Tag Archives: Aruba Networks

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.

Aruba Networks Needs YOU!

There are a number of awesome events for WLAN professionals to attend these days, which is great for those of us in the business. One of the longer-running events is Aruba Network’s annual Atmosphere conference, which has come to rival the likes of Cisco Live! in a number of ways. These events are fun, informative, and provide unique opportunities to spend time with vendor reps and fellow customers. The next Atmosphere will run Feb 26- Mar 3, 2017 in Nashville (awesome choice of location, says I).

While you’ll certainly find much to take away from Atmosphere, Aruba needs something from YOU right now.

By January 9, Aruba networks needs submissions for presenters. I personally know many awesome Aruba VAR folks and customers, and can think of several that I’d love to see convey their real world experiences and technical knowledge.

Are YOU what Aruba needs? Do you have something to share with the uber-vibrant Airheads community? Check out the Call for Papers, and don’t be bashful. If you’re thinking of a topic you’d like to present, chances are really good that a lot of people are hoping that someone discusses exactly what you’ve got in mind. Don’t deny ’em your wisdom- sign up to present!

 

 

Don’t Forget About Aruba When Considering Ruckus-Juniper Partnership

Just a few day’s ago I shared the new Ruckus and Juniper announcement. Following that, there were a number of comments out and about predicated on the notion that Juniper must have severed ties with Aruba (connected to HP’s acquisition of Aruba). I have to admit, I too assumed that Juniper and Aruba were no longer pals when I heard the Ruckus news… Ah, but things are not always what they might seem.

I did get a reach-out today reminding me that Aruba and Juniper ARE VERY MUCH still an item, despite the Juniper/Ruckus teaming. (Yeah, it does sound a bit odd, doesn’t it?) What differentiates Juniper/Aruba from Juniper/Ruckus? According to a well-place Aruba camper:

Unlike the agreement between Ruckus and Juniper which is a “meet in the channel” rather than resale agreement, Aruba remains the only partner that is technology-integrated with Juniper.

– Aruba and Juniper will continue joint development efforts and go-to-market collaboration, with the goal of providing open, innovative solutions for the enterprises.

– Collaboration to integrate Aruba mobility solutions with Juniper enterprise switches and routers will continue, delivering ongoing product innovation, simplified management, visibility and policy across company product lines to streamline recurring network operations.

Hmmm. Again, that’s how Aruba sees it. Which in itself has a weird vibe, knowing that Ruckus is also on the same dance floor- but what the heck. Hopefully there’s enough demand and use casses to go around for everyone involved. The Aruba contact also reminded me that The Letter signed by both Juniper and Aruba CEOs is still valid, in case anyone was assuming otherwise.

2015 04 – Joint Aruba Juniper Letter from CEOs-FINAL

It’s certainly been an interesting year for wireless, and we’re only half-way through 2015!

(See Network Computing’s article on the same, by Editor Marcia Savage)


Any thoughts on Juniper’s relationships with both Aruba and Ruckus for WLAN?

Beacon Baby Steps

As I put this blog together, I do so knowing that I risk the ridicule of those who have gotten a lot farther in both understanding beacons and using them for some real-world value proposition. Though I understand transmitters of all types very well and I’ve covered other beacon-related initiatives (like Aerohive’s integration of beacons in APs ) and done my share of reading on how beacons are gaining in popularity as building blocks in a number of applications, I’ll admit to really not “getting” them yet to any technical depth. But that is starting to change, as I’ll tell you about here. And as an added bonus to you, I get to drop a few names of really smart people that I have the privilege of interacting with on occasion.

Free Beacons!

Awhile back, Ryan Adzima turned me on to a beacon giveaway that netted me three of these. Not being one to pass up free cool stuff , I got my beacons- and they ended up sitting on a shelf almost a year (I basically didn’t know what the hell to do with them.)

Fast Forward- Renewed Interest

I follow a lot of industry goings on as a freelance analyst. It’s no secret that Location-Based Services/Analytics is a running topic du jour in the tech media, and many a WLAN vendor has announced their own beacon story- like Aruba and Cisco’s Meraki. Knowing that there’s a lot of buzz around beacons, I worked them into my daily Twitter #WIFIQ question on June 4. The conversation that ensued reminded me that I was overdue to play with my Qualcomm beacons.

What sparked me to get back on the path that Ryan Adzima started me down was conversation with AccessAgility’s Zaib Kaleem and Extreme Networks’ Mike Leibovitz. Zaib turned me on to some beacon-related apps, and Mike triggered my interest on proximity to beacons being used as one component in banking authentication. Newly energized (see what I did there?), I busted out my Qualcomm Gimbals and got busy gettin’ busy.

Time to Play

Laying hands on my three neglected Gimbals first brought back the clueless feeling I had when I first looked at them and put them on the shelf. But this time I wasn’t content to stay in the dark. I took the bold step of cracking each one open and getting the watch battery connected, then I found the Gimbal Management App in the Apple app store.

At first, the App couldn’t see my beacons! Gotta be dead batteries, I thought… but then I went to the Gimbal Manager site, recovered my long-forgotten password, and figured out that I needed to activate each beacon.Gimbal

I also needed to configure each and upgrade firmware, which was quite easy. (We’ll come back to the “configure” thing.) Bingo! They showed up in the iPhone app.beacons

At this point, I realized/reminded myself of a few basic important facts:

  • Until the beacons were added to my account online, they were dead to me despite being powered up. (Private is default, you can make them “public” so anyone can see them, btw.)
  • My online account and my iOS account are synced for beacon management.
  • The beacons report their battery strength and the ambient temperature, and the mobile app tells how strong each beacon is being received
  • Though I now have three live beacons that can be managed, I still don’t know what to really do with them… no use case, no business application to hook them to, etc.

Knowing that beacons are all about proximity and location, I embarked on a simple exercise. Down a long hallway with three pictures hanging on the wall, I put one beacon on each picture frame, then watched my app show signal strength for each as I walked the hall.hall

This seemed like a reasonable way to see what might go on behind the scenes at the signal level on a walking tour, or in a retail environment where different app events are triggered by a customer coming close to a beacon. Here, this is the view as I transitioned from Beacon 1 and got close to Beacon 2, with Beacon 3 at farthest point down the hall.
.beacons1

Big deal, right? To me, it is. That’s because yesterday, I had ZERO first-hand working knowledge of beacons. With this these simple steps, I now get the technology and how it’s managed at a very, very basic level. I feel like I get the foundation, and I do understand many of the big use cases for beacons. It’s that middle ground of real-world implementation that I have yet to learn. Baby steps…

Back to the beacon config thing. For such a simple device, there are infinite permutations for what you can do with them. I think this is what is so hard to wrap your head around, especially given that along the line you may have to do some coding (or steal somebody else’s code). Zooming in on the menu gives a sense of just how many directions you might go bringing beacon-based use cases to life:
beacon menu

So… I now know a little, and know that I still don’t understand really USING beacons despite understanding the scenarios where they are employed. But with what little I now have touched and brought to life, I do understand links like this and this a bit better. Still a long way to go though, but ya gotta start somewhere!

Appreciating Aruba Networks’ Instant Mode

The last time I got hands-on familiar with Aruba’s wireless gear, the AP-125 was king of their lineup and the company didn’t have a switch offering. Like with my own Cisco network at the time, you were pretty much doing the thin AP thing with Aruba controllers, or you were doing another product set back in the day.

Like others in the biz, I have followed Aruba through the years both as an analyst and as a potential future customer. I went to an Airheads conference years ago, and got invited to others that I couldn’t make. I took note when Aruba released their switching line and became eligible for the Gartner Short-Sighted Quadrant, went to the company’s Sunnyvale HQ a couple of times for Wireless Field Day, and penned a number of articles on this blog and for Network Computing. Among them (but hardly inclusive):

Aruba Networks Swings Big At BYOD And More With ClearPass
Aruba Brings Layer 3 To Wireless Mesh Networks
Aruba’s 802.11ac Rollout Cleans Up Sticky Clients
Aruba Debuts Bare-Bones Cloud WLAN
Aruba Networks Knows The Value of Purchasing Well

I mention all this just to establish that I’m generally familiar with Aruba, but by no means “into” their hardware these days. Maybe this is why I’m so impressed with Aruba’s Instant AP Mode.  

For me, there have been a handful of “wow, this is excellent” moments of discovery through my own wireless career. Like when I used our Cisco MSE to alert on the MAC address of a stolen computer, which led to to the first of a number of solved crimes compliments of our Cisco WLAN logging capabilities. Then there was the 2-click ease of using Meraki MX appliances for site-to-site tunnels to extend my campus network to far away locations. And the AVC capabilities from Aerohive, that came my way before anyone else was doing it. I now count my getting to know Aruba’s Instant APs among those truly wondrous moments where the value of what you’re looking at shines at you, bright and immediately clear.

So what has impressed me about Aruba Instant? It’s all about the ease of setup, the completeness of the feature set, and the fact that you need no licenses, no cloud account, and no controller to derive immediate and impressive value. It’s the joy of old-school, stand-alone Wi-Fi from a simpler time, painted up nice with all of the aspects of modern feature-rich WLAN- and without the BS complexity that comes with most modern wireless systems. Granted, Aruba Instant is more suitable for smaller environments and branches, but it’s sooooooooo slick.

I’m playing with two IAP-225 802.11ac APs and an 802.11n RAP-3. These were given to me for attending Wireless Field Day and Keith Parson’s excellent WLAN Professionals Summit (all attendees received these).  There are so many ways you can operate these APs individually, or working together, that I can’t think of a set of enterprise or SMB operational parameters I couldn’t achieve with them. I’m loving the virtual controller capabilities, and have not seen a UI and accompanying documentation so polished and complete in quite a while. I feel almost like I’m getting away with something as I remind myself that I’m doing everything in these units with no NMS and and no cloud account. You have to set one up, then add another with zero config required, to really appreciate the magic here.

Here’s a slightly dated article from when Instant was introduced, and one of many YouTube videos introducing the product line and it’s ease of set up (this one from Streakwave Wireless).

Needless to say, I’m thoroughly impressed. Well done, Aruba Networks.

 

 

Aruba Networks Knows The Value Of Purchasing Well- Wireless Field Day 6

Image

As the real-estate types like to say, it’s all about location, location, location.  I’ve long been interested in highly-accurate location capabilities, regardless of what form they take. I have also been following the fledgling field of indoor, WLAN-based location services for a couple of years now. Under the heading of “truth is stranger than fiction”, I got to see Aruba Networks present the same location magic (Meridian) that Cisco did at an earlier Field Day.

Last year, Cisco was partnering with Meridian.this year, Aruba owns Meridian. Things can change quick around here.

If you’re not familiar with Meridian, take a minute to get oriented here. I’ll wait.

Our Wireless Field Day 6 visit started with the downloading of Aruba’s Campus App and Chief Airhead Sean Rynearson getting us started on a self-guided map-routing session to rooms full of goodies for us. It was a nice way to start the visit, and a good real-world way of showing off the capabilities of Meridian. There are a few other providers out there trying to do the same thing (Wifarer, Google Maps, etc), but in my research to date, Meridian was the best fit for my own Cisco Mobility Services Engines. As the magic that took MSE feeds and turned it into almost real-time interactive mapping, I was fairly deep into discussions with Meridian and Cisco about licensing costs (which were confusing as hell from the Cisco side at the time) when news broke that Aruba had bought Meridian.

Deju vu moment: I also remember years ago, when Aruba purchased AirWave even as I was hoping that Cisco would, that I thought “good for you, Aruba”. And it looks like the Meridian purchase is very good indeed for Aruba.

During the WFD6 visit, Aruba also over-viewed their ALE (Analytics and Location Engine) in a great discussion facilitated by Ozer Dondurmacioglu, Kiyo Kubo, Manju Mahishi , and Dhawal Tyagi. We talked about all sorts of details that go into location services- what it feels like to different client devices, how network design impacts it, what sort of platform horsepower makes it tick, concerns over licensing, etc. It was also agreed that the industry is just starting to scratch the surface of indoor location services.

For me, the elephant in the room at Aruba was one that followed us from session to session; that is the fact that “wireless” has gone well beyond doing a site survey and hanging APs for people to connect to. Wireless Networking is now about services, and monitization and monitization via services. It’s about using the WLAN as base for doing all kinds of new and productivity or profit-enhancing things that require more boxes (real or virtual), skillsets that far exceed those of yesterday’s wireless pro, and a greater “world view” of the environment you’re trying to make all this great, crazy stuff work in. Even if you reduce your burden by keeping more of the environment in the cloud, that doesn’t lessen the need to truly understand operational landscapes that are getting ever more complex. None of this is bad, it’s just a natural evolution that’s worth calling out into the light of day.

We also got a peek at some slick new wireless gear coming out in the near future, and that’s always nice.

I can tell you this- if you get a chance to spend some time at Aruba HQ, don’t hesitate to visit. It’s a beautiful facility, sure- but it also doesn’t take long in the company of Aruba’s techies to understand why they are doing so well in the WLAN market.