Tag Archives: Tech Field Day

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.

 

 

 

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

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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.

What I Hope To Get From Wireless Field Day 5

Being selected as a delegate to a Tech Field Day is a bit like winning a Golden Ticket to Wonkaland for us tech types (instead of chocolate, there is a lot of wireless fodder to enjoy). I’m pleased as can be to be going back for my second Wireless Field Day event, having attended WFD4 and soon, WFD5.

Given the Silicon Valley’s prominence in the IT world, a trip there is something akin to a pilgrimage for those of us too far away (by both distance and circumstance) to get there very often. And that touches on my first goal for Wireless Field Day 5: simply being immersed in the tech-rich backdrop of the San Jose area. I’m not a tremendously spiritual person, but there is a powerful vibe afoot just under the surface “out there”, and it bubbles up time and again throughout the few magic days that are Field Day.

The corny stuff aside, here’s some of what what I hope to get out of my time at WFD5:

  • Reconnecting with organizer Stephen Foskett and my fellow delegates. Most of the group was at WFD4, but there will be three new-to-me faces among the delegates, as well as Stephen’s expanded staff. These folks are sharp, down to earth, a pleasure to do the event with, and extremely deep in wireless networking knowledge. This alone makes the trip worth it.
  • In general, I’m looking forward to all of the companies that are presenting to give us a glimpse behind the curtain at what they are about to release, what they are thinking on a number of fronts, and what they want to know from us, the delegates. Expected hot topics: 802.11ac, analytics of various sorts, new tools and optimization methods.
  • Speaking of tools and optimization, 7Signal is sure to be a delegate favorite. I’m guessing we’ve all seen at least snippets of their case studies and what they recommend to make good WLANs even better. I hope to hear clarity on this topic, and to get a sense of whether 7Signal gear is more affordable than it seems and to hear about optimization tweaks that are real-world applicable.
  • With Meru Networks in the lineup, I’m guessing I’m not the only delegate hoping to walk away with a better understanding of their “secret sauce” for single-channel virtual cells, and whether there is more than just bluster to their occasional hubris (as I’ve covered in my Network Computing column). To a certain degree, the same goal applies to XirrusI’ve covered them a number of times but never quite got totally comfortable with the array thing. But I keep an open mind…
  • For Aerohive Networks, I’m both looking forward to updates and just as much to meeting the likes of Andrew von Nagy (perhaps the most approachable and willing-to-share senior tech guy from any vendor) and his homies. Aerohive just seems to have a different culture, and it’ll be nice to spend time in it for a couple of hours. (my latest Network Computing piece on Aerohive is here).
  • AirTight Networks will be interesting because they are “new”, at least as a wireless access player, in a very competitive market. I have a Network Computing piece on AirTight now running, and also recommend this piece by Man-of-Action and  fellow Field Day Vet Matthew Norwood.  Hearing their story in person will be pretty neat.
  • MetaGeek, WildPackets, and FlukeNetworks are all fairly significant players in my wireless world for tools. I’ve been a MetGeek fan from the days of the original WiSpy, and also frequently use EyePA and InSSIDer for Office (best blog on this one from another fellow delegate, Sam Clements). I’m looking forward to hearing any new announcements from the tools folks (gotta be something in this mix about 11ac) and maybe picking up a tip or two about how to better use the products I already have.
  • Finally, Motorola always stokes my interest because they usually have a somewhat unique story and understated approach versus the “aggressive” marketing of other industry players. I’m a fan of many Moto business units (as a radio and Android guy, that’s a given), and caught up with the WLAN folks at Interop in Vegas just a couple of months ago to hear their opening 11ac story. I gotta feeling they’ll have something new for us.

It’ll be a busy week at Wireless Field Day, and my eyes and ears will be open. Standby for updates.

This “Field Day” Thing…

Our Field Day events bring together innovative IT product vendors and independent thought leaders to share information and opinions in a presentation and discussion format. Independent bloggers, freelance writers, and podcasters have a public presence that has immense influence on the ways that products and companies are perceived and by the general public.
                                     -Stephen Foskett (Tech Field Day)
I just wrapped up the better part of a week in the Silicon Valley, and have to say that at times I felt like a little kid. Having never met the Grandmaster of Field Day, Stephen Foskett, I was pretty awed when we finally did shake hands. Stephen is a master of his craft. Bringing together an impressive group of “delegates” from far and wide and getting them into the boardrooms of the biggest names in IT can’t be easy, but Stephen makes it seem effortless, and is as genuine a person as I have ever met.

The other first-timers in the mix and I were quickly made to feel welcomed and appreciated by Stephen and the veteran delegates, and driving around with this crew was a blast. If you are a techie-type and have never been to the San Jose area, you can’t help but marvel at the names on the very modern-looking buildings as you roll by- Avaya, Broadcom, Citrix, McAfee,Netscout, Ruckus, etc- the list goes on and on. This is a special place, and you can feel the vibe.

Being in the inner sanctums of Aruba Networks, Cisco, Juniper, and Motorola was a thrill. Even if the presentations weren’t all that exhilarating at times, simply sitting amongst the best brains in Wireless Networking certainly was. Being both in IT and a faculty member at Syracuse University, it was also nice to see SU grads in the mix as we moved from company to company.

Impressions I took away from the companies’ presentations are at my Network Computing, but also wanted to get it out here how very cool Foskett’s Field Day is. With separate events for Networking, Wireless, Storage, and Virtualization, Field Day connects a lot of industry analyst talent with top companies in their respective fields in a unique and effective format.

It was an absolute honor to have been invited, and I guarantee that you’ll walk away smiling if you ever have the opportunity to meet Stephen.