (no W) recoil viscerally. Maybe a lecture ensues about the PROPER way to refer to an WLAN access point, and it’s not uncommon to get a lot of YEAH WHAT HE SAID! and maybe some DAMN RIGHT! thrown in as we all work ourselves up to a froth over this oddball, seemingly important topic.

I said “seemingly” important.

Except it’s not. It’s actually kind of snobby, and kind of foolish. Don’t we have bigger things to worry about?

Those we quibble with in the epic WAP vs AP Thousand Years’ War often come from different backgrounds, where they learned that WAP is correct, prudent, and A-OK. One example- I work with a really smart BICSI-certified RCDD (that’s Registered Communications Distribution Designer, kind of like the CWNE of the wiring world) and guess what? He learned that WAP is a standard term on his professional journey. BICSI’s ICT Terminology Handbook uses WAP no less than 14 times!

Then there’s the WLAN market leader- Cisco. “WAP” occurs in enough Cisco documentation to be considered a valid term, at least by me. An example:

Are you AP-Purists feeling silly yet? I fully realize that this is one of those religious debates that polarizes people. Some of us will NEVER stop clinging to AP is good and WAP is evil because the notion has become ingrained in the fabric of their WLAN professional beings.


Wikipedia says both are OK. If you Google <Wireless Access Point WAP> you’ll find well over a million results, many from vendors who call their stuff WAPs.

This shouldn’t be one of those triggers that make us drop what we’re doing to school our fellow men and women about what they SHOULD call a wireless access point, yet it is. It doesn’t make us look smart or superior. Au contraire, it makes us look kinda petty, closed-minded, and dare I say silly.

Just stop it already.

Dipping Toes in the Consumer Gear Pool- Netgear AC2300 Wireless Router

I don’t frequently kick tires on consumer grade gear, but occasionally it is good for us Enterprise folks to go that path. Certainly, this space continues to advance- as measured by features offered, complexity under the hood, and promises made that often can’t be kept.

This is an interesting router, and I’ll try to approach my narrative from the consumer-centric focus. That being said, even the consumer wireless space needs to be handled by vendors with common sense. That is lacking in spots with this router, but likely no more so than with it’s competitors who also fixate on grand performance claims over substance. Sigh… the data sheet for the AC2300 is ambitious, to say the least.

Why so Many Model Numbers?

I have NEVER understood this about Netgear (and others in this space). On the box, it’s the AC2300. On the vendor product page, it’s the R7000P, as well. Then when you access the admin pages on the router itself, it becomes the RS400. Just kick me in the groin.

Getting Started, Choices
I’m old and stodgy. I just want to connect to the router, and start poking around. But Netgear would prefer that you download the Nighthawk app, which I did. But to run said app, you need a Netgear account, and in my opinion they want too much personal information. Nyet says I despite the fact that the app might be somewhat handy. Negatory on that. Also, the same account is needed to activate NETGEAR Armor which is a subscription-based security suite (Netgear gives you three years free with the router purchase). Given that I don’t plan on making this eval unit my daily driver, I’m going to pass on Armor- but here’s some interesting chatter among IT folks about it.

I opted to simply connect to the device over Wi-Fi, using the password provided on the router, and head for good old admin page. I also opted not to bite on another subscription- Disney’s Circle parental controls, which were offered one click in . If I was at a different place in life (my kids are grown and live elsewhere), I may welcome something like Circle but would need to evaluate.

Netgear touts the AC2300 as a CYBERSECURITY router, which is OK. Even without the app, Armor, or Circle there are some decent security-oriented features available, as you’ll see in the screenshots.

As a Switch/Router, Looks Decent Enough

See the screenshot dump at the end- you’ll get a sense of the usual offerings that come in better model routers. VLAN support, firewall functionality for device access, URL blocking, protocol controls, etc are handy, and the switchports are 10/100/1000. Also USB3 connectivity to storage or whatever floats your boat. Nothing earth-shaking, but a well-rounded feature set.

Wireless Performance Good- But the Approach is Maddening

It’s funny that the data sheet mentions “interference avoidance” in at least one spot, but your neighbors might not agree given that the AC2300 comes up blasting away on 80 MHz wide channels in 5 GHz (gotta be so to bring the jigabits!) and squatting on channel 9 in 2.4 GHz. How about the power level? Out of box it’s 100% on both channels. 100% of… well, something. but mere mortals aren’t privy to such details. I am not a mere mortal hover, and so I know where to find the power output levels for this router – if you know what the values mean, you’ll agree that this router is quite the flamethrower. Depending on where it’s used, you may not be able to get the power LOW enough.

For some reason, Netgear also decided to expose a couple of settings you can ruin your own day by manipulating wrongly…

Some things are better left hidden, says I. But it is nice that you can schedule the radios for on/off as desired.

I’d Buy It, and Then I’d Get Wise About Configuring It

If I was shopping for a normal consumer router, the AC2300 would be a good candidate based on booming radios and decent features, with or without the subscription stuff and Nighthawk app. It’s a nice enough looking router. The wireless defaults are ugly, though and  can do more harm than good. At the same time, consumer grade stuff is set up out of the box to THEORETICALLY meet the bold promises made in marketing (good luck getting 1625 Mbps in 5 GHz out of this or any 802.11ac 3×3 router) on the assumption that all consumers operate in their own little vacuums.