Arista Networks/Mojo- It’s Waaay Early

As I listen to Arista Networks present at Mobility Field Day 3 on their Mojo Networks integration (post recent acquisition) I can’t help but think “wow, this cake is just starting to bake”. There is no negativity intended, but I think We the Delegates probably expected a lot more certainty about where this might all be going since Arista decided to add WLAN to it’s portfolio.

We did see Arista’s CloudVision topology with a Mojo Network’s C-130 access point, which is the sort of visual that I/we expected to see more of. Beyond that, most of the discussion was about cloud advantages and high-level network constructs, and general coverage of system monitoring and performance assurance, analytics, etc.

The presenters seemed to want to skip past the natural curiosity about what the sausage will look like as Mojo and Arista fuse into whatever comes next, and go right to general coverage of Mojo system behavior and features as if the wireless part was still in its own bubble. It wasn’t bad information, it just felt a little off kilter and maybe ignoring an elephant in the room (that really didn’t have to be an elephant if Arista had been smoother in talking up front about both where they are and what they are thinking on the two product sets). I’m not sure why those of us in attendance had to draw what little we learned about what might come of the two systems possibly integrating, rather than just a good intro to the topic. But maybe that’s just me…

Arista still is talking about “Cognitive WiFi”, which is Mojo’s calling card, so it seems like the essence of the old will prevail in the new. Beyond that, I’m not sure if I gained anymore insight into what this new Arista/Mojo paradigm will feel like. I have no doubt there is a lot going on here, with really talented tech folks that will evolve all this into something interesting called the Cognitive Campus that will compete with Cisco, Aruba, Mist, and the rest of the pack.

Hopefully we see Arista back for Mobility Field Day 4, as the story will no doubt be better fleshed out by then.

Management Frame Detection?

My esteemed pal Sam Clements put together an excellent, EXCELLENT wish list for Mobility Field Day 3. And he smells nice.

SC-WiFi

Nope! But MFD does stand for something even more exciting! Mobility Field Day (3!) is just around the corner! As a long time delegate with a few minutes to burn on the family PTO trip, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the upcoming event. As you can see from the Tech Field Day page there are tons of great sponsors lined up. Here is my take on the coming week, the sponsors strengths, weaknesses, and what I’d like to see. In order of presentation:

Arista (http://techfieldday.com/companies/arista-networks/, @AristaNetworks)

Arista has made a splash in the Wi-Fi space with their recent acquisition of Mojo Networks (nee: AirTight). I’m happy to see Mojo get scooped up, especially in the ever diminishing landscape of infrastructure providers especially since they have a strong story about ‘hardware agnostic’ solutions. Their story since the AirTight days has been one of open platforms and this…

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Contemplating Mist Systems and Mobility Field Day 3

Spare a little candle
Save some light for me
Figures up ahead
Moving in the trees
WiFi, and buzzwords 
Tend to make me pissed
And the full moon that hangs over
These dreams in the mist

(Sincere apologies to Heart for butchering the very beautiful “These Dreams”)

In a couple few weeks I’ll be taking my cocky New York swagger out west for Mobility Field Day 3. There’s an awesome vendor lineup this year featuring Arista (who will no doubt be talking about their acquisition of Mojo Networks), Aruba, Cisco, Fortinet, Mist Systems, Netscout, and Nyansa. (Shame on you Ubiquiti- you ought to be here by now). With this mix, the overall content is going to be diverse, interesting, and inevitably peppered with A LOT of marketing fufu. Which is fine- each vendor gets to tell their story their own way, and marketing is foundational to the story. Okey dokey there.

But hopefully, we also get a good balance of substance. On that topic…

Mist1I’ve been privileged in being a frequent delegate at these events, and I did see Mist’s presentations at last year’s MFD 2.  In the year since then, I’ve been wooed with a lot of Mist mass-mailings and such, with running themes that CONTROLLERS ARE OBSOLETE and AI AI AI AI AI AI AI AI AI AI AI (we get it already). But on the subject of AI (along with Data Science and Machine Learning and whatever else is in that particular bag), I kinda hope Mist Systems ratchets the buzzy-factor down somewhat for MFD 3.

The industry is awash in promises of AI-fueled awesomeness that will SOLVE ALL OF YOUR PROBLEMS JUST BUY INTO OUR PERPETUAL EXPENSIVE LICENSING! to the point where it all sounds the same, regardless of who is saying it.

Mist may even be the real AI deal in a field of posers, but from where I sit it’s time for less shizzle and more of this sort of dialogue:

  • Does Mist Systems still consider itself a start-up?
  • Is Mist deployed widely enough at large customers (single site and distributed) where it can be trusted not to be a buggy OS over time? (I’m looking at you, AireOS.)
  • Is Mist following others in the industry down the Gouging as a Service licensing path?
  • What do microservices practically mean now to the Mist-interested? A year from now? Three years from now?
  • Mist has very few AP models- is this an advantage or a liability? Will there be more .llac APs or is .ax the next round for additional models? No wallplate APs?
  • Will Mist join the “rush it out the door” movement for early .11ax, and what does .11ax mean to customers when coupled with AI and all the buzzy stuff?
  • If I contemplate moving from a very large WLAN built on the likes of CAPWAP with a single VLAN to each AP from their connected switches, how much L2 work am in for in migrating to Mist?
  • How do we truly measure Mist TCO versus the other guys? What if we don’t want the vBLE thing? Do you pay for that anyways?

In other words- I get the AI pitch. Now let’s talk field-level nitty-gritty. Maybe less sales-pitch, and more of the stuff that real-world new deployments- and more importantly, converts and potential converts- would face.
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Do you have questions you’d like asked at MFD? Remember to hit up any of the delegates (generally Twitter works, or whatever your method of choice is) to have your inquiry relayed to the vendors during the live sessions.

 

 

Another Example of How Important Wire is to Wireless

A house built on a shaky foundation cannot endure. And a WLAN built on a shaky wiring foundation likewise cannot endure, I tellya. My friends, is your foundation shaky? Is it? CHECK YOUR FOUNDATION NOW. (I happen to sell foundation-strengthening herbal supplements on the side, if you need that sort of thing…)

I’ve long been a proponent of recognizing installed UTP as a vital component in the networking ecosystem. Too many people take Layer 1 for granted, and forgivable sins of of our 10 Mbps and Fast Ethernet pasts won’t fly in a Gig world. Toolmakers like Fluke Networks sell cable certification testers that take the guesswork out of whether a given cable run can be relied on to perform as expected. Don’t use one of these testers at time of cable installation, and you are only assuming you have a good station cable.

I just had an interesting situation come up that I helped a very skilled field tech with. He was working in several different small buildings, each serviced by a Cisco Catalyst Switch and a handful of 3802 802.11ac access points. The switches and cable had been in place for years, and the APs for many months, all with no issues whatsoever.

Then, we changed out the old 3560X switches for shiny new 3650s (curse you Cisco for your bizarre fascination with part numbers so close together), and suddenly some APs weren’t working any more. Between us, we checked all switch settings, POST reports, CDP tables, logs, etc- everything you can dream up on the switch. We put the APs that weren’t working back on the old switches, and they came right up. Hmmm… thoughts turned to PoE/code bugs, but then I went a-Googlin’ before consulting TAC.

I found this document that put me on the path to righteousness. Though we weren’t having “PoE Imax Errors”, a couple of nuggets jumped out at me about our new switches.

PoE Imax

Holy guacamole- We got us a situation! But wait… THERE’S MORE!

PoE Imax2

Shazam! Which, of course, translates in Esperanto to “maybe your cable is actually kind of iffy, and all the CDP stuff that happens at the milliwatt level before PoE gets delivered worked OK with your old switch but not with the new one that has the enhanced PoE controller”.

If you don’t know that the newer switch does PoE differently, you might wrongly assume that your cabling is “good” because the APs worked on it when those APs used the old switches connected to that wiring. By now, you can probably guess where I’m headed…

Our tech tested the cabling on the new-switch-problem APs and in each case found that they needed help to work with the new switch. He re-terminated and tested each, with the APs then coming up with no issues. I have no doubt that this cable was certified 10-12 years ago, but in that time a lot can happen to either end of those cables depending on the environments where they are used.

Live and learn!

 

 

WLAN Security- Attack Yourself to Stay Sharp

Back in February of this year, I ran a “Deep Dive” session at the WLAN Professional’s Conference. The session description:
WLPC18sessionThis session was well-attended, and we had a lot of fun getting through a number of attacks. Since then, I’ve had a few occasions to break out the Pineapple again. Just the other day I was monkeying with something…

Pine3

Which inspired me to put together a blog at my OTHER site, IT Toolbox. Have a look here and see if you agree that hacking yourself once in a while is a prudent thing to do.

 

A Brief But Deep Glimpse Into the Drone Industry Proper

When opportunity knocks, you answer the door. Have a look at this invite:
precision3

Yup. I can do that… he said with his ‘lil heart all a-flutter. I’ve been following the evolution of commercial drone use (and generally all things under the drone sun) for a while now. I’ve written about drones as productivity tools, drones as network security threats, and even drones as a defense against the poaching of elephants. I have my own drones, and am an FAA-licensed Part 107 Remote Pilot.

You could kinda say that I’m into it- like all of it- when it comes to drones. I just find the entire paradigm incredibly fascinating, from benefits to concerns, and from politics to the tech side of it. So when a company like PrecisionHawk wants to talk, I definitely make the time.

Pat Lohman is one of the VPs at PrecisionHawk, and was an absolute gentleman in fielding my questions and lending his insider perspective, and we covered a lot of ground. As a company, PrecisionHawk will certainly sell you drones and high-end sensors. But Lohman educated me on the company’s role as an integrator who provides really powerful analysis for a number of verticals, including agriculture, construction, energy, insurance, and government.

precision2

We talked about the specific cases that come with tower sites. It’s easy to sum it all up with “aerial inspection”, but that completely does a disservice to what’s really in play with PrecisionHawk’s services. Before tower construction, highly accurate land surveying is done from the air. Through tower construction, periodic inspections help ensure that the tower is being built right (and after-the-fact inspections for already-built towers reveal construction mistakes that can be dangerous or that work against the structure’s purpose). Once the tower is built, a range of services become relevant.

Picture 3D-mapping of a tower, and everything on it displayed with precise 3D point clouds (see this video primer on 3D point clouds from Vectorworks.) Now lets add in some of that analysis that is PrecisionHawk’s bread-and-butter: a given antenna on the tower is supposed to have a specific orientation to deliver the coverage it was installed to provide. That orientation is determined to be off a couple of degrees, and through various integrations with end customers’ support systems, an alert is generated and a truck gets rolled to adjust the antenna. “Value” takes on a lot of dimensions here, and Lohman stresses that PrecisionHawk is in the business of creating value. That doesn’t just happen because drones are in the air gathering data, but rather as a result of the sophisticated science that happens with that data. The real magic comes after the data collection and mapping is done, and the analytics kick in.

The most value comes from sound, streamlined processes that get the drones up and back down, crunch the data, and provide actionable intel. That’s what PrecisionHawk specializes in.

We spoke of different use cases and where the majority of time gets spent on each. For example, photo and video work is mostly all flying time, while sensor-based work is far more intensive in post processing, after the drones are back on the ground.

Lohman was most accommodating as I jumped around topics. We spoke of how the high and low ends of the drone device space are blurring, and how DJI pretty much owns the space at this point. I asked what impact the “no Chinese drones allowed” regulations have on PrecionHawk’s work with government agencies, and Lohman explained how the company will integrate any platform’s data, but the cost to do one-offs is more because of the added work involved when you get away from the mainstream DJI-type inputs. he was also clear in stressing that the drone itself is secondary in importance to the data it brings home.

I asked if fixed-wing drones have advantages over rotary crafts in different situations, and Lohman patiently gave me a quick history of fixed-wings having their start in agriculture because they could stay up longer when covering huge swaths of land, and how cell sites and structure inspection require the agility of the copters. Lohman also expects more hybrids- drones that can fly with fixed wings but vertically take off and land- to gain mass adoption.

We talked about what sensors see the most action. Here it’s still *mostly* visual missions flown, but thermal inspections are growing, and multi-spectral sensors are a key part of agricultural drone ops. LIDAR is the at the high end of expense when it comes to sensors, and you may pay upwards of $200K for LIDAR. That’s a big pricetag, but this is technology that not so long ago cost in the millions and was reserved for military use.

Finally, we bantered a little about the current fragmented nature of airspace regulation relating to drones (the current mismash of rules between the FAA and local governmental agencies is unsustainable), educational opportunities around unmanned aerial systems at schools like Embry-Riddle and Kansas State, and up-and-coming advocacy groups that seek to improve the commercial drone industry’s standing in a number of fronts. These include the Small UAV Coalition and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), and even Droners.io which is owned by PrecisionHawk and is a framework that gets a growing number of independent licensed drone pilots (like me) work- with common training, ground rules, approach, and respectable pay.

 

 

 

A New Way of Measuring Network Uptime

So, I think the whole “five nines” thing has run it’s course. I’m trying to figure out how to write a dashboard that measures network uptime in “Ordinary World” video by Duran Duran.

We know that the video runs 4:40, or 280 seconds. We also know that in an hour, with no ads, we can watch it almost 13 times (12.86 times to be exact). Which means we lose .14 x 4:40, or 39.2 seconds off the end of the video. That puts you about here when the hour is up:ordinary1

Which happens to be where Simon breaks out an awesome falsetto

Every wooooooorld is my wooooorld
I will learn to survive

Epic. Man, that guy could sing the DHCP RFC and I’d get weak in the knees. But back to the important stuff.

Given that we get 12.86 OWU (Ordinary World Units) in an hour, we can extrapolate the following baseline metrics:

– 308.56 OWU in a day
– 2,160.48 OWU/week
– 112,344 OWU/year

That’s going to be pretty pivotal information when the other network monitoring tools switch over to Ordinary World Units, I’m pretty sure. Granted, I’m struggling with how this will all play out, but it will be along the lines of:

Check your uptime at some interval. Let’s say you were in “Day View” at 8:30 AM. For 100% uptime, that would be as many Ordinary World loops as fit in 30,600 seconds (8.5 hours starting at midnight. The data science behind it would be:

30,600/280(1) squared, then take the square root. That gives you 109.29 OWU, and puts you right about here in the video:

ordinary2

Sure- this one doesn’t look like much. But neither does some stupid line chart with time hacks on it’s cold X and Y axises. In this screen grab, we actually see a pivotal visual transition that combines with a fleeting music-only audio period that leads into

What has happened to it all?
Crazy someone say

BUT- that would be with 100% uptime! Let’s say we lost thirty seconds to an inadvertent jiggle of a fiber uplink. Now, we’d be actually be back here, at 109.18 OWU:

ordinary3

So you can see we’re 1000 ms into the video, where the mystery lady *maybe* is marrying the dorky guy? Or is he just a friend or maybe a family member? And is she even getting married, or just strolling around the gardens showing off her shoulders and jaunty hat while the band members lurk around looking both fashionable and slightly creepy? IT DOESN’T MATTER- YOU HAD 30 SECONDS OF DOWNTIME AND THIS CONFIRMS IT.

(There are no lyrics here at this point in the video, only the infectious interplay between John’s guitar and Roger’s, with a hint of Nick’s keyboards to tickle the back corner of your mind.)

Hopefully you can see the methodology here and how it’s extensible nature makes it scalable for any network. Again, I’m not quite dialed in on the details of the entire framework, but can already see where maybe this could port over to Billy Idol HIC (Hot in the City) Units, as an alternative protocol offering

As I finish working through the AI (and hyper complex licensing) behind this disruptive technology in network metrics, I’m also developing training materials as I expect a fairly high demand early after it goes public.

One snippet from the certification exam:ordinary4

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And with this bit of stupidity in the can, I’m off to vacation, baby!