Tag Archives: 802.11ac

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. 

Want Great Wi-Fi? Good Luck With That

It ought to be sooooo easy to achieve great Wi-Fi these days. All the makings are there, right? We got the promise of “Gigabit Wireless” and an endless pipeline of screamin’, smokin’ WLAN hardware. Just take a looksee:

ASUS

Man, that all sounds really nice. Then there’s this:

Xirrus fast

Wowsers, that’s fast. And there are plenty of other fast wireless access points out there from every vendor under the sun, and at every price point. The good times are a’ rolling. All you have to do is spend some money, hang up one of these rocket ships, and bask in the glow of Gigabit Wireless connecting your iPad to Netflix at breakneck speeds. Woo woo!

Yeah, right. If only it were that simple.

The truth is, you may NEVER have this kind of great Wi-Fi. Get used to it. The lofty numbers you see on anyone’s glossy are pretty much out of your reach, and there is not thing one that you can do about it, Bucko. Now let’s talk about why.

If great Wi-Fi is defined by the promise of gigantic, outsized throughput numbers, it’s pretty much screwed before product ships. Why? Because most products that do ship tend to end up in The Real World, which happens to be a pretty cruel place for Wi-Fi signals. Even common sense factors that ought to add up to great Wi-Fi frequently don’t… including:

  • Strong Signal
  • Lots of APs
  • 802.11ac
  • Expensive gear with huge specs
  • Professional surveys and installations

It turns out that strong signals can be deceiving (take the ‘a’ and ‘r’ out of bars and you get closer to the truth on signal strength widgets…). You might have a bucket full of signal showing in your client indicator, but a lot of it could be performance-sucking noise or interference in the mix. Or it could truly be great signal, bolted up to a crappy LAN or tiny Internet pipe (say hello to Mr. Bottleneck) which makes the Wi-Fi feel slow.

Lots of APs carefully laid out and functionally coordinated in a High Density environment can be a good thing. Lots of APs without coordination, like from neighboring WLANs can be a disaster. Here we have interference of various sorts, and even rogue devices and Man-in-the-Middle attackers when the environment is AP-fat but untended.

Just because an investment is made in 802.11ac, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll get anywhere near the vendor’s performance promises. A laundry list of parameters has to click before those big numbers are possible (client type and config, spectral cleanliness, no other clients competing for AP, proximity to AP, uplink quality, LAN quality, all can be contributing factors) and chances are you’ll rarely ever come close to what the hype promises.

I’m a firm believer in the adage “you usually get what you pay for” and expensive gear typically fetches a premium because it’s better made with beefier resources (CPU, memory, radio technology, physical construct, feature sets) than the cheaper competition. But even the best gear can’t overcome the laws of physics when the RF space is hostile, and can’t make the WLAN perform any better if your core services like DHCP, NAT, DNS, and routing are flaky.  Then there’s that pesky ISP connection thing again… your “Gigabit Wi-Fi” (which happens to still be half-duplex so a Gig ain’t a Gig to begin with) might be peppy on the local network, but it becomes a 10 Mbps connection if you’re heading off to the Internet on an ISP connection of that size.

Then there’s the critical professional survey and WLAN design. There are absolute advantages to having a professional originate the WLAN design for a business network. But I can design you the prettiest WLAN in the land yet have it’s performance undermined by bad operational policy, an over-zealous NAC system, crappy code, or some new consumer-grade cheesewhiz client that you insist on providing access to.

By now, you get the point- there are a lot of detractors from “great” Wi-Fi. But it does get even worse… with every new kick-ass, performance-promising Wi-Fi standard, we also have a culture of backwards compatibility and unstructured feature sets. Wireless gadgets from 2001 MUST be accommodated on even the latest gear, and BYOD and IoT bring a flood of odd-ball, often ill-conceived consumer-grade gadgetry to the business WLAN that knock the life out of potentially great Wi-Fi. This trend is only getting worse, with no end in sight.

Enough of the Gloom! All is not lost.

Are you sufficiently bummed out yet? Truth be told, little that I’m whining about here is new under the Wi-Fi sun. It’s just that wireless is getting ever more pervasive, and so the deficiencies in the WLAN paradigm that have always been there are magnified- especially as we see promised top-end speeds that approach fairy-tale quality. I offer that great Wi-Fi has little to do with achieving those lofty throughputs, and is actually about a solid experience that works well for end users and results in very, very few trouble tickets.

To get to THIS definition of great Wi-Fi, where things just work so well that users could give a fig what their actual data rates are, you have to look at any environment holistically. Solid WLAN needs excellent design, but also excellent LAN and core services, and a decent pipe to the Internet. Good policy, systematic onboarding, and client education are the icing on the cake. However an individual environment shakes out, great Wi-Fi is as much a well managed state of being as it is an exercise in big numbers.


Please note: Andrew von Nagey is running a very quick survey on WLAN Vendor Selection Criteria through the end of July. Please consider contributing, and sharing what is important to you when WLAN shopping. Thanks!

802.11ac Is A Big Fat Pack of Lies

We’ve been hoodwinked. They snookered us. The wool has done been pulled over our eyes. Ah yes, the snake oil convention came to town, and we all went in the big tent and bought us some. But who could blame us for getting all sparkly-eyed when you breathe in the aroma of those fat numbers promised by 802.11ac? It’s intoxicating stuff, this getting-ever-faster Wi-Fi. But alas… it’s also fraudulent promises, broken hearts, and “Ha! Made you look!” all put in a shit sandwich that we’re willingly nibbling on.

OK- so maybe it’s not quite that bad. But it’s safe to say that with 802.11ac, and even 802.11n, the standards-authors are writing certain checks that the Bank of Reality just can’t cash, despite the giddy marketing folks’ best efforts to convince us otherwise.

Have I bummed you out yet? You might be wondering what could put an upbeat, good-looking fella like myself in this sort of funk. Well, I’ll tell you what sir (or madame)… I just read me an excellent- and I mean excellent- whitepaper from the very smart folks at 7signal, titled 802.11ac Migration: Real World Best Practices. I should have saw what was coming with the subtitle “Learn what vendors won’t tell about 11ac performance in real-world deployments”. Here’s the kicker: there’s nothing really new here, per se. But the cold hard facts of what a given standard “supports” versus what reality allows are presented extremely eloquently in this document. Ideally, it would be required reading for WLAN vendor marketing departments and technical managers and execs not familiar with such things.

7sigpaper
(
Download here)

I won’t give it all away, but here are a few teases:

  • We never did get to the top-end of 802.11n’s promised 600 Mbps data rates, and it’s highly doubtful we’ll recognize 11ac’s hyped 6.7 Gbps either
  • 256 QAM is awesome- if you’re standing close to an AP or have one in your pocket
  • Channel bonding is the stuff of high data rates… but you’re probably expecting too much out of this feature
  • Despite rapid adoption of 11ac, what we’ll see out of it in terms of big, impressive performance numbers will be a mere fraction of what hype tells us to expect
  • There are several other depressing little nuggets

Get the document, read it, and share it. It really is well written and injects a needed dose of reality to the 11ac buzz.

At the same time, don’t be as pissy as I’m making myself out to be in this blog (I’m a writer, and this is called creative license for those of you watching at home). 11ac is still moving the Wi-Fi cheese deeper into the 5 GHz spectrum, which is a huge gain for the greater wireless good. And…we’re still getting better rate-over-range with 11ac versus 11n, and with Ruckus breaking the ice on Wave 2, we’re getting into 4×4 APs with MU-MIMO (though 7signal deflates the MU-MIMO bluster a bit as well in the whitepaper). 

So maybe 11ac isn’t really a big fat pack of lies… perhaps it’s more like a series of Brian Williams-style “embellishments”.  But the truth here does matter for managing expectations, and that’s the point of 7signal’s excellent document.

Starting 2015 With No More Clarity On 802.11ac Wiring Than 2014

Wireless networking has never been an arena for absolutes. There’s always wiggle room, a list of exceptions, and the “under lab conditions, but will be different in your environment” factor. To the uninitiated, it can sound like we’re either trying to make excuses or that we suffer from the inability to commit when we can’t promise discreet quantity (35 users should all get 12 Mbps at 75 feet from this access point, unless any one of these very likely things is in play…). To our our fellow Wi-Fi professionals, this frequent moving tartgetism is just a way of life that we both accept and pride ourselves on being able to bring order from as we ply our craft. The wireless half of WLAN has always been fraught with permutation, but prior to 11ac, the wired uplink was straightforward. Now that we’re well into 11ac’s tenure, we’re finding that even the notion of planning for getting APs connected to switches has gotten potentially confusing- and the WLAN industry isn’t exactly helping itself in this regard.

The Confusion Is Understandable To A Point

Where managers and non-techie money folks are trying to plan for future WLAN expenditures, you can appreciate the assumption that big, big capacity uplinks might be needed for a new wireless standard that promises to around 7 Gbps. Forget about the “data rate versus real throughput” paradigm for a minute- 7 Gbps is data center-grade connectivity in the minds of many, and so it’s no surprise that people map available Ethernet speeds to what it would take to support the promise of 11ac. Remember here that 802.11ac, as with 11n before it, is WAY OVERMARKETED as ambitious glossy goes right to the we-may-never-get-there high end of the standard. Under that lens, and combined with innocent ignorance of the nuances of real-world wireless, you can sympathize with those who think “hmmm, 100 Mbps ain’t gonna cut it. And standard Gig ports are way too slow. We better plan for 10 Gbps per AP.”

Thankfully, this incorrect conclusion is fairly easy to walk ’em back from.

After Ruling Out 10 Gbps Uplinks, It Gets Uglier

So we get past the point where 10 Gbps is being chatted up for AP uplinks, and we get closer to reality. But in this case, reality seems to be in the eye of the beholder, and there are lots of beholders with their own realities. Unfortunately, they also happen to be many of the same folks that customers turn to for technical guidance in these issues. Right now, about all you can safely say is that the WLAN industry agrees that for 11ac, 100 Mbps uplnks are too slow and 10 Gbps uplinks aren’t needed. Beyond this, it’s pretty wild and woolly. Different though leaders have different opinions, and as bizarre as it seems, they all sound viable. Oy vay.

The short version: given all of the variables of the contemporary complex business Wi-Fi setting, many environments won’t be able to achieve aggregate demand of 1 Gbps or higher even on the latest 11ac hardware. Or maybe they will. But they won’t, and you can count on that. Except where you can’t. So all you need is a a 1 Gbps uplink. But you better run two cables. And burn two switchports. But you don’t need to. And because 1 Gbps won’t be enough (or will it?), a new class of switches is being developed to put multiple Gigabits of throughput on a single UTP run.

<OK, breathe deep… In, out… there. Feel better?>

Yes it’s all a bit crazy. And those perpetuating the craziness likely mean well, they just don’t seem to agree on what’s really “needed” when asked by customers how to cable for 11ac going forward. That lack of unified message really does a disservice to customers in a number of ways:

  • 11ac is frequently overmarketed. There is a delta between promise (or implied promise) and what reality will be.
  • We’ve seemingly entered a period where everyone accepts “oh, that’s just marketing- let an SE or VAR explain what this REALLY amounts to”
  • I don’t think that some in the WLAN industry get that cabling isn’t trivial in many buildings, and even a single cable run can exceed the price of a top-end AP in many cases. Pathway concerns are huge where conduit is in use, and some of us have to get our cable designs right to serve many, many years.
  • This status quo makes the industry look a bit disjointed, and kinda silly at times. Wireless is complicated, sure. But a common message on how to cable for it shouldn’t be.

What They Said On The Topic In 2014

…what many people don’t know, is that second-wave 802.11ac APs will require two, not one, Gigabit Ethernet ports. That just doubled your need for switch ports and cable runs. Oh boy!


…11ac is a radical change; if you go by emerging WLAN guidance on prepping for and implementing the latest wireless standard, your to-do lists get significantly complicated.

The short version: 11ac will require two switch ports and two cable runs per access point. Simple AP uplinks now become port channels. Port channels need careful configuration, and can be a nightmare to troubleshoot should one of the four RJ-45 connectors involved with each 11ac port channel get cocked or not sit straight in its port.


In the first wave of 802.11ac, a single 1 Gbps link is sufficient. Wave 1 is 1.3 Gbps, but that includes the substantial 802.11 protocol overhead and is a bidirectional number because 802.11 is half-duplex. For any new wiring for 802.11ac, I’d put in two cat 6 cables for maximum flexibility going forward, though.

Cat6 versus 6a isn’t what’s important, it’s getting two cables into the cable plant. The second wave of products will potentially reach 3.5 Gbps, so you’ll want sufficient backhaul capacity to accommodate that. I wouldn’t stress about the exact specification; just make sure you have two cables that can support Gig Ethernet plus power.


Stressing about the new 802.11ac standard seems to be the industry’s new pastime.

Now that Wave-1 of 802.11ac is here with vendors promising 1.3 Gbps in 5 GHz, 1.75 Gbps aggregate per AP, and world peace, suddenly the industry has focused in the potential bottleneck of AP backhaul links. In other words, is a single Gigabit Ethernet uplink enough for each AP?

The answer is just plain “yes,” and applies not only to Wave-1, but also to Wave-2 11ac…


The IEEE 802.11ac Wave 1 standard has already delivered 1 Gigabit wireless speeds to enterprise access networks. Soon, the industry will introduce 802.11ac Wave 2 products that could deliver wireless speeds up to 6.8Gbps


Earlier in October, Aquantia announced its development of AQrate technology—the silicon that enables the delivery of 2.5- and 5-G over Category 5e and Category 6 cabling. In that announcement and in the current announcement of the NBase-T Alliance, the bandwidth requirements of 802.11ac “wave 2” devices were heavily referenced.


There’s certainly plenty out there to confuse, amuse, and ponder on the topic of planning for cabling for 11ac. This is one of those topics that is arguably more of concern for bigger networks and customers with challenging cabling paradigms than it is for others. And it’s also pretty fascinating to see the different takes and spins put on the subject by those in the vendor/VAR space versus those on the customer end (you know… where the dollars are).

One thing is for sure, at least to me- as 2014 draws to a close, we’re no closer to clarity on this discussion than we were earlier in the year, and it will be interesting to see what develops in 2015 as 11ac continues to explode and we see the front end of Wave 2.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the notion of cabling for 11ac in different environments. Please drop a comment below, and Happy New Year to all.

What Else Is In the 5 GHz Spectrum? Hint: It’s Not Just Weather Radar

As I continue to get ready for my own venture into 11ac, I came across some pretty fascinating information about 5 GHz. I’ve been brushing up on how the state of 5 GHz spectrum applies to the Wi-Fi realm now, and what People of Lofty Title are wrestling with regarding future use of this slice of frequencies. Standby, because I’m going to dazzle you with some pretty darn macho terminology. (As a bonus, I shall invoke the name of Matthew Gast thricely in the following paragraph.)

But first, let’s set the stage. 

WLAN designers and admins (hopefully) know about subjects like DFS (Dynamic Frequency Selection) and TPC (Transmit Power Control) and how they relate to weather radar in 5 GHz (cue the Matthew Gast music there, Part I). Also, hopefully we are all familiar with the last announcement about the WLAN world possibly being gifted with a fat swath of additional 5 GHz frequencies for the greater wireless good, made by ex-FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski (cue the Mathew Gast music again, Part II and Part III). It’s all great stuff, very relevant, and is techno-fodder that you should care about given the channel-hungriness of 802.11ac. But that’s not why we’re gathered here on this page.

As I was poking around, I came across this rather dry (at first glance) looking document by the Department of Commerce. It gets deeper into the many challenges of sharing more of the unlicensed 5 GHz goodness with WLANers while also protecting the interests of the licensed/federal/important users that also happen to be in this spectrum. And here’s where it gets interesting. Sure, weather radar is important- but the list of other users in 5 GHz is a veritable Who’s Who of cool stuff. 

In all fairness to those of you who don’t know- I spent 10 years in the US Air Force in the Electronic Warfare career field, and maybe that’s why this sort of detail jazzes me (yes, some of what I did back in the day is on this list). Feast your eyes on the other occupants that live on 5 GHz Street, as noted in the unclassified Dept. of Commerce document:

  • Highly mobile ground-based, shipborne, and airborne radar systems
  • Range and tracking radars at DoD test and training ranges (get to know the C-Band)
  • DoD comms systems
  • Naval tactical radars like surface search, navigation, and fire control
  • A bunch of stuff on Coast Guard cutters used in law enforcement, search and rescue, etc
  • NASA- test and launch instrumentation, tracking of rockets, missiles and satellites
  • NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters have systems in 5 GHz
  • A whole range of operational goodies dealing with Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) like data links, video targeting
  • Spaceborn Synthetic Aperture Radars, including Canada’s RADARSAT (fascinating if you don’t know about this one)
  • Electronic Warfare systems
  • Lots more…

Some of these are site-specific and one-of-a-kind. Others are widespread, mobile, and out of the public eye. But they all use 5 GHz (albeit different discreet bandwidths within 5 GHz), so it’s amazing that the WLAN community has been able to come this far in the U-NII bands at all. It’s even more amazing that we’re likely to get more freqs made available, knowing who also uses it.

The Commerce Doc is really a great read if this stuff interests you, and I recommend it. If the specifics are too heavy for you, just go back through my abbreviated list here and apply “oohs” and “aahs” as you see fit.

(Note- the Doc projects completion of the co-existance studies later in 2014… let’s see what happens.)

Aerohive Throws Hat Into The 802.11ac Ring

Ah, this crazy wireless world we live in. It’s easy to forget that 802.11ac is still not “really” a standard, although we’re getting very close.  It’s also easy to get sparkly-eyed by the 11ac products available now, despite the fact that with the new standard’s promised weird and protracted “wave” planned evolution, 11ac in a couple of years will likely feature many a new AP. But.. let’s talk about the here and now, because we’re here- and it’s now.

Since Ubiquiti announced their 11ac offering in April of this year, many of us have watched as different WLAN vendors have pitched their new 11ac products (and accompanying back stories). There was Motorola, Meraki, Meru,  Cisco, and Aruba. And then there are the not-yet-to announce, like Ruckus,  Juniper, and until today, Aerohive.

Aerohive brings two new APs to the 11ac market, and No Jitter does a nice introduction of the AP-370 (internal antennas) and AP-390 (external antennas) along with Aerohive’s take on how the new units fit into a smooth, take-your-time-and-don’t-fret-it migration plan to full 11ac deployment. Aerohive’s entry into the 11ac market does two things: it both pushes the message of early 11ac adoption but in a less aggressive way than some competitors are going about it, and further delivers the truth that cloud-based networking is both viable and capable of evolving with new WLAN standards. This second point gets some added umph when you consider that Aerohive announced their 11ac APs on the same day that Aruba Networks announced it’s own maiden voyage into cloudy WLAN. (It certainly smells like the WLAN industry is marching towards both faster WLAN and a welcome de-emphasis of controllers, says I.)

It’s a bit curious that Aerohive took so long to let their 11ac cat out of the bag (though I confess to getting a sneak look at the AP-370 under NDA at Wireless Field Day 5) given that Matthew Gast is is both Aerohive’s Director of Product Management and the author of the current Bible du Jur on 11ac. Many of us have come to personally  associate 11ac with Matthew because of his book, his excellent presentations on 11ac, and his willingness to talk with anybody who reaches out to him via social media. (If you think about it, this really isn’t fair to Matthew, the IEEE, Aerohive, or even ourselves!)

For what it’s worth, Matthew’s fellow cloud/11ac evangelists Devin Akin and Andrew Von Nagy recently left Aerohive, and both went to AirTight Networks (yet another cloud WLAN company)- who have yet to announce their own 11ac product.

Bummers in WLAN Land

None of the following gripes are the industry’s biggest problems. At the same time, they are nuisances and occasionally rise to the level of major headache. Some of these apply to WLANs of all sizes, others are far more applicable to bigger wireless environments. The remainder? They’re just goofy. If any one of these were to be corrected or adjusted a bit, the wireless world we live in would be a little sunnier. In time, each and every one of these will “age out” and cease to irritate, but for now they are fair game to call out into the light  of day. I got me a license to bitch, and here it comes, in no specific order:

  • Why are those cheap bastards at the laptop factory still putting out 2.4 GHz-only capable computers? It can’t cost more than a couple bucks to provide a dual-band adapter in even the cheesiest laptop during manufacturing. Yet you have to look fairly hard, and often get into some serious upgrade dollars, to find a consumer-grade laptop (beyond Macbooks that come with dual-band 11n in all cases) that features both bands. It’s almost unheard of in the “Sunday Specials” that feature prominently in the BYOD demographic. We all suffer for the side effects, and it’s about time Acer, ASUS, Lenovo, and the other economy-class PC makers stepped up and became better citizens of the WLAN community.
  • What’s Up With Gartner’s Quadrant When It Comes to Wireless Vendors? Gartner has always been a bit polarizing in their analysis of various technology sectors, but they flat out blew it with eliminating the WLAN-specific quadrant in favor of including only “unified” vendors.  It boils down to these:
    • Sure, some vendors make Ethernet switches and wireless APs. But in many environments, switches do little more than provide PoE for APs. Big flippin’ deal.
    • When a company as radio and antenna savvy as Ruckus can’t make it into The Quadrant because they don’t have switches, there’s something seriously wrong.
    • A Unified Quadrant isn’t bad, but it’s incomplete and therefor a disservice to the industry. It’s time to bring back a WLAN only Quadrant, and a switching-only view IN ADDITION TO the unified Quadrant.
  • Apple really missed the boat by not including 11ac in their very expensive new iPhones. The Big A should be a better steward of the client device space’s future. If Samsung can do it, so can the Gods of Cupertino’s Mountain of Cash. Instead of breathing life and craze into early 11ac adoption, Apple cheaped out and disappointed the fans (and wireless admins) that were hoping for more out of Apple’s phone, especially for the money.
  • Apple’s Bonjour. Enough already. Fix it, and do your part to provide some pain relief to the wireless shepherds of the BYOD fields where your gadgets roam free.
  • Cisco’s Wireless Management System. It’s WCS! It’s NCS! It’s NCS Prime! It’s Prime Infrastructure! Whatever it’s called this week, it’s still buggy, slow, frustrating, and demanding of it’s own FTE staff just to keep it breathing at times. To think about putting switches into this same management framework as wireless on very large networks as “unified” gets deeper into the management paradigm is the stuff of horror- unless we see a major overhaul soon. Too much of the WLAN market relies on this sometime-train wreck to not improve it.
  • The Fallacy of Interoperability and Standards in the WLAN Space. Sure, we check our wireless devices for the famous Wi-Fi Alliance seal of approval that should mean all is well when devices need to talk with other devices, but there’s a lot more to the equation. Consumer-grade stuff often doesn’t play well in the Enterprise but nothing on the packaging explains the delineation. And… I can’t mix and match enterprise WLAN hardware or features like I can Ethernet switches. This is arguably the way it has to be, but its also a royal pain in the butt at times. Vendor lock is real, for better or worse.

We’ve all got things that steam our clams when it comes to wireless networking. These are on my short list this week. The world certainly doesn’t have to change on my say so, but at the same time time I can squawk about it, by golly.