Tag Archives: Nyansa

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.

Mobility Field 2 Shows Evolving Nature of WLAN Industry

MFD2The “Tech Field Day” series of events has been  an important part of my professional development life for the last several years. I’ve had the good fortune to be a frequent delegate, and I have watched Wireless Field Day (WFD) morph into Mobility Field Day (MFD) in parallel with the changing nature of the WLAN industry. As we get ready to descend upon Silicon Valley for MFD2, I can’t help but think about what this round of vendor participants says about the general state of WLAN things.

This go round, you won’t see the usual suspects many folks think of when contemplating enterprise Wi-Fi. MFD2 is more about performance measurement and alternatives to the WLAN same-old with Mist Systems, Nyansa, Cape Networks, Mojo Networks, and another performance measurement vendor to be announced soon.

So why no bigtime flashy AP makers?

Here’s my take on that, and there are a few contributing factors:

  • The biggest guns have relegated their WLAN parts and pieces to non-headline status. Each has declared “We’re a software company!” of late, and is now devoting time to weaving together Intent-Based Network Fabrics With SDN Flavor Crystals. And… they have their own hyper-glitzy events where non-technical Hollywood-types make attendees swoon. Meh.
  • Extreme Networks is buying up almost everyone else, so the number of competing players is decreasing.
  • Ubiquiti is now #3 in market share, and seemingly needs none of these events to get their message of “economy-priced but half-way decent networking” out to the masses.

By now, WLAN is so tightly integrated with the rest of the network (in most environments) it doesn’t command the stand-alone Wow Factor it once did. But… in the rush to build feature-heavy (I’d even say “gratuitously bloated”, but I can be a wanker about these things) super systems, the big guns haven’t done all that well in natively providing many of the capabilities that MFD 2’s vendors will be briefing us (and those tuning in live) on.

From innovative ways of showing what’s really going on with a given WLAN to to fresh approaches to WLAN architecture (as opposed to butting an API into years’ old code and declaring it new SDN), MFD2 will be interesting.

If you tune in live and would like to get a question to the vendors as they present their stuff, make sure to hit up a Delegate or two via Twitter so we can ask on your behalf.

 

 

 

Quick Hits: Xirrus, Ruckus, Cambium, Mojo Networks, Nyansa, CWNP

I don’t typically do aggregation blogs, as I prefer to explore a topic or product first-hand and write it up with my own learned perspective. At the same time, I’ve been full-out busy of late and don’t want to not give these topics at least some minor attention in case you have an interest in any. So many cool things happening in the world of wireless…

Xirrus- New HD AP, With Flavor Crystals! OK, no flavor crystals. That was just to keep you hooked. But Xirrus has announced the new .11ac Wave 2 XA4 access point that does support external antennas (really unique for Xirrus) and claims to replace four traditional APs from the competition. Check it out, and if you’re a Xirrus fan or pundit, please leave a comment at the end of this blog.


Ruckus- What Comes Next? In case you missed it, Ruckus Wireless may be facing an uncertain future. The Big Dog was bought by Brocode not too long ago, and now Broadcom is buying Brocade. And… Broadcom doesn’t want Ruckus or the rest of the Ethernet portfolio from Brocade. Did you get all that? Here’s hoping that our Ruckus brothers and sisters all land on their feet. Ruckus has a loyal following, so many of us are watching this one closely.


Cambium Partners With Disaster Tech Labs to help Refugees- There is a tech side to the unfortunate human drama playing out daily on the Island of Lesvos, as countless refugees flea the horrors of Syria and other garden spots for Europe. Disaster Tech Lab goes  where it’s needed when trouble hits, and the need is strong right now on Lesvos. The organization has teamed up with Cambium Networks to provide a range of services for the refugees and those who are directly assisting them.


Mojo Networks Leads the White Box Movement. Mojo Networks is a WLAN vendor, yes- but they also have some fascinating folks on staff that are involved with the Open Compute Project (OCP) and efforts to evolve “white-box WiFi” into a viable option. If you’ve felt like you’re on the losing end of “vendor lock” you’ll probably find the entire notion fascinating. Here’s an interesting presentation from Mojo on the idea of open access points.


Nyansa Adds Application Analysis to Voyance. I’ve been following Nyansa since before they were public, with early NDA briefs on the very powerful Voyance analytics platform. It’s taking WiFi analytics to really interesting cloud-enabled places, and recently got yet another feature boost by adding application analysis to Voyance’s powerful network key performance indicators.


CWNP Awards 200th CWNE Certification. The best source for wireless training in the world has just hit an incredible milestone, and the honor and privilege are mine.

Now you know! Thoughts? Comments? Let ’em rip. 

Mobility Field Day: Glimpsing a Complex Wi-Fi Future

          Take me home mamma, and put me to bed. I have seen enough to know that
I have seen too much.
                      (Announcer in “League of Their Own”)

Depending on where you are on your WLAN career arc, what I’m about to say may or may not make you a bit uncomfortable. That’s not my goal, but there are some complicated times a-coming, my friends. I’m writing this just a few days after I wrapped up participating in Mobility Field Day 1, and you can’t help but leave the typical wireless Field Day  event feeling like you’ve looked directly into the future of the WLAN industry a bit.

I’ve been known to throw out lofty observations like “Wireless Is So Not About Wireless Networking Anymore.” Then there was my white-hot Napkin Drawing. Even when I’m in the thick of doing wireless, I can’t help but zoom out to 10,000 feet and try to see the Big Picture of Wi-Fi. That big picture has certainly changed since the early days of 802.11, and you could say that my journey is really just riding the evolution of wireless networking such as it is. What I saw at Mobility Field Day is more evolution, and a few years from now we’ll look back at and think “yeah, that was cool… but not SO BIG of a deal in retrospect.”

Yet, in the here and now, things that are coming our way ARE big deals. They are still new, unfamiliar, thrilling, cool, and need to be learned and assimilated into our daily Wi-Fi Pro mindsets. Here’s a few “Wow Topics” that jumped out at me during MFD:

  • Ventev’s Street Furniture Wi-Fi As demands for wireless networking become more pervasive far and wide, the question of “so, how do we put it THERE?” gets asked a lot. Ventev has a really interesting line of outdoor antenna solutions coming out later in the year, as shown in the linked video.
  • Nyansa’s Voyance cloud-enabled analytics. The intro and overview to this fascinating and innovative approach to analytics, support and Wi-Fi troubleshooting is here. The demonstration and accompanying discussion is here. Watch for more coverage of this interesting startup, and it stands to reason that others are likely to follow the example of cloud-enabled multi-site data correlation as Nyansa’s baby gets exposure and customers.
  • Cisco Connected Mobile Experience (CMX) Cloud version. There is just sooooo much to CMX and so many different applications. I love that some of the complexity is moving to the cloud (please, God- let Prime Infrastructure go there too, soon). Video is here.  Cisco also wowed with a presentation on Flexible Intelligent RadiosWatch this video, and you’ll agree that things are getting pretty complicated in WLAN land.

Also in the bucket labeled Really Cool, and Quite Different: had a great session with Google on their OnHub approach to consumer Wi-Fi (it would also be at home on Star Trek), and Aruba Networks’ Chuck Lukaszewski talked more on 802.11ax- which may well be the most disruptive and complex standard of our careers (for many of us) when it gets here.

It was an exciting week, and I’ve just tipped the iceberg here. And like I said… these discussions show just how exciting the short future is in many directions for our Wi-Fi world.

Click the logo for all the Mobility Field Day 1 goodness.

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