Category Archives: WLAN tools

Say Hello to Ooklahau

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

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

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

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

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

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

Touching Base at Mobility Field Day 3

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

You can watch the presentations for yourself here.

Big News

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

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

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

Netscout HQ

What the Heck is Body Fade?

bodyfade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Email Subject Line: fixing the wifi sucks problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trade-Offs Aplenty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

A Little Quiet Please- The Jabra Evolve 75

Jabra 75 EvolveFew things are more annoying when you’re troubleshooting in a noisy environment while trying to work with technical support or a coworker over the phone and you can’t hear them (or they can’t hear you). There’s usually enough stress in play to begin with, and having to repeat yourself and say “what? I just can’t hear you…” over the exhaust fans of network equipment in packed racks only makes it worse. Enter the Jabra Evolve 75.

Quiet Down!

Marketed as “the best wireless headset for concentration in the open office”, the Evolve 75 from Jabra is impressive for a number of reasons.

I don’t work in an open office environment so I can’t validate Jabra’s claim in that regard, but I can tell you that the Evolve 75 impresses in the noisy data center and telecommunications closets frequented by network technicians and administrators. I recently took an evaluation unit for a spin, and the timing was perfect for a real-world test under extremely loud background noise conditions. Not only could I hear the support engineer on the other end perfectly, but he also said my audio was clear despite the Evolve 75 mic being  inches away from blowing server fans. It’s hard to ask for more than that, but there is more to talk about.

Classy

Jabra has always made fairly elegant Bluetooth headsets for cellphones, in my experience. This was my first outing with a professional grade Jabra product, and it blew the doors off of other headsets I’ve tried to use in similarly noisy situations. The Evolve 75 is fairly light, but substantive. It feels good on my big head, and the mic raises and lowers smoothly, and in both positions is unobtrusive. The overall look and feel whether it’s on your head or in it’s beefy charging cradle is one of quality.

Functional

I’m finding that the Evolve 75 has really, really good battery life for my usage patterns- but I also do not wear it as long as a call-center person or the like might. The ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) functionality works like a dream, and these may be the absolute quietest phones I’ve ever used. I manipulated the volume buttons and mute functions on WebEx, Skype, and simple phone call without having to fumble around, and it doesn’t take long to feel at a disadvantage when you take a call without the benefit of this headset.

I also made use of the unit’s ability to pair with two Bluetooth devices at once, which proves handy more often than you might think. When paired simultaneously to my computer and my smartphone, the new-found mobility and seamless transitioning between the two was just a joy to experience. I’m not one to gush, but I kinda fell in love the Evolve 75 and don’t mind saying so.

Nice Bonuses

I’m not sure that I qualify as an audiophile after all the beating my ears took working around loud fighter jets in my Air Force days, but I do enjoy music and the occasional podcast. Jabra makes both activities more enjoyable with the sound quality, volume, and purity that the Evolve 75 delivers. It also comes with a really nice travel case.

The only downside I see with the Evolve 75 is that it’s one of those really, really nice tools  that you miss greatly when you don’t have it.

 

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

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.

Add a Test Accessory to Your AirCheck G2 for Even More Functionality

It’s easy to want to gush when you talk about NetScout AirCheck G2. Like the the other versions and models that came before it from NetScout (and Fluke Networks before that), the G2 is a solid performer that delivers a lot of functionality in an easy-to-use package. But by now, this is arguably old news… I’ve written about the G2 before, both here at wirednot and also for my IT Toolbox blog. But recently I got to experience first-hand the power of adding a neat little accessory to the AirCheck G2’s pouch.

The Test Accessory

If you’re familiar the popular LinkSprinter Ethernet tester, you’ll notice that the Test Adapter shares the same profile. Here’s the NetScout Test Adapter beside my LinkSprinter 300 (in Fluke Networks color scheme):

AirCheckAcc

Please note- The Test Accessory and the Link Sprinter are absolutely two different products, despite being the same shape! You can’t make a LinkSprinter “be” a Test Adapter.

The Functionality

I’m not going to rehash all the wireless-specific things the G2 can do, or the fantastic upgrade it just got with the V2 software. If you want to read beyond what I wrote myself about all that, let me introduce you to Haydn Andrews’ take on it. My message in this blog is about that Test Accessory, and specifically it’s ability to add iPerf-based throughput testing to the G2’s impressive feature set.

Screenshot0011

I know that Wi-Fi support folks suffer with the legitimacy and consistency of Internet-based throughput testing, and setting up your own server isn’t always simple or practical. I like that the Test Accessory is a PoE-powered easy add to the network, and that the G2 finds it quickly. Testing is a push-button simple as anything else on the G2, and multiple Test Accessories can be deployed in different parts of the network for testing a variety of paths. Along with all of the other critical test report data that the G2 gives (and reports on), the iPerf functionality adds an important dimension in confidence (or trouble verification) to what is fast becoming the absolute all-in-one tool for many a WLAN pro.

Like I said, It’s easy to want to gush about the AirCheck G2.