Category Archives: WLAN

That Which Pisses Us Wireless Folk Off- Vendor Edition

Now there’s a title. And since you’re reading this, you bit on it… Sucka. Now that you’re here, let’s share some observations from the WLAN community over the last few weeks. This is not (totally) a “Lee’s complaining again” blog; it’s more a collection of sentiments from dozens of friends and colleagues from across the Wi-Fi Fruited Plain that stuck with me for one reason or another.

Most of these observations are aimed squarely at our vendors- those who we do business with “above” as we shape their offerings into the systems and services we offer to clients “below”, with us in the middle.

You may not agree with all of these. Perhaps some of your own beefs didn’t make my list. Either way, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. Now, in no specific order:

  • Marketing claims. OK, we’re starting out with the obvious. Wi-Fi marketing has always been about hype, far-fetchedness, and creative blather. Nothing new under the sun here. I truly hope that your 10x better Wi-Fi is serving up 500 APs per client that are all streaming 62 Netflix movies each simultaneously from a range of 37 miles away from the AP.
  • “Enterprise” switches that don’t stack. Stacking is neither new, nor special. Do your bigger switches stack? Is it not even an option? If not, maybe tone down calling them “enterprise”.
  • Big Bucks for power cords. You got major balls as a vendor if you’re pricing garden variety power cables at $20 per.  Shame on you. Same same for PoE injectors, nothing-special antennas, rack mounts and assorted other parts/pieces that can be gotten for pennies on YOUR dollar elsewhere. C’mon…
  • No version numbers. By now, we all get “cloud”. And most cloud infrastructure vendors ARE using OS version numbers as a point of reference for their customers. The absence of version numbers becomes more onerous as ever more features get added. Give us the damn version number. Do it. Doooooo it.
  •  No CPU/Memory/Interface stats. It doesn’t matter what the “thing” is, or whether it’s cloud-managed or not. EVERY interface needs to show statistics and errors, and every thingy needs to show CPU and memory information. Whatever your argument to the contrary may be, I promise that you are wrong.
  • Frequent product name changes. Just stop already.
  • The same stinking model numbers used for everything. Why? Maybe someone has a 3 and 5 fetish out in Silly Valley. It’s confusing, it’s weird, and it’s weirdly confusing in it’s weirdness, which leaves me confused.
  • The notion that EVERYTHING to do with wireless must be monetized. After a while, we start to feel like pimps as opposed to WLAN admins. I get that vendors need to be creative with new revenue streams, but it can be carried to extremes when applied to the WLAN ecosystem.
  • Too many models. It seems like some vendors must be awarding bonuses to HW developers based on how many different versions of stuff they can turn out, but customers are left confused about what to use when and where and why versus the other thing down the page a bit. Variety is good, but massive variety is not.
  • Complexity. This might be news to some vendors: the ultimate goals in deploying your systems for both us and the end user are STABILITY and WELL-PERFORMING ACCESS. Somewhere, vendors have lost track of that, and they are delivering BLOATED and HYPER-COMPLICATED FRAMEWORKS that place a cornucopia of buggy features higher on the priority list than wireless that simply works as users expect it to.
  • Slow quote/support ticket turnaround. Most times when we ask for pricing or open a case with technical support, it’s because there is a need. As in, we need something. And our assumptions are that our needs will be fielded with some degree of urgency, as we’re all in the business of service at the end of the day. No one likes slow service. No one likes asking over, and over, and over, and over, and over if there are any updates to our need possibly getting addressed.
  • Escalation builds/engineering code bugs. At the WLAN professional level, most of us work off the assumption that if we don’t typically do our jobs right the first time, we may not get follow up work and ultimately may be unemployed. That’s kind of how we see the world. I’m guessing that WLAN code developers play by different rules. ‘Nough said.
  • Bad, deceitful specs. Integrity is what keeps many of us in the game as professionals. Our word is our bond, as they say. Can you imagine telling someone that you can deliver X, but then when they need X, you can actually only provide a fraction of X- and then expecting that person to not be pissed off? Why are networking specs any different? Enough truth-stretching and hyper-qualified performance claims that you have to call a product manager and sign an NDA to get the truth about.
  • Mixed messages. OK, we ALL own this one- not just the vendors. The examples are many- grand platitudes and declarations that might sound elegant and world-changing in our own minds, but then they often fizzle in the light of day. Things like…
    • We need mGig switches for 802.11ac! 
    • We’ll never need more than a Gig uplink for 802.11ac!
    • 2.4 GHz is dead!
    • Boy, there’s a lot of 2.4 GHz-only clients out there!
    • We’re Vendor X, and we’re enterprise-grade!
    • Why do I see Vendor X gear everywhere, mounted wrong and in nonsensical quantities for the situation?
    • That one agency is awesome at interoperability!
    • Why does so much of this stuff NOT interoperate?
    • You must be highly-skilled with $50K worth of licensed WLAN tools or your Wi-Fi will suck!
    • Vendor X sells more Wi-Fi than anyone, most people putting it in are obviously untrained, yet there are lots of happy clients on those networks!
    • Pfft- just put in one AP per classroom. Done!
    • Cloud Wi-Fi is a ripoff!
    • Cloud Wi-Fi saves me soooo much money and headaches!
    • Here’s MY version of “cloud!”
    • Here’s MY version of “cloud!”
    • I freakin hate how buggy this expensive gear is!
    • At least those bugs are numbered on a pretty table!

It goes on and on and on. Always has, always will. Behind the electronics that we bring to life and build systems from are We the People. The humanity involved pervades pretty much everything written here, from all sides and all angles. And I have no doubt that every vendor could write their own blog called “That Which Pisses Us Vendor Folk Off- WLAN Pro Edition”.  Touche on that.

Ah well- there’s still nothing I’d rather be doing for a living.

Will Reliability Be Prioritized Before Wi-Fi’s Whizzbang Future Gets Here?

This blog looks forward, but before we go there we need to zoom back to 1983 where I will corrupt John Mellencamp’s “Crumblin Down“:

Some features ain’t no damn good
You can’t trust ’em, you can’t love em
No good deed goes unpunished
And I don’t mind being their whipping boy
I’ve had that pleasure for years and years

Indeed. I too have had that pleasure for years and years. Whether it’s what comes out of mechanisms that are supposed to ensure that standards and interoperability testing bring harmony to the wireless world (but don’t), or code suck that flows like an avalanche coming down a mountain, I’ve been there and suffered that a-plenty. Somewhere during one of many wireless system malfunctions, the opening lyrics of “Crumblin’ Down” started blaring in my head, usually followed up Annie Lennox singing this line from 1992’s “Why”:

Why can’t you see this boat is sinking
(this boat is sinking this boat is sinking)

But enough of the musical ghosts trapped in my head, waiting to sing to me when the network breaks. We’re going forward, and as Timbuk3 sang in 1986- The future is so bright I gotta wear shades.

Maybe, maybe not on that.

Super-Systems Become Super-Terrific Systems

Soon, market-leading WLAN vendors will likely unveil grand strategies that finally bring real SDN kinda stuff to the Wi-Fi space. And just like the day is fast coming where you can’t just buy a simple RADIUS server from the same folks (you have to invest in a NAC system then simply NOT use the parts that aren’t RADIUS to get a RADIUS server), one day some Grand Orchestrator of All Networky Things will get it’s tentacles into our wireless access points and controllers and you might not have a say in that. (Some of this is already happening with specific vendors, but it’s all just warm-up for the big show, in my opinion.)

This magic in the middle will promise API-enabled everything network-wide, so provisioning and on-going operations on LAN and WLAN will be child’s play. The frameworks will have spiffy marketing names, and get pushed heavy as “where our customers should be going”.

Some of you are probably thinking “So what? This is evolution. Deal with it.” I’m down with that, to a point.

What If They Don’t Fix What’s Broke First?

I know well that I’m not alone in feeling a bit behind the 8-ball when it comes to our networking vendors. There are far too many code bugs impacting far too many components, end users, and networking teams. There’s also an entrenched culture that keeps chronically problematic operating systems alive when they should arguably be scrapped and the bug factories in full production.

I personally shudder to think what might happen if that grand vision for the future meets the Culture of Suck, and a whole new species of bug is unleashed on end users. Ideally, vendors would take a hard look at their code bases, their developers, and their cultures and ask if what’s in place today is worth rigging up a bunch of APIs to as part of The New Stuff.

As an end user, it terrifies me.

A House Built on Suck Can Not Stand

As a man-of-action-living-in-the-world, I’ve been around.  I’ve seen first-hand what happens during earthquakes to buildings and people when there are no rules governing building quality. I’ve seen carnage and devastation in multiple situations “out there” that all could have been prevented, and when I became Deputy Mayor of my village, I was able to appreciate what our Code Enforcement Officer does to keep people and buildings safe. Often it’s just curbing somebody’s foolish way of doing something.

As silly as it sounds, I’d love to see independent Code Enforcement Officers  for the network industry who enforce… well, code quality.  They would audit developers, their track records, and the pain inflicted on end users. Any vendor that gets too sloppy gets fined, or has to probably clean up their mess before they can keep developing. Like I said, I know how silly that sounds- but the current culture of poor Quality Assurance and protracted debug sessions at customer expense does not serve as a suitable foundation for the Super-Terrific Systems that are coming our way.

What’s really scary is that vendors tend to go all-in on these initiatives. It’s not like they leave a de-bloated, scalable option (key phrase) for those who don’t want all the Terrific Superness as they develop these monster frameworks of complex functionality.

I’d like to put on my sunglasses for the future of wireless, but if things aren’t cleaned up first for certain vendors, the current cloud over their wireless units is just going to get darker.

Doing “The Paperwork” – the CWNE Application

cwne2Life is full of paperwork. As kids, we drag home endless school forms for everything from permission to ride a different bus to graduation paperwork. We fill out mortgage forms, military enlistments, juror forms, and marriage licenses. Life is paperwork, and we get pretty desensitized to the simple act of putting words on paper and handing them off to whoever is supposed to get them.

But some paperwork is sweeter than others. Some is exciting, thrilling, and makes you feel damn good when you do it. I was recently privileged to fill out some of that GOOD paperwork when I applied for my Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE) certification.

I won’t go into how I studied, or recommend what you should do to get to the point where you’re able to apply- many of my excellent CWNE fellows have already done that. But what I want to share is what getting this far means to me. I can tell you that crossing the finish line absolutely will have different significance to each of you individually. I’ve seen some who are very discreet about their top-level certificates, and others who find a great sense of identity in them. Here’s where I am, now that I’ve taken the journey…

I’m older than some in the CWNE demographic. My CWNE won’t get me a better job with my current employer (I’m a wireless network architect and next step up is my boss), and I’m not looking to find another job. I’ve been doing wireless for longer than many folks reading this have been working any job. So why did I go after the CWNE?

Many moons ago, I had CWNA and CWSP when both were new. I went off to school for both, got certified, and used what I learned. I used THE HELL out of what I learned. That knowledge has contributed to the unqualified success of the many WLANs I have designed, administered, and troubleshot. “Old” CWNA and CWSP, combined with my other network experience, work ethic, skills learned in college and a 10-year Air Force career, got me to where I am today in my networking and Wi-Fi careers. But I got busy with many other things, and let both CWNA and CWSP expire, because they couldn’t “get me anything”, or so I thought. But the more I went to conferences, watched new products roll out with new features, and see one 802.11 standard give way to the next, I realized that I needed to get back to basics because those basics had changed since I learned them.

I do know A LOT about wireless networking. And technology-related politics. And reading situations and adjusting to them when one solution isn’t right for given circumstances. I’m doing good in my career but realized that I could be doing better, with more confidence.  I’ve been around the wireless world and back, but the ground under me had changed through the years- and THAT’s why I went back to CWNP and worked towards CWNE.

I did learn, and reinforce much of what I already knew, by going through CWNA, CWSP, CWDP, and CWAP (in that order). I was humbled when I failed CWAP the first time- I don’t fail tests. Ever. But I did this time, and studied that much harder to pass it the second go round.

Then when it was time to apply for CWNE, reading over the application and writing the required essays gave me time and reason to reflect. Yes, I proved my “book smarts” on the certification exams. But spotlighting my experience through the essays and required non-CWNP certs gave me insight into myself: I have actually earned the title of Expert. A lot of people rely on me to wear that hat and to properly discharge the duties that come with being an Expert. I was reminded of that as I wrote up my experiences and realized just how much I have accomplished so far in wireless. The CWNE process has formalized that recognition for me.

And it feels pretty  damn good.

Now here’s the rest of the story for those keeping score at home. Being an Expert is different from being a Know It All. Any one of us in the CWNE community can likely bubble up a topic or two they feel weak in, and have no shame in admitting to such. The day I have nothing left to learn will actually be depressing, because every day I pick up some new tidbit of wireless knowledge and look forward to that.

And now that I’m a CWNE, I have continuing education requirements for keeping the title that I’m rapidly coming to enjoy. CWNP recognizes that the WLAN world changes, so CE will help those of us with ANY level cert to stay fresh with what we know. And when I turn in my first CE paperwork, that will feel good in it’s own way, too.

 

 

Of Malfunctioning Boats and Wi-Fi Support

boats_230_odyssey_20742179I have an old power boat, and it has recently taught me a life lesson that very much applies to Wi-Fi support. Every boat should have a name, and this vessel is the Sweet Baboo. She’s a 22-foot Cuddy Cruiser, built in 1985. It’s powered by a 5.7L OMC motor (basically a Chevy 350). This is my first “real” boat, and it has humbled me… A boat like this is really just another vehicle to keep up, but it has mystique and mystery to the new boat owner and the passengers that ride on it, just like Wi-Fi often has mystique and mystery to many networkers and clients.

Just a bit more background, if you’ll indulge me. I consider myself a pretty good shade-tree mechanic, and I do everything I can on my vehicles when it comes to maintenance. I like to save money, and know HOW a job was done, in exchange for my time and skinned knuckles. But I do know my limits, and know when it’s time to get professional help.

Stay with me- I promise the Wi-Fi angle comes into play soon.

Something about being a new boat owner made me kind of silly. Every oddball problem this old boat has had seemed exotic somehow, until very recently. After all, every part on the thing is a “marine” component. It has a marine carburetor, a marine ignition system, a marine gearshift, etc. Which for a while made me think that somehow they were all forged by unicorns in Magic Marine Parts Land, and for whatever reason I’d get stupid when it came time to troubleshoot. I’ve seen Wi-Fi have the same effect on network troubleshooters… somehow everything they know about basic network troubleshooting goes out the window because Wi-Fi is also exotic and different.

Finally, working through one lingering, long-term headache I was able to get my boat mind right, and to draw parallels with Wi-Fi support.

I got through that problem, but I did some really knuckle-headed things along the way. I threw away money and time because my troubleshooting methods were not sound. I looked past “the basics”, and often got sparkly-eyed that my problem had to be some exotic marine thing, just like many people get sparkly-eyed and start dicking with controller settings, adding APs, and taking other fruitless steps to solve exotic Wi-Fi problems that often end up being not so exotic.

The boat problem? Well, Sweet Baboo would start nice, idle great, and run really well at low speed. Give her some gas to speed up this big beast, and the motor would stall or fall back to idle speed at 2,500 RPM every time. Put another way, I had crappy performance.

I went through the troubleshooting steps in the repair manual fairly diligently, but also (in retrospect) bit on many red herrings, hoping for an easy fix. But… even easy fixes can hide behind complex symptoms and pre-conceived notions. I fixated on “it’s GOTTA be this!” at least a half-dozen times after reading online user forums. In those user forums, I latched on to the sage advice of frequent-posters that seemed to be revered by the other folks in the forum. And it turns out they were wrong every time. Or rather, I wrongly applied their analysis to my situation because they seemed to know their stuff.

All the while, because this boat is an exotic marine craft, my brain refused to acknowledge that when I let myself apply sound troubleshooting techniques I have fixed a wide range of cars, computers, F-4 and A-10 aircraft, broken furniture, swimming pool pumps, blenders, and more over the course of my life. I wasn’t letting myself simply proceed as I would normally in the course of troubleshooting anything, because I had never worked on a real boat before. I made it into something it wasn’t, in my mind. I KNOW this happens in Wi-Fi support often.

I ended up needlessly replacing (or tearing into):

  • Every ignition component (some two or three times)
  • Fuel pump
  •  Carburetor
  • Shift cable
  • Electronic shift module
  • Throttle cable
  • Exhaust flapper valves
  • Fuel lines

I’m sure there were other things that I hosed up along the way, too. I broke things trying to fix things- but then again, I was dealing with an exotic marine situation so my buffoonery was OK, right? Well, no- it’s not OK. I’m somewhat embarrassed of my conduct, and I can’t describe the frustration I felt over two seasons of fighting this problem. But again, I have seen people approach wireless support in this same scattered, desperate way.

Anything and everything feels like a WIRELESS problem when you have a problem and happen to be using Wi-Fi. Those not trained or acclimated to the Layer 1 and Layer 2 implications of Wi-Fi can do really dumb, desperate, nonsensical things that they would NEVER do on wired networks. For some reason, we all have things that make us forget what we should know when we most need it. For me, it was this boat. For other folks, it’s troubleshooting Wi-Fi.

After replacing component after component, fiddling with this and adjusting that, I was SURE I had a bad carburetor. There was simply nothing else it could be. So I ordered a pricey replacement… and it changed nothing. Floundering around out in the middle of the lake after putting the new carb on the engine, I was livid. At me, at the boat, at the Boat Gods, and pretty much everyone and everything. I called my wife, and admitted defeat. I told her that we’d have to tow the pig off to a marine mechanic, and take our chances that we could find one that was reputable. But as I was limping the Baboo back to the dock, I had an epiphany. Two thoughts collided in my brain at the same time, and they would lead me to resolution.

I was filthy from repairs, hot from the sun, and pissed-off low-down feeling. I had dozens of hours, and at least a thousand mostly wasted dollars on this escapade. At my lowest, one part of my brain told me “Come on… you’re better than this.” And another asked “listen you schmuck, how would you approach a seemingly complicated wireless problem?” It might sound cheesy, but I was recharged. I pulled up at my dock with a plan. I WAS GOING BACK TO BASICS. This damn boat was the client, and I had a client problem. And it was a similar problem to hundreds of other boats/clients that I had read about online. The solutions were usually proven to be simple, and I empowered myself at that moment to start over, with simple in mind.

Early on in the troubleshooting process, I had pulled the fuel pick-up tube from the gas tank (a 60-gallon monster built into the floor of the boat). I had EXPECTED to find a filter screen at the bottom, but didn’t. Not knowing better, I assumed at that early point that there was no such filter on THIS boat. I was wrong- and simply looking closer at that pick-up tube a second time revealed that the filter was INSIDE the tube where you can’t see it. And it was gummed up with crud pretty good. It was letting enough gas into the system to allow for starting and low-speed operations, but was blocking the increased fuel needed at higher speeds. I had “looked” right at the problem before skipping over it because it didn’t match my assumptions, and at that fateful moment I also turned a simple fix (blow it out with compressed air and carb cleaner) into a two-season exercise in grasping at straws.

I’m not sure what specific analogy to make here to wireless troubleshooting, but I do know that THE ESSENCE of my boat problem and what happens when the unskilled or “blame the WLAN” types get involved with wireless performance problems are the same. Sometimes Wi-Fi doesn’t work because non-Wi-Fi components have faults, but if you lock on to blaming the APs or controller early on, you’ll often never find the issue. Assumptions, poor methodology, and not looking at the basics thoroughly and with an open mind can lead you down rabbit holes. It’s not fun when you do it to yourself, and I really should have known better after decades of honing my troubleshooting approaches.

Just like my boat really is not “exotic and mysterious”, neither is Wi-Fi. But to support either, you have to have the right mindset and not be afraid to just use good sense and thorough checks of the basics as you proceed.

But as I’ve just shown here, that is easier said than done- even for the best of us.

 

The Wirednot Memo to PR/Marketers

I’m pretty sensitive to the premise that all people have value, and everyone has their job to do. I also know that there are some jobs I couldn’t do well, and I respect people who can fill those roles. I’m no better than anyone else under the sun, and what I’m about to rant about.. well, it isn’t personal- it’s just business. I interact with a lot of marketing folks and PR types, and I’m really thankful (generally) for the information sharing that they do in the technology markets. At the same time, there are certain habits/tactics/styles/approaches that absolutely turn me off. Please- if you want to interact with me in any of my professional roles, then don’t use these methods to engage.

Calls to My Desk Phone. When I’m at work, I’m pretty darn busy. There is zero room or patience for phone calls that come out of the blue. Cold calls for me are irritating enough, but it gets worse. Often these are fishing expeditions; using my extension as a pivot point to find out who in the organization is actually responsible for some specific technology. Let me save you the trouble: I’m not telling, and any and all phone calls will be met (initially) with a polite “no thank you”.

Announcements That Joe Blow Changed Positions or Companies. There is not an exec out there that I could give two figs about when they change positions. If they change companies, get promoted, whatever- I don’t care, and don’t want to “know more about this exciting development”. No ego-stroking for me, and I don’t believe my readers care in the least.

Company X Did Something, Do You Want to Hear What Guy From Company Y Thinks About It? Um… no.

The Follow-Up to Emails I Didn’t Respond to. “Lee, I wanted to follow up on my earlier email… the one that you didn’t answer. Will you reply now? Or now? Or… NOW?”

No. No. And no.

The Follow-Up to “My Colleague’s” Email. “Lee, I notice that you didn’t reply to that other person’s email. So maybe if I hound you on the same topic, you’ll reply.”

Nope. Please don’t do this. Now I’m irritated by you AND your colleague.

Naming Your Time As Your First Interaction With Me. “Sure, I don’t know you but this thing is so compelling I want to talk to you today. Is 1 PM good? Or Wednesday at 2?” Actually, no time is good because you lost me.

Telling Me My Response is RequiredWhether it’s for a survey or a sales pitch, don’t nobody own Wirednot. My response isn’t required, because your idea of a requirement and mine are very different.

Contextless Performance Claims.  If you come to me with claims of whatever you’re marketing being 10X better or 50X faster or whatever, you’ll find zero interest. These are over-generalized gimmicky statements without context, and they are off-putting.

The “Would You Like to Review This Product?” Pitch- With No Follow Up. So, you’ve asked me if I’d like to review some gadget. I say yes, I would. Then you don’t reply. Six months later, new gadget, same pitch, same cycle of not responding. Two strikes and you’re in my junk mail.

Botching My Name. “Dear Badman”. “Dear FirstName”. “Dear <Potential customer first name>”. “Dear Mary”.  Oh dear. Just go away. Enjoy wallowing in my junk email folder.

Threatening to Cut Me Off- Follow Through, Already! “This MAY be the last email you get from us if you don’t respond to our marketing…” I’ve been naughty and need to be punished. Stop sending me these emails, and teach me my lesson already, I beg of you.

And there you have it. I don’t claim to speak for all busy networking professionals and analyst/writers, just me. These are the PR and marketing techniques that shut me right down, and completely kill my interest in ever learning more from the those on the sending end.

For those reading, am I off-base here? And are there other examples that rub you the wrong way?

Mobility Field Day: Glimpsing a Complex Wi-Fi Future

          Take me home mamma, and put me to bed. I have seen enough to know that
I have seen too much.
                      (Announcer in “League of Their Own”)

Depending on where you are on your WLAN career arc, what I’m about to say may or may not make you a bit uncomfortable. That’s not my goal, but there are some complicated times a-coming, my friends. I’m writing this just a few days after I wrapped up participating in Mobility Field Day 1, and you can’t help but leave the typical wireless Field Day  event feeling like you’ve looked directly into the future of the WLAN industry a bit.

I’ve been known to throw out lofty observations like “Wireless Is So Not About Wireless Networking Anymore.” Then there was my white-hot Napkin Drawing. Even when I’m in the thick of doing wireless, I can’t help but zoom out to 10,000 feet and try to see the Big Picture of Wi-Fi. That big picture has certainly changed since the early days of 802.11, and you could say that my journey is really just riding the evolution of wireless networking such as it is. What I saw at Mobility Field Day is more evolution, and a few years from now we’ll look back at and think “yeah, that was cool… but not SO BIG of a deal in retrospect.”

Yet, in the here and now, things that are coming our way ARE big deals. They are still new, unfamiliar, thrilling, cool, and need to be learned and assimilated into our daily Wi-Fi Pro mindsets. Here’s a few “Wow Topics” that jumped out at me during MFD:

  • Ventev’s Street Furniture Wi-Fi As demands for wireless networking become more pervasive far and wide, the question of “so, how do we put it THERE?” gets asked a lot. Ventev has a really interesting line of outdoor antenna solutions coming out later in the year, as shown in the linked video.
  • Nyansa’s Voyance cloud-enabled analytics. The intro and overview to this fascinating and innovative approach to analytics, support and Wi-Fi troubleshooting is here. The demonstration and accompanying discussion is here. Watch for more coverage of this interesting startup, and it stands to reason that others are likely to follow the example of cloud-enabled multi-site data correlation as Nyansa’s baby gets exposure and customers.
  • Cisco Connected Mobile Experience (CMX) Cloud version. There is just sooooo much to CMX and so many different applications. I love that some of the complexity is moving to the cloud (please, God- let Prime Infrastructure go there too, soon). Video is here.  Cisco also wowed with a presentation on Flexible Intelligent RadiosWatch this video, and you’ll agree that things are getting pretty complicated in WLAN land.

Also in the bucket labeled Really Cool, and Quite Different: had a great session with Google on their OnHub approach to consumer Wi-Fi (it would also be at home on Star Trek), and Aruba Networks’ Chuck Lukaszewski talked more on 802.11ax- which may well be the most disruptive and complex standard of our careers (for many of us) when it gets here.

It was an exciting week, and I’ve just tipped the iceberg here. And like I said… these discussions show just how exciting the short future is in many directions for our Wi-Fi world.

Click the logo for all the Mobility Field Day 1 goodness.

MFD-Logo-150x150

Extreme Networks Makes the Case for 802.11ac Wave 2

With Wi-Fi technology constantly improving, it’s easy to stop paying attention to what incredible things are really happening for WLAN users. And incredible things are happening. With the arrival of 802.11ac’s Wave 2, we see new wheels put into motion for wireless users, and paths that the wireless industry had started down being turned into legitimate highways. 802.11ac Wave 2 is big news, and businesses are benefiting from its transformative nature, as over-viewed in a new eBook published by Extreme Networks.

As a wireless architect who builds WLAN environments of all sizes, I see first-hand how modern Wi-Fi enables new workflows and allows businesses to re-invent their processes as wired Ethernet gets pushed increasingly to the margins. Wireless connectivity has become the access method of choice for a huge swath of the business world, and Wave 2 is very persuasive to those who haven’t cut the cord yet. As highlighted by Extreme, it’s not just about signal coverage- or even speed- any more with enterprise Wi-Fi. Wave 2 also brings impressive capacity that further makes the case that businesses truly can run their operations over well-designed wireless networks, while enjoying the benefits of portability and mobility. With data rates topping 1.7 Gbps in ideal conditions, wireless traffic is forwarded with great efficiency in Wave 2 environments.

Extreme’s eBook makes the point that Wave 2 delivers a number of new or improved technologies, and these get even legacy client devices on and off the network quicker. Wi-Fi is still a shared medium, but that notion is getting blurred a bit with Wave 2, for everyone’s benefit. Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) is rightfully getting its share of media coverage, as for the first time we have the capability for a single access point to service multiple clients simultaneously. Like with Wave 2’s impressive top-end for data rates, there are many factors that have to line up for MU-MIMO to live up to its capabilities at any given instant. But even though it may not be leveraged for every client and every transmitted frame given the variability of wireless, there’s no disputing the aggregate performance gains to be had by MU-MIMO. It really is exciting stuff, even to those of us who have seen it all when it comes to WI-Fi.

As businesses of all types consider whether Wave 2 is worth upgrading to, Extreme makes some good points. With more delivered network performance per AP, even for older non-802.11ac client devices, properly designed Wave 2 environments can significantly up the return on investment for the same spend as 11ac Wave 1 or 11n, if you negotiate your discounts right. If you’re sitting on an 11a/g or even early 11n network, making the jump to Wave 2 may be easy if your cabling plant and switches are up to date. Even if they’re not, it’s not uncommon to find that when planning for a new high-end wireless network, you can decrease your wired Ethernet expenditures as you make the jump. Everyone has their own OpEx/CapEx/TCO paradigm to define and muddle through, but Extreme gives pretty good food for thought in their eBook as you wrestle with your own situation.

Yes, Wave 2 has a business story to tell. Efficiency, performance, more-for-the-money, and so on- yes, those are all valid and noteworthy. But the Wave 2 story is also exciting at the user level. BYOD is an established fact of life, and in reality it’s more like Bring Your Own Many Devices for most of us. Our users have a slew of devices of various types and purpose, and 11ac Wave 2 helps with the overall Quality of Experience. Better cells are a tremendous asset to the end user, especially when those cells can self-leverage their best qualities for different device types.

Just remember that Wave 2 isn’t a design, or a deployment scenario. It’s a really awesome technology to be used to solve business problems and to facilitate business operations. As Extreme points out, Wave 2 is part of a bigger technology evolution story that features not just better Wi-Fi, but also switching developed just for 11ac, new analytics capabilities, improved security options, the Internet of Things, and (depending on your needs) impressive SDN and cloud tie-ins. Nothing under the network sun evolves in a vacuum, and Wave 2 fits very well with other advanced enterprise developments. Whether it makes sense for you to consider the move to Wave 2 is ultimately your call (and you’ll like get there at some point anyway). Extreme’s eBook on 802.11ac Wave 2 is an easy read, and does a pretty good job of telling the story of Wave 2 from a few different important angles.


 

FTC-required disclosure: I was compensated to review and comment on the 802.11ac Wave 2 eBook referenced in this blog, by PR company Racepoint Global. I have no direct business relationship with Extreme Networks, and in no way claim to be an Extreme Networks customer or representative of Extreme Networks.