Tag Archives: Wave 2

Extreme Networks Makes the Case for 802.11ac Wave 2

With Wi-Fi technology constantly improving, it’s easy to stop paying attention to what incredible things are really happening for WLAN users. And incredible things are happening. With the arrival of 802.11ac’s Wave 2, we see new wheels put into motion for wireless users, and paths that the wireless industry had started down being turned into legitimate highways. 802.11ac Wave 2 is big news, and businesses are benefiting from its transformative nature, as over-viewed in a new eBook published by Extreme Networks.

As a wireless architect who builds WLAN environments of all sizes, I see first-hand how modern Wi-Fi enables new workflows and allows businesses to re-invent their processes as wired Ethernet gets pushed increasingly to the margins. Wireless connectivity has become the access method of choice for a huge swath of the business world, and Wave 2 is very persuasive to those who haven’t cut the cord yet. As highlighted by Extreme, it’s not just about signal coverage- or even speed- any more with enterprise Wi-Fi. Wave 2 also brings impressive capacity that further makes the case that businesses truly can run their operations over well-designed wireless networks, while enjoying the benefits of portability and mobility. With data rates topping 1.7 Gbps in ideal conditions, wireless traffic is forwarded with great efficiency in Wave 2 environments.

Extreme’s eBook makes the point that Wave 2 delivers a number of new or improved technologies, and these get even legacy client devices on and off the network quicker. Wi-Fi is still a shared medium, but that notion is getting blurred a bit with Wave 2, for everyone’s benefit. Multi-User MIMO (MU-MIMO) is rightfully getting its share of media coverage, as for the first time we have the capability for a single access point to service multiple clients simultaneously. Like with Wave 2’s impressive top-end for data rates, there are many factors that have to line up for MU-MIMO to live up to its capabilities at any given instant. But even though it may not be leveraged for every client and every transmitted frame given the variability of wireless, there’s no disputing the aggregate performance gains to be had by MU-MIMO. It really is exciting stuff, even to those of us who have seen it all when it comes to WI-Fi.

As businesses of all types consider whether Wave 2 is worth upgrading to, Extreme makes some good points. With more delivered network performance per AP, even for older non-802.11ac client devices, properly designed Wave 2 environments can significantly up the return on investment for the same spend as 11ac Wave 1 or 11n, if you negotiate your discounts right. If you’re sitting on an 11a/g or even early 11n network, making the jump to Wave 2 may be easy if your cabling plant and switches are up to date. Even if they’re not, it’s not uncommon to find that when planning for a new high-end wireless network, you can decrease your wired Ethernet expenditures as you make the jump. Everyone has their own OpEx/CapEx/TCO paradigm to define and muddle through, but Extreme gives pretty good food for thought in their eBook as you wrestle with your own situation.

Yes, Wave 2 has a business story to tell. Efficiency, performance, more-for-the-money, and so on- yes, those are all valid and noteworthy. But the Wave 2 story is also exciting at the user level. BYOD is an established fact of life, and in reality it’s more like Bring Your Own Many Devices for most of us. Our users have a slew of devices of various types and purpose, and 11ac Wave 2 helps with the overall Quality of Experience. Better cells are a tremendous asset to the end user, especially when those cells can self-leverage their best qualities for different device types.

Just remember that Wave 2 isn’t a design, or a deployment scenario. It’s a really awesome technology to be used to solve business problems and to facilitate business operations. As Extreme points out, Wave 2 is part of a bigger technology evolution story that features not just better Wi-Fi, but also switching developed just for 11ac, new analytics capabilities, improved security options, the Internet of Things, and (depending on your needs) impressive SDN and cloud tie-ins. Nothing under the network sun evolves in a vacuum, and Wave 2 fits very well with other advanced enterprise developments. Whether it makes sense for you to consider the move to Wave 2 is ultimately your call (and you’ll like get there at some point anyway). Extreme’s eBook on 802.11ac Wave 2 is an easy read, and does a pretty good job of telling the story of Wave 2 from a few different important angles.


 

FTC-required disclosure: I was compensated to review and comment on the 802.11ac Wave 2 eBook referenced in this blog, by PR company Racepoint Global. I have no direct business relationship with Extreme Networks, and in no way claim to be an Extreme Networks customer or representative of Extreme Networks. 

802.11ac Is A Big Fat Pack of Lies

We’ve been hoodwinked. They snookered us. The wool has done been pulled over our eyes. Ah yes, the snake oil convention came to town, and we all went in the big tent and bought us some. But who could blame us for getting all sparkly-eyed when you breathe in the aroma of those fat numbers promised by 802.11ac? It’s intoxicating stuff, this getting-ever-faster Wi-Fi. But alas… it’s also fraudulent promises, broken hearts, and “Ha! Made you look!” all put in a shit sandwich that we’re willingly nibbling on.

OK- so maybe it’s not quite that bad. But it’s safe to say that with 802.11ac, and even 802.11n, the standards-authors are writing certain checks that the Bank of Reality just can’t cash, despite the giddy marketing folks’ best efforts to convince us otherwise.

Have I bummed you out yet? You might be wondering what could put an upbeat, good-looking fella like myself in this sort of funk. Well, I’ll tell you what sir (or madame)… I just read me an excellent- and I mean excellent- whitepaper from the very smart folks at 7signal, titled 802.11ac Migration: Real World Best Practices. I should have saw what was coming with the subtitle “Learn what vendors won’t tell about 11ac performance in real-world deployments”. Here’s the kicker: there’s nothing really new here, per se. But the cold hard facts of what a given standard “supports” versus what reality allows are presented extremely eloquently in this document. Ideally, it would be required reading for WLAN vendor marketing departments and technical managers and execs not familiar with such things.

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Download here)

I won’t give it all away, but here are a few teases:

  • We never did get to the top-end of 802.11n’s promised 600 Mbps data rates, and it’s highly doubtful we’ll recognize 11ac’s hyped 6.7 Gbps either
  • 256 QAM is awesome- if you’re standing close to an AP or have one in your pocket
  • Channel bonding is the stuff of high data rates… but you’re probably expecting too much out of this feature
  • Despite rapid adoption of 11ac, what we’ll see out of it in terms of big, impressive performance numbers will be a mere fraction of what hype tells us to expect
  • There are several other depressing little nuggets

Get the document, read it, and share it. It really is well written and injects a needed dose of reality to the 11ac buzz.

At the same time, don’t be as pissy as I’m making myself out to be in this blog (I’m a writer, and this is called creative license for those of you watching at home). 11ac is still moving the Wi-Fi cheese deeper into the 5 GHz spectrum, which is a huge gain for the greater wireless good. And…we’re still getting better rate-over-range with 11ac versus 11n, and with Ruckus breaking the ice on Wave 2, we’re getting into 4×4 APs with MU-MIMO (though 7signal deflates the MU-MIMO bluster a bit as well in the whitepaper). 

So maybe 11ac isn’t really a big fat pack of lies… perhaps it’s more like a series of Brian Williams-style “embellishments”.  But the truth here does matter for managing expectations, and that’s the point of 7signal’s excellent document.