Tag Archives: Network Computing

Catching Up With Netscout on Their Flagship WLAN Support Tool

linklive_solutions_smIt’s not often that most of us get to spend time with product managers at big-name Silicon Valley network companies. I’ve been extremely fortunate in this regard through my participation in the Tech Field Day franchise, and recently had the opportunity to once again hang out for a bit with Netscout, in their own offices. The topic of this visit was the company’s super popular AirCheck G2, and our host was the awesome Chris Hinsz. (Chris makes the rounds at a lot of conferences and industry events, and is passionate about helping to make the WLAN world a better place. If you ever get the opportunity to talk with him, I guarantee it’ll be time well spent.)

If you are not familiar with the AirCheck G2 yet, let’s get you squared away.

The G2 is Generation 2, given that THIS AirCheck is the follow on to the original Fluke Networks AirCheck. The division of Fluke Networks that developed the AirCheck was bought by Netscout, hence the vendor name change along the way. If you’re interested in a unique way the original AirCheck was put into service for law enforcement, have a look at another Network Computing article I did back in the day. But alas, I digress…

Back to Mobility Field Day and the G2.

Hinsz did two sessions for MFD. In the first, he provided an intro to the tester and the handy Link-Live cloud service for those who may not be familiar with it. The video is here. He also provided insight into advanced tips and shortcuts on the G2, which you can review in this video. Even if you own and use a an AirCheck G2, you just might find something new to try via these videos.

Aside from the two sessions referenced here, it was a pleasure talking with Hinsz and his team about what else is going on with the AirCheck G2. This awesome unit is truly one of the favorite tools used by many a WLAN pro given it’s versatility and portability. It’s a safe bet that we’ll be hearing more about the AirCheck story as Netscout continues to listen to what it’s customers need, given that we’re only a couple of years into the life-cycle of this tester.

 

Getting to Know Ubiquiti’s UniFi Cloud Key

Ubiquiti is a fairly fascinating WLAN gear company. I use different Point-to-Point bridge models from Ubiquiti, including some in 900 MHz, 5 GHz, and their big ol’ 24 GHz AirFiber 24. I don’t have a real deep history with the company’s Wi-Fi access gear, but have enough hands-on time with it to understand the mass appeal of this competitively-priced WLAN product line. I’ve written about things I’ve learned about regarding Ubiquiti bridges along the way, and covered the company’s introduction of 11ac access points back in 2013 for Network Computing. I consider myself familiar with Ubiquiti enough to have my own opinions about various products and the way the company does certain things, but I am by no stretch a Ubiquiti “power user”.

I mention that because many of the Ubiquiti faithful in the company’s support forums can be a bit- shall we say – fervent in their loyalty to the company, it’s products, and it’s methodologies even when those of us outsiders with WLAN expertise call Ubiquiti into question for something or other. I’m not bashing those rabid Ubiquiti fans, but I also know that they have long since lost their objectivity on the product and tithe frequently at the Church of Ubiquiti. For me, I try to see the good and bad for what it is with each product or feature and not generically bash or praise any product line or vendor. That’s my self-characterization on objectivity, and it brings me to a handy little gadget I’m evaluating now: the Ubiquiti Cloud Key.

CLoud Key

The product glossy is here, and my own dashboard looks like this for device management:Cloud Key Manage

And system monitoring (don’t read anything into the sucky throughput values, this test environment is set up extremely crudely right now):

cloud key mon

Now, back to the Cloud Key itself. It’s an interesting device, roughly the size of an elongated Raspberry Pi. It can be accessed locally, or from the Internet if you opt to allow that. It’s an NMS that requires no server, and it does a pretty decent job of managing and monitoring the Ubiquiti UniFi environment. (This blog isn’t about individual APs or overall system performance that you should expect if you use Ubiquiti networking equipment- it’s just a quick intro to the Cloud Key as it really is a slick and curious system manager.) I’m currently managing an edge security gateway, a switch, and two APs, but the Cloud Key can certainly scale much, much larger for bigger Ubiquiti environments.

Drilling into my switch shows the types of config work done via the Cloud Key, as an example:

cloud key switch

You’d see similar for the access points and security gateway in my environment if your were to click around.

Administration of the Cloud Key itself is fairly intuitive and pretty well designed, from bringing it to life to assigning administrative roles to adding managed devices and doing upgrades.

That’s enough for now… if you’ve never seen the UniFi Cloud Key, hopefully this blog gives you some idea of what it can do. I reserve my opinions on the other Ubiquiti network pieces for future blogs as I spend more time with this eval environment. But I can say that the Cloud Key has impressed me as innovative, interesting, and effective (so far) in doing what it was built to do. With a low price and no licensing costs, it is one example of why Ubiquiti sells A LOT of wireless gear.

 

 

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?

A Discussion That WLAN Professionals Should Get In On

Are you interested in the future of wireless networking? Are you satisfied with the way client devices are evolving (or not evolving) and with the feature-fragmented nature of the overall WLAN client device pool?

Do you consider the notion of “interoperability” to be more lip-service than realized deliverable when it comes to the status quo in WLANville?

Whether things seem peachy-swell to you, or in need of serious reform by industry-shapers like the Wi-Fi Alliance, I encourage you to click over to a current article by Wi-Fi Alliance President and CEO Edgar Figueroa now running in Network Computing (I also happen to write for them).

Edgar asks “What’s your Wi-Fi strategy for 2015?” For many of us, the answer is:

trying to design and maintain high-performing, secure WLAN environments while the industry works against itself with excellent infrastructure devices on one end, and horribly-implemented client devices on the other.”

There aren’t many opportunities to interact with the Wi-Fi Alliance directly, so from one WLAN Pro to another I encourage you to make your own opinions known in the comments of the article. Hopefully Edgar will reply, and we can gain a sense of why things are the way they are in the client device space- and whether we should realistically expect any relief in the near future.

Alliance

The Wirednot Year-Ending Drone Blog

It’s been a busy year for drone-related articles from your’s truly. But that’s only because there’s a lot to talk about- and it’s far from over as drone technology gains a bigger foothold in the practical world. In this piece, I’ll hit on a somewhat disjointed list of drone-related points, and then review what else we’ve looked at on the subject to date here at wirednot.

  • Berkeley Varitronics Systems (BVShas been in the wireless tools/security game for a long time (they pre-date many of the bigger names in this space.)  The company is takng a page out of Fluke Networks’ playbook and describing how their Yellowjacket tool can help you track down an intruding drone and it’s operator. Check out the video:

  • Amazon  is demanding that the FAA accommodate the company’s desire to test drones for package delivery, under the threat of taking their efforts overseas. I don’t like Gizmodo’s characterization of Amazon as throwing a tantrum on the issue, but they do a decent job of telling the story here. (Hint for the FAA- Amazon may be researching more than package delivery- it would suck to see this kind of innovation and research leave the US.)

  • One company that is making a go at profitable use of drone technology is Aeryon Labs, Inc. With military, public safety, and commercial applications, Aeryon is a fascinating example of how drones can be used in a number of real-life use cases. Give their site a look and you’ll find your imagination getting quite piqued as you just know that this is just the start of bigger things for similar companies in the future.

  • One of my children is soon to graduate high school, and is considering going to college at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (my own alma mater). What does this have to do with drones? It just so happens that ERAU has a major in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Science. And when you graduate, there are jobs out there…

It should be obvious that the drone paradigm will continue to gain in both magnitude and dimension. There will certainly be more to talk about in the coming months, but here’s my drone year in review:

Network Computing Magazine

Drones- the Next WLAN Menace
Drones Take On Cell Tower Maintenance 

Wirednot

Fluke Networks Enables Drone-Centric Tower Operations
A Bit More About Drones, Wi-Fi, and Beyond

Others of Interest

Hak5 is doing a lot with drones
Adam Conway at Aerohive Networks is also doing a lot with drones

Am I the only one in the WLAN community thinking this is just fascinating tech to follow? Please let me know of any other IT-related or otherwise significant drone happenings.

Thanks for reading!

The Wireless Tools They Are a-Changin’

To those of us who support WLAN environments, the only constant is change. I’ve been getting both an eye and earful of those changes over the last week. As we all get comfortable with packet capture in 11ac Wave 1 (but start readying ourselves for Wave 2), we have some truths to face about the impact of more streams on what we’re used to doing for Wi-Fi analysis.

And… as we get used to to using mobile devices for more networky-style tasks, it’s reasonable to want to take some of our preferred support tools in that direction. Alas, mobile devices will be practically limited to spectrum views and some degree of measuring the client experience, but don’t have much chance of doing much for us in the packet analysis realm.

End of the road for portable WLAN packet capture?

I had the pleasure of sitting in on Wireless Field Day 7 sessions at both Wild Packets and Fluke Networks this week, and the talk about 11ac packet capture was hot at both vendors. Both vendors talked about the importance of capturing 3×3 wireless traffic and their abilities to do so, but the difficulties can’t be glossed over. In fact, at Wild Packets, it was mentioned that “we’re getting close to the end of what we’ll be able to do with portable wireless packet capture off of laptops” because of adapter limitations and processing horsepower needed for complex multi-stream, multi-channel wireless environments. We were reminded by Wild Packets that capturing from APs has advantages, and APs can function as a big-honkin’ adapter in their own right when you need them to.

At Fluke Networks, new capabilities for 3×3 packet capture by Air Magnet was announced, along with a curious new adapter to facilitate the process.

IMG_9161

 

The express-card form factor of the AM C1097 was greeted with surprise (and a little skepticism) by Field Day delegates, but we also heard good news in that it is built on the same Broadcom 43460 3×3 adapter that is native to the latest Macbook Pro laptops. It was also made clear that “you gotta start somewhere” and since there are no USB 3×3 adapters yet, Fluke Networks did what they have to do in getting started with 3×3 support. Good stuff all around as 11ac gets more traction at a faster rate than was predicted before the standard was ratified.

Taking the Tools to the Mobile Device Space

We can pretty much forget about practical or effective packet capture on mobile devices- it ain’t happening. At the same time, tablets and smartphones have some value when it comes to spectrum analysis and quantifying the client experience. Here, it all comes down to price versus effectiveness in mastering the small screen. Read my commentary on migrating wireless tools to mobile devices here, at my Network Computing blog.

As WLAN technology evolves, the tools have to keep up. We’re at a pretty interesting place right now-if you haven’t freshened up your knowledge of WLAN analysis options lately, it’s time to dig in. The times they are a changin’…

Wouldn’t It Be Nice If ALL WLANs Could Move to the Cloud?

Riddle me this, my Wi-FI homeys: What’s missing from today’s cloud-based WLAN paradigm?

I actually (kinda) like my controllers these days. And I like that a single VLAN is all I need to each AP in my CAPWAP world. But, I still yearn for cloud control over the whole thing (sorry, PI- and every other bloated management framework). Here’s how I see it, at my Network Computing blog.

And, as a thank-you for stopping by, here’s a picture of Blue Mountain Lake. We’re all about value here at wirednot.
2012-10-17_12-33-29_531

A Hearty Welcome To The New Network Computing Web Site

Way back in 2000, Network Computing Magazine just happened to have a Real World Lab in the basement of the building I still work in at Syracuse University. I was fairly new to my campus network support job back then, having started in 1998, but I found the “NWC” lab utterly fascinating. As one of only a few such facilities in the world, there was also sorts of serious performance testing afoot here, on everything from servers to network switches to KVM systems. I hit it off with the gents running the lab (who actually were way up there in the magazine management structure, too), and was invited to try my hand at a bit of freelancing based on my previous writing experience (a lot of technical stuff in the Air Force) and my love of networking.

And my life was never the same after that.

The first piece I wrote for NWC was a single-page review of the original Fluke Networks’ Net Tool handheld tester. I went on to do hundreds of pieces for Network Computing, ranging from a couple of hundred words to dozens of pages. I gained exposure to networking components from every side and niche of the industry, got mentored by incredibly talented editors, and felt electrified every time I saw my own “stuff” go from draft to polished print and e-version.

My freelance career with Network Computing has enriched my life and networking knowledge in countless ways over the last fourteen years, and is up there with things  in life I’m most thankful for. Being able to write professionally was actually one of my childhood goals; being able to write for Network Computing made that more rewarding than I could ever imagine. Sure, there has been a freelancer’s paycheck along the way, but it’s always first and foremost been about working with awesome people, developing my critical thinking and technical analysis skills, and being able to have ins to the networking industry in ways most geeks can only dream of. It has been simply wonderful. Though I’ve also picked up all sorts of other writing work along the way, Network Computing has always been my proudest affiliation. I’ve learned as much from my own writing projects and in editing and reading the work of other NWC writers as I have from all of my other sources of training and education.

Now, Network Computing is reborn.

Though the Lab and  the print version of NWC have long been casualties of the same forces that have reshaped the greater media landscape, the tradition of quality industry analysis continues with a fresh web presence and new talent in the mix. As with the NWC of days gone by, it’s still about the people to me. Content is what we consume, but the people behind the content at Network Computing are really smart, and good at what they do. They make it worth following. The writers are still rooted in the real world, the editorial staff are great at their craft but also have keen technical acumen themselves, and Network Computing remains one of my favorite resources for staying on top of a fast-changing technical world.

Congratulations on the new site, Network Computing! Here’s wishing you (and us) well!

 

Mersive’s Solstice- A Nice Alternative To Complicated Presentation Paradigms

UPDATE: https://wirednot.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/so-close-yet-so-far-with-mersives-solstice/ my take on Mersive’s pricing.

Mersive is a company that only recently made it to my radar, but I’m glad they did. I covered their interesting Solstice product for Network Computing back in March ’13, and was so smitten with the promise of what Solstice could do that I nominated them for Best of Interop award consideration. Fast forward to today, and I’m liking Solstice more, as it has gained some polish and added features.

Here’s a quick summary of the problem that Solstice solves, as I see it: since wireless became mainstream, users have wanted to walk into a projector/display-equipped room and quickly mirror the screen on their laptop, tablet, or smartphone to the in-room display for all to see.

Options to accomplish this have been clunky at best. There are ad-hoc wireless connection protocols and thingys that don’t play well in the enterprise for a number of reasons, and that paint the single user that might leverage them into a corner of sorts where they can only project (usually while causing interference to the corporate WLAN) and not be on “the network” at the same time. There are new Wi-Fi direct hardware options that also create odd little islands of radio noise where used. Then there is Bonjour, the limited, dated protocol that requires what I consider to be ugly rejiggering of the LAN/WLAN to make desired display functions work only for select Apple devices.

In other words, there has not been an easy-to-implement, OS and network friendly (and agnostic) way to solve the simple paradigm of letting users show what’s displayed on their devices on the big screen without plugging in.

Back to Mersive and Solstice.

The cats at Mersive are computer scientists and display experts that understand getting pixels where they need to be, and generally don’t give a rip about hardware. Mersive’s software magic powers most of the biggest, most impressive video walls you’re ever likely to see, and they approach the boardroom/classroom display problem differently from all of the clunky alternatives that came before.

If the goals are:

  • Require no additional hardware
  • No network changes and make it work across subnet boundaries (piss off, Bonjour)
  • Let any mainstream OS project to the central room display
  • Don’t let the users in one room hose their neighbor’s display
  • Make it simple to use
  • Keep it affordable

Then Solstice’s latest (1.2.1) hits the mark *almost* perfectly. I have been experimenting with it for a couple of weeks, and like what I see. I have the server software installed on my mocked-up “podium PC”, and free Solstice app software on several Android and iOS mobiles, along with Win 7 and 8 laptops all on different wired and wireless subnets on the same network.

And it just works.

There is the briefest of learning curves, excellent documentation, adequate security, and it all is simply an add-on to what you already have for network topology. Specify the name or IP address of the Display server from the client device, hit “connect”, and display away. Reliably,  for both pictures and video, or for the whole device desktop.

You can get a little fancier with Solstice’s operation, and allow for several users to collaborate by all projecting their content to a common display simultaneously (it is touted as a collaboration tool) and do a few other advanced options that may or may not fit for individual use cases.

Though I am only  kicking the tires right now, I can say that after years of fighting the display paradigm fight, I have found the best weapon I personally have ever seen in Solstice.

Did I mention that you don’t have to touch the network to make it work?

It’s not cheap at list price of $3,500 per server instance, but then again, this is a quality solution that instantly takes care of a number of display headaches.

Oh yeah- and you don’t have to touch the network. Me so happy.

Just a Reminder About My Network Computing Blog, and NWC

For those of you who follow my Wirednot blog, I sincerely thank you (It’s a big world out there and you certainly have lots of options). I also write professionally for Network Computing Magazine– a great organization that I have had the pleasure of working with and for in various capacities for well over a decade. These days, I focus on wireless and mobility for NWC, but in the past I have covered everything from cable testers to KVMs to Ethernet switches.

There is a tremendous amount of talent and knowledge at NWC, with the excellent editorial staff and my fellow writers and bloggers combining to make a dynamite online magazine.

If you haven’t dropped in onNWC before (or lately), stop on by. The reading’s good, baby!