Tag Archives: Keith Parsons

Catching Up With Ekahau Now That Sidekick Has Been Out Awhile

When Ekahau’s Sidekick Wi-Fi measurement hardware product came out, I was fortunate to be a pre-release beta tester and to be along for the ride when Sidekick went public. I wrote about it here at wirednot and on my IT Toolbox blog as well. There was a lot of buzz and energy around Sidekick’s debut, but that sort of excitement doesn’t always last very long. Being the inquizitive type, I got wondering about how Ekahau themselves thought the launch of Sidekick went. To satisfy my curiosity, I called my my favorite Finnish guy Jussi Kiviniemi- Ekahau’s Senior Vice President (and someone I consider a pal). Our conversation is summarized here.

Lee: So Jussi- It’s been a few months since product release. Did Sidekick meet Ekahau’s expectations as far as customer response goes?

Jussi: I have to tell you, Lee, that response has been wonderful. It’s been beyond our expectations, which is why we’ve had a bit of a backlog of units to ship. Now that our factory line has reached pretty much full speed, the unit wait time has decreased to a couple of weeks. Our customers themselves have helped to spread the word, and we’ve also been busy working different events like Cisco Live and Aruba Atmosphere to raise awareness.

Lee: Awareness has definitely been raised, I’d say. Does the favorable response at this level surprise you at all?

Jussi: Thankfully a lot of bloggers and Ekahau believers have been great advocates for us and Sidekick. We are really lucky like, that, and appreciate it very highly. If anything surprises me, it would be that despite the cost and that there isn’t another product like this out there to compare to, there has been this overwhelming response.

Lee: Have you found that Sidekick’s warm reception has bought any tangential benefits to Ekahau in general?

Jussi: We’re selling A LOT more of our Ekahau Site Survey / Planner software as well, which is wonderful. Some of that is certainly due to Sidekick, but truth be told, our strengthened sales team has also successfully got the new distributor framework going on at the same time, which is further getting both Sidekick and ESS more exposure in the US and globally.

Lee: So what distributors are on board now?

Jussi: Within the last year, we’ve added more than a dozen new distributors all across the world. Ingram Micro is a big new one, Synnex is another big, they’ve been with us for a while already. I also have to mention that we’ve got our long-running Technology Partners as part of our family, too. And it’s not just the CIscos, Arubas, Ruckuses and Huaweis of the world we work very closely with. Think about Keith Parsons of Wireless LAN Professionals as an example- the Ekahau training that he and his all-star team provides is so good… because his services are excellent, our tools look that much better, and that helps spread the word.

Lee: Awesome- and agreed on WLAN Pros. So I have to ask: what comes next for Sidekick? I learned as an early user that this tool is expected to evolve. Anything you can share yet in that direction?

Jussi: Oh you’re right, Lee, that we’re far from “done” with Sidekick’s capabilities. It’s the foundation of our future business – the future software products of coming years will be built around the Sidekick that was released in September. I can’t really say too much specifically, but I will share that in early 2018 we’ll be announcing additional capabilities for the currently shipping Sidekick that will make the survey process significantly easier and more convenient. Let’s just leave that one there for now.

Lee: Aw, you big tease! At least you’re giving us all something to dream about… Now what about ESS- what else is coming there?

Jussi: Again, I can’t spill too many beans right now. But we know we have competition, and we respect where maybe they have a discreet feature that we lack in ESS. We’re working on those…Also our customers ask us if we’ll be doing any cloud-based project management and sharing kind of stuff. Ekahau is well aware that the world is moving to the cloud. We’re living in the world, too, so all I can say is keep watching for announcements.

Lee: Alright, Jussi. Fair enough. Congrats again on Sidekick’s success to date. When am I going to cross paths with you again- maybe WLPC?

Jussi: Thank you, and absolutely, I’ll be there to talk through some of our upcoming stuff with our team. BTW, the registration for WLPC is now open, and it always sells out. Just saying… Always great talking to you Lee!

And there you have it! To learn more about Ekahau:

Company Web Site

Enterprise Site Survey (ESS)


A Voice of Clarity in the Fog of LTE-U

Open your web browser. Type in “LTE-U” news. Note the 19 million or so results that are returned.

Now scroll a bit through the first dozen, and you’ll pretty quickly see a mish-mash of opinions both pro and con. You’ll also get lost real quick in a sea of acronyms, political posturing, and turfy claims by all sides right before your brain starts to numb up. But let’s back up a bit…

For those who don’t know, LTE-U is the twinkle in the eye of the mobile carriers that expands the use of their services out of licensed frequencies and into the same unlicensed 5 GHz spectrum that the WLAN community has come to hold sacred. It could be devastating to Wi-Fi, or it may be non-disruptive. It all depends on what rhetoric you believe, and how it will be implemented. Notice that I didn’t say “how it MAY be implemented”, because it will absolutely become a reality in some form despite those of us on the WLAN side that don’t want it to. And the meanderings of the issue can be really, really hard to follow because tech + politics + emotion = confusion.

But I found my light in the fog, at Wireless Field Day 8. He works for Ruckus Wireless, and his name is Dave Wright.

I knew Dave just a bit before hearing his excellent presentation on LTE-U. I knew that he’s a straight-up guy, a gentleman with a good sense of humor, and just a pleasure to talk with about technology and things in common. But after Dave’s presentation at Field Day, I also realized that I finally found someone who not only gets the big picture of the LTE-U situation, but is also actively trying to guide it to a reasonable conclusion for both Ruckus’ product aspirations and the WLAN industry.

Dave’s presentation is a must-see. My friend and WLAN biggie Keith Parsons was also at Wireless Field Day, and did a nice job with his own treatment of both the topic, and Dave’s session.

I won’t say that I agree with every opinion Dave might have on LTE-U, but I will say that when he explains the various groups involved and potential technical outcomes of the LTE-U battle, you can actually understand them.

Given the complexity of the issues, that’s saying a lot.

What Meru and Xirrus Need to Do

I’m not a big deal, but I know a guy who is. And- I have pulled off San Jose’s most brazen balloon theft. These two facts combined qualify me to advise multi-national wireless networking companies on communications strategies. Here’s my advice for Meru and Xirrus, after visiting with both companies for Wireless Field Day 5.

Both companies are headed by obviously intelligent technologists who are passionate about their product lines. Each has well-spoken customers willing to testify on the effectiveness of their gear. Both are still in business in a pretty competitive space, and hoping to grow their shares of the WLAN market. And both have unique technical stories that set them apart from their industry peers.

And here is the problem.

For years, I’ve listened to a number of briefings with Meru and Xirrus and always walked away with a nagging sense that each is actually a bit uncomfortable talking about their  “specialness” to any depth when dealing with Classically Trained WLAN Types. Xirrus does the array thing, and Meru rocks the single-channel architecture groove. Both companies want to talk about their bigger stories, but many of us don’t feel satisfied with terse “trust us, it works” explanations on features that are radically different from industry norms. So… briefings grind to a halt because tech-analysts want to know why we should accept that these companies have actually found a different way to do things. But the companies’ speakers obviously don’t want to spend their camera time on these years-controversial details, and neither party quite feels great at the end of the experience.

And here’s the fix.

There’s certainly a fine line between disclosing intellectual property and being open with those asking pointed questions about your technology. But that line needs to be walked when you build product lines on unique technical approaches. Sam Clements and Keith Parsons are well within their professional purview to challenge Xirrus on how they can pack so many antennas into such a little box without them creaming each other, especially when other vendors sometimes bash Xirrus for their designs. And Chis Lyttle is proper in asking a few times for more info on Meru’s “special sauce” even if it slows down Meru’s onboarding demo. Tech people want to hear what tech people want to hear, and neither company tends to want to get into the nitty gritty that would get us all to shut up already and let them get our full attention on their latest announcements.

Each company should embrace the living hell out of their uniqueness. Lead with it, don’t tap-dance around it. Stick it in our faces with good, digestible white papers and diagrams that clear up the mysteries once and for all without giving away IP. That way, when we all get together again, Xirrus and Meru can not only deliver the Message of the Day, but actually get us to listen to it instead of badgering them for information on the little things they do that many of us have been trying to comprehend for years.

We’d all be better for it, especially Meru and Xirrus.

The Little Adapter That Could… WildPackets Gives Us First 11ac Capture/Decode


As we all sail into the 802.11ac years, we’re getting antsy about tools that will support this rather complicated and nuanced standard.  How do you support and troubleshoot an environment made up of clients each using any one of dozens of permutations of spatial stream counts, data rates, and channel widths in wildly dynamic environments?

There has been a fair amount of buzz around early-shipping 11ac access points and clients with lots of philosophical buzz about uplinks, PoE requirements, and such. But not so much of substance has been said on the “and here’s how you’ll troubleshoot it” front. Here at Wireless Field Day 5, we spent Day 1 with a couple of network tool-makers and got perspective on where Fluke Networks and WildPackets are both going for 11ac support. Each sessions were great, with more to follow on Fluke Networks in another blog. Here’s what went down at WIldPackets.

The short of it: Wild Packets provided delegates with a nifty little USB adapter that can do legitimate 802.11ac packet analysis on their latest (7.5) OmniPeek.

I recently wrote about 11ac troubleshooting and WIldPackets a bit in my Network Computing blog, and it was great to have the opportunity to sit in WIld Packets’ conference room and get a demonstration from a master- Director of Product Marketing Jay Botelho.

Each Field Day Delegate was outfitted with the Linksys AE6000 mini USB adapter, the custom WildPackets driver that makes it all work with the all-important promiscous mode capabilities, and an eval copy of the latest OmniPeek. From there, Botelho showed the process of 11ac support with OmniPeek, discussed the challenges of 11ac when tackled at the packet level, and got the delegates each equipped to do their own captures.

Fellow delegate (and Wireless Jedi) Keith Parsons documented the process for getting this arrangement to work on a Mac laptop running Parallels- a very good read.