Tag Archives: Cisco Networks

It’s the Little Things… Add Notes to Access Point Alerts in Prime Infrastructure

PI is the wireless network management system that many a Cisco shop uses for monitoring and management of the WLAN environment. The bigger you are in size and complexity of wireless environment, the more important your NMS is.

I don’t love PI. There are days where I barely like it. But I rely on it, and am fond of one simple feature that I want to call out here.

pi-annotate

When you deal with thousands of APs, occasionally a handful go out of service. Sometimes it’s a quickly-corrected failure of the AP or connected PoE, while other times it’s a non-failure condition like space renovations where the AP is located.

It can get easy to lose track of which AP is out and why if you are also busy with other duties, and don’t have the luxury of staring at PI all day. For me, it may be several hours or even days before I can catch up with certain alerts, and it’s not uncommon to come back into the dashboard and have to get re-oriented with what’s out and why.

One simple thing that can help is shown above- adding annotations to the alert for a given AP that is out long-term for a known reason (yes, you can put these APs into Maintenance Mode, but I find that doesn’t always get done when lots of hands are in the pot).

I’ve come to rely on these simple notes to save time, and to remind anyone looking of why the dreaded red dot is next to APs that really aren’t in duress.

The little things help a lot at times, and the annotation option is worth trying if you don’t use it yet.

 

Wireless Field Day 8 Takes “Wireless” Up a Notch

If you’re not familiar with the Tech Field Day franchise,  you’re really missing out on a fantastic resource. When the events are live and playing out, you get a nice feel of the pulses of the various spaces covered (Network, Storage, Wireless, and Virtualization).  After the live coverage is done, the session recordings become excellent on-demand resources.

I’ve had the privilege of attending a number of Wireless Field Days (WFDs), and I think the upcoming WFD8 really moves in a nice direction. Each WFD event I’ve been to  has provided a wonderful glimpse into the goings on of the presenting WLAN-related vendors. I’ve got to see and hear first-hand what the following companies have to say on their own offerings, industry trends, and what the future of wireless might look like:

  • 7signal
  • Aerohive
  • AirTight Networks
  • Aruba Networks
  • Avaya
  • Cisco Networks
  • Cloudpath
  • Extreme Networks
  • Fluke Networks
  • Juniper
  • Meraki
  • Meru Networks
  • MetaGeek
  • Motorola
  • WildPackets
  • Xirrus

WFD8 features Aruba Networks as an HP company for the first time, Cambium Networks, Cisco, Cradlepoint, Ruckus Wireless, and Zebra Technologies. I like this lineup a lot, for various reasons.

With Aruba and Cisco, it’s always good to hear from the WLAN industry’s #1 and #2. I’m a Cisco and Meraki customer, so visiting Cisco’s campuses is a bit more personal for me. I’ve long respected and admired Aruba, and I’d like to see how things “feel” now that HP is the mothership.

Cambium Networks is a bit exotic as I think of them as a backhaul company- but they certainly do more with wireless, and it’ll be exciting to hear from a relative newcomer. I did one blog entry about Cambium awhile back.

The Field Day organizers did well in my opinion to land Cradlepoint. Modern day “wireless” is about so much more than Wi-Fi, and Cradlepoint’s 4G edge-routing will take the delegates down a new WFD path that could serve as precedent for future non-mainstream Wi-Fi vendors. I’ve covered Cradlepoint in my blog as well.

With Ruckus, WFD finally lands one of the main WLAN vendors out there that I’ve not met with, though they were at #WFD3.  Ruckus covers a lot of ground, so their presentation is hard to predict, but is guaranteed to be interesting.  I’ve done a fair amount of coverage of Ruckus, both for Network Computing (like this one) and right here in this blog.

Finally, there is Zebra Technologies. I’ve personally never laid hands on a Zebra product, and for those who don’t know, Zebra bought Motorola’s Wi-Fi interests (which I blogged about.) With a fascinating product line of their own, this too should be a very interesting session.

Put a reminder on your calendars- this Wireless Field Day promises to really put a fresh spin on an already excellent event. Woo woo!

WFD-Logo2-400x398

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’s The Big Deal With Stadium Wi-Fi? Let Me Spell It Out For You

Here’s the Executive Summary: Dollars. Quid. Clams. Smackers. Greenbacks.

Sure, some WLAN vendors and their Integrator buddies stand to make big dough from putting Wi-Fi in stadiums. But if you think that’s the end of the story, you might want to give the matter another think. A BIG ol’ think. There’s a LOT of money going a LOT of places in this equation.

I have written about stadium wireless once or twice in my Network Computing blog, but it was the recent announcement about Extreme Networks scoring the NFL Wi-Fi Analytics gig  that got me thinking more on the topic. But my ponderings didn’t stop with the NFL. No sir, the powerful cranium that sits a mere inches above my handsomely chiseled jaw also went to town thinking about Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, Japanese baseball, the NCAA, minor league baseball, and even strayed into the realms of soccer and rugby.

Being all about value, I partnered with Google’s finest search engine to come up with a bunch of numbers. And they are impressive.

Riddle me this: How many professional-level stadiums are out there in the world of sports? What about college? And the minors?

The answer of course is “a boatload”.

And let’s talk about how big that boat is. Here are the number of teams for each sport, at the identified level:

  • NFL Football: 32 teams
  • NCAA Football: 245 teams (with at least 100 stadiums)
  • Major League Baseball: 30 teams
  • Minor League Baseball: 240 teams (at different levels in 6 countries)
  • NBA Basketball: 30 teams
  • NCAA DIvision 1 Basketball: 345 teams
  • NHL Hockey: 30 teams
  • Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan): 12 teams
  • International Professional Soccer: 200+ teams

And the list goes on with other sports venues, convention centers, etc- but you probably are starting to get the point. Now let’s play the “What If” game from the above data set.

Of the over 1,100 teams specified above, let’s say that 400 of them had a stadium or arena that has, or will get, decent Wi-Fi. We know that some venues like Cowboys Stadium (now called AT&T stadium) have far higher than 500 access points (Cisco in this case), while facilities like Packers’ Stadium (Lambeau Field) have a small quantity of APs (Aerohive for the Cheeseheads) that cover select administrative areas only. We also see that Ruckus soccer stadium deployments in Brazil feature a few hundred APs per. So for the sake of conversation, we’ll say each of our 400 example venues will get a conservative 250 access points each. That’s a total of 100,000 access points (anyone familiar with topical reality would probably agree that I’m being very conservative with this exercise).

Let’s keep going… behind those 100,000 access points we have:

  • Spare APs
  • Controllers
  • Countless server types
  • Licensing
  • Maintenance agreements
  • Specialized antennas
  • Cabling
  • Pathway
  • Switches
  • UPS
  • Routers
  • New MTRs and ITRs
  • ISP connections
  • NOC operations
  • App developers
  • Security appliances
  • Analytics services
  • Upgrades
  • Jobs- both short term and long
  • New cultures
  • Marketing
  • Infinite “one thing enables another” opportunities

I don’t know about you, but I smell money. Let’s get even more bold, and say that each one of those 400 stadiums with 250 access points had a simple installation cost breakdown like this:

250 APs x $5,000 each (that includes cabling, pathway, controllers, switches- everything) = $1.25 Million per facility.

Multiply that by 400 stadiums, and we’re looking at a theoretical $50 Million cost, just to equip the 400 example venues with theoretical Wi-Fi. (And again- my numbers are BS, very conservative versus likely real costs and actual aggregate AP counts.) Then there are the costs of running the network, monitizing it (it takes money to make money), and evolving it based on the findings of lots and lots of analytics that are being counted on to return quick ROI on the technology investment. Along the way, a number of decent jobs have been created (or will be when people who have no clue what they are doing with big WLAN’s hire help). This is a big story with a lot of chapters.

I’m greatly oversimplifying something that is huge here- and I want it to be perfectly clear that my analysis is simple conversation fodder to make the point. And that point is- there’s a lot of money involved with in stadium Wi-Fi. So much so, that many WLAN vendors have special programs just for stadium WLAN. For example (this is in no way a complete list):

Cisco Connected Stadium

Aruba Networks Large Public Venues

Xirrus Stadium Wireless

Meru Sports and Entertainment Solutions

Extreme Networks Sports and Entertainment

Ruckus High Density Solutions

Even Ubiquiti Is In On It

(I’ll be talking with Extreme, Xirrus, and Aruba at Wireless Field Day 6)