Tag Archives: #WFD6

Xirrus Loses One, Wins One

One of the more curious WLAN players in the market, Xirrus is always interesting. The wireless array company certainly doesn’t sit still from a development perspective, and is usually among the first WLAN vendors to get major popular new features announced. I’ve met with Xirrus at Wireless Field Day 5 (their presentations here) and WFD 6, and followed their evolution through the years with a number of articles written about them..

Of late, Xirrus has a bit of a bad news/good news story to tell.

The bad news- they’ve been dropped from Gartner’s 2015 Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure Magic Quadrant. Many of us in the WLAN industry have fairly low regard for Gartner’s current methodology in this space, but at the same time those in the market for business Wi-Fi frequently refer to the report for information on the pros and cons of industry players. I don’t agree with Xirrus’ exclusion, but it is what it is.

On the sunnier side, Xirrus has just announced a potential game-changing feature for customers struggling to do secure guest Wi-Fi. Called “EasyPass Personal”, it’s easy to mistakenly equate the new offering to the likes of Aerohive’s Private PSK. Xirrus differs significantly from just PPSK in that EasyPass Personal allows the guest/visitor to set up their own SSID and private pre-shared key. Yeah, read that again because it’s pretty wild.

easypasspersonal

See more on Xirrus’ web site here.

My thoughts on EasyPass Personal: I’ve not tried it, so can’t speak to the feature first-hand. My only real concern is whether the generation of personal guest networks in the air creates a lot of management overhead traffic (seems like it could, at first thought). But beyond that, I applaud Xirrus for bringing an innovative new option to the ridiculously challenging paradigm of secure guest access. Hotspot 2.0 is the promised “official” answer to secure guest Wi-Fi, but it’s both complicated and going nowhere. EasyPass Personal *seems* like a nice methodology, so I’d love to hear from Xirrus users who try it.

How A Dude Named Avi Scored Big For Xirrus

Sure, Wireless Field Day 6 is long since over, yet this quick blog is very much about Xirrus at WF6. My mind zipped back there as I was working away at my desk, and glancing over at the Twitter feed I saw that one Avi Hartenstein is now following me in the Twitterverse. As I returned the favor and added him to my own list, I got hit with the recollection of what Avi was able to do for Xirrus at WFD6.

Simply put, he softened hearts and opened up minds.

I’ve done my own share of wishing Xirrus would open up more about how they execute their unique antenna magic to allow lots of radios to all co-exist under the hood of one of their funky arrays, and it’s no secret that a number of the Wireless Field Day delegates were pretty skeptical about Xirrus’ methods.

But then came Avi. A humble, confident, fairly mellow fellow that basically made his case, shared a bit of his methodology, and told us esentially to take it or leave it because he designed it, it works, and he can prove it. And in the background, I can’t be the only one that was hearing “Ice Ice Baby” playing in my head.

This cool dude reminded us that antenna designs can vary dramatically between the “what you think you see” and the “what it actually does electrically” paradigms. And that was nice.

Sam Clements wrote a good blog after trying a Xirrus unit after WFD6, on the ability of Xirrus to put out a directional signal. It’s a good read.

I’m sure there are still Xirrus skeptics out there, but if you ever get a chance to interact with Mr. Hartenstein you’ll be glad you did. He’s an Antenna Guy for sure, and I hope we hear a lot from him on Twitter because he may tell the Xirrus story better than anyone.

 

 

Extreme Ways- At Wireless Field Day 6

Extreme ways are back again,  Extreme places I didn’t know…

  – (Moby, Extreme Ways)

When it comes to wireless networking, Extreme ways are here, And Enterasys ways are gone- along with the legacy company name behind the product line that is now IdentiFi. New product line, new logo, new forward looking strategy. Now the company just needs to hire Moby to do some commercials…

Image

I had the pleasure of visiting Extreme’s offices in San Jose as part of Wireless Field Day 6. The facility is very nice, and so were our hosts. Director of Mobility and Applications Mike Leibovitz opened the presentation with an overview of IdentiFi, which for me was the first formal intro I’ve had to Extreme’s WLAN solution. (I have covered Extreme WLAN from afar in the past, for NWC.com- like the release of the Altitude 4511 AP). Mike handed off to colleague Will Aguilar, Director of Product Management for IdentiFi.

Will filled the delegates in on IdentiFi’s APs, the system’s virtual and hardware appliances, and alluded to Extreme’s management tools (was a bummer we ran out of time and did not get a demo). I can’t say that I heard anything particularly unique in Extreme’s presentation, but it’s obvious that IdentiFi is positioned to compete with any WLAN vendor in the industry,

Given the buzz over the last couple of months regarding Extreme’s partnership with the National Football League for providing Wi-Fi analytics (and not necessarily only where Extreme WLAN is in use), it was nice to get a little glimpse of how Extreme has carried out stadium wireless in venues like Gillette Stadium and Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia Eagles), but the delegates made short work of Senior Wi-Fi Architect Dionis Hristov’s time. I also spent some time after the presentation hearing from Aguilar on the value of analytics, and the sizable dollars that they lead too in marketing and monitization. This is a huge topic and we’ll no doubt be hearing a lot about it in the months to come.

The videos from Extreme’s session at WFD 6 are here. Since Field Day, Extreme has announced Purview, the magic behind it’s new analytics gig.

My final analysis: Extreme is a big solutions story with a lot of chapters. A couple of hours wasn’t nearly enough to properly get our feet wet, and I hope we hear more from the company in future Field Days.

Xirrus Comes On Strong At Wireless Field Day 6

So, me and Dirk Gates were hanging out the other day in San Jose…. I run in those circles, you know. (Sean Connery may or may not have been in the room, but that’s another story.) Dirk and his posse were busting some funky narrative on Xirrus wireless, and Tom Hollingsworth was serving me coffee while I took it all in. Ah, life was magical for a couple of hours. But how did Xirrus, you know… do?

Pretty damn good, actually (for the most part). Here’s how it went down, what I took away, and what might have made it just a bit sweeter.

The night before Xirrus did their excellent presentation, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Xirrus VP of Product Marketing, Bruce Miller. We chatted easy about mutual acquaintances, goings in in both of our lives, and Xirrus’ looming presentation. Miller is a class act.

Back to the presentation. Dirk opened the show with a nice overview of his founding of Xircom, and passed around some interesting kit from the pre-802.11 days of “cordless Ethernet”. This is one sharp Exec. Gates’ professional history is fascinating, and you gotta appreciate that he has made an empire out of doing WLAN different from the rest of the pack, despite keeping up with feature sets. Xirrus has an 802.11ac offering, application visibility, a cloud story, and all the trappings that go with the typical enterprise WLAN system. But as anybody in the business knows, Xirrus is not the typical WLAN system when it comes to the Access Point side of the equation. And this is what makes the company controversial at times

To address the controversy square on, Gates brought THE BIG GUN, and he stole the show. Mr. Avi Hartenstien is Xirrus’ Director of RF Engineering, and as you can see from the video, Avi IS the magic beyond Xirrus’ multi-radio arrays. Regardless of whether everyone in the room was converted, Avi did a great job of presenting and defending the Xirrus antenna technology. I can tell you as one who has built antennas (for amateur radio) that visual and electrical characteristics of antenna designs can be worlds apart in ease of comprehension, and this may be Xirrus’ biggest liability. People just can’t “see” it as presented.

Overall, Xirrus did great, and I give them a lot of credit for coming back after WDF5.

At the same time, there was a bit of discussion among delegates after Xirrus did their presentation, and I took a couple of things away from that as well:

  • Xirrus ends up being the WLAN servicing a number of big conferences (Microsoft, Interop, others), but many of us have been to those events and have been less than impressed by the Wi-Fi. As high-visibility as these tech conferences are, Xirrus would do well to make sure that whatever integrators are doing the shows with their gear absolutely get it right, because these events may not be working in Xirrus’ favor from the word-of-mouth perspective.
  • Xirrus would do well to offer an array or two to Field Day Delegates and other analysts to play with, not because we want free stuff, but because getting product that you believe in into the hands of skeptics can be the best way to alleviate the skepticism.

I thoroughly enjoyed this session, and I know I learned more about how Xirrus “does it”. I wish them the best in market that is growing both in opportunity and competitiveness.

Wireless Field Day 6- Dispatches From The Front

So we just wrapped up WFD6 in the Silicon Valley. Our merry band of delegates met with AIrTight, Aruba, Xirrus, Extreme, and Cloudpath. There’s a lot to talk about here for each vendor, but that’s not what this post is about. We’ll get to the analysis on how each vendor did and react to their announcements, but there are other tales to tell first.

What I Saw On My Way West

Coming from Syracuse, NY to WFD6, I was routed through Philadelphia and Dallas to my final stop in San Jose. Along the way, what I have become accustomed to in my job as Network Architect and supporter of many network things at Syracuse University was re-affirmed out in the big wide world; people love their mobility. In the airports and in-flight, I have never seen so many mobile devices. The occasional laptop, lots of Nexus tablets and iPads, the occasional reader and off-brand tablet, and smartphones. Everybody is toting some device, from kids in diapers to many elderly people. I saw those that were clearly doing business on their devices, those being entertained, and others that just glance at their device frequently because they’ve made it a habit. I saw many, many more devices on this trip than even on recent trips west just last fall.

The Crew. My Homies. These Delegate People.

What an absolute Cast of Characters. It’s a blessing to be able to get together with like-minded professionals that live all over the country (and the world) that you haven’t seen in months or years and take up with them right where you left off. The humor flows, but make no mistake- this group is also pretty damn tech saavy and I’m privileged to have run with them on this outing. We picked “the new guys” well, to boot. If you ever get a chance to interact with Evert, Richard, or German, you’ll be glad you did- true gentlemen that are easy to spend time with, and that you want to stay in touch with.

Us Regular Folk Are Spoiled

It’s easy for us in the US and other developed countries to be so accustomed to fast, reliable connectivity that we forget to even be impressed any more. We often take for granted 20 Mbps cable modem connections to the home and even faster 4G mobile service. But then you get a chance to hear Evert Bopp from Disaster Tech Lab and Germán Capdehourat from Plan Ceibal talk about different worlds where things aren’t nearly so fast or reliable, and it re-grounds you and reminds us of how good we really have it for Internet connectivity. Watch the videos linked from the Wireless Field Day 6 page if you haven’t seen them yet- you’ll be glad you did.

It’s a Small Wireless Community

As a (mostly) outsider to the WLAN industry, I get a bit of a charge every time I come to the Silicon Valley. So many bigtime WLAN and tech companies in a fairly small area, all competing for the same customers, partnerships, and employees. This was my third Wireless Field Day in roughly a year, and I’m a bit taken aback by the number of staff that have moved around to other companies, acquisitions that change the look and feel of our beloved WLAN vendors, and just how many of those vendors are now rubbing elbows in the cloud with the long-time Cloud Incumbents. Don’t blink, things around here change pretty fast.

With all of that off my chest, I can get down to the business of writing up what I heard, saw, and learned from our WFD sponsors. Each has their own stories, but are also just a part of what makes Wireless Field Day pretty incredible. Stay tuned for more about Wireless Field Day 6.

What’s The Big Deal With Stadium Wi-Fi? Let Me Spell It Out For You

Here’s the Executive Summary: Dollars. Quid. Clams. Smackers. Greenbacks.

Sure, some WLAN vendors and their Integrator buddies stand to make big dough from putting Wi-Fi in stadiums. But if you think that’s the end of the story, you might want to give the matter another think. A BIG ol’ think. There’s a LOT of money going a LOT of places in this equation.

I have written about stadium wireless once or twice in my Network Computing blog, but it was the recent announcement about Extreme Networks scoring the NFL Wi-Fi Analytics gig  that got me thinking more on the topic. But my ponderings didn’t stop with the NFL. No sir, the powerful cranium that sits a mere inches above my handsomely chiseled jaw also went to town thinking about Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, Japanese baseball, the NCAA, minor league baseball, and even strayed into the realms of soccer and rugby.

Being all about value, I partnered with Google’s finest search engine to come up with a bunch of numbers. And they are impressive.

Riddle me this: How many professional-level stadiums are out there in the world of sports? What about college? And the minors?

The answer of course is “a boatload”.

And let’s talk about how big that boat is. Here are the number of teams for each sport, at the identified level:

  • NFL Football: 32 teams
  • NCAA Football: 245 teams (with at least 100 stadiums)
  • Major League Baseball: 30 teams
  • Minor League Baseball: 240 teams (at different levels in 6 countries)
  • NBA Basketball: 30 teams
  • NCAA DIvision 1 Basketball: 345 teams
  • NHL Hockey: 30 teams
  • Nippon Professional Baseball (Japan): 12 teams
  • International Professional Soccer: 200+ teams

And the list goes on with other sports venues, convention centers, etc- but you probably are starting to get the point. Now let’s play the “What If” game from the above data set.

Of the over 1,100 teams specified above, let’s say that 400 of them had a stadium or arena that has, or will get, decent Wi-Fi. We know that some venues like Cowboys Stadium (now called AT&T stadium) have far higher than 500 access points (Cisco in this case), while facilities like Packers’ Stadium (Lambeau Field) have a small quantity of APs (Aerohive for the Cheeseheads) that cover select administrative areas only. We also see that Ruckus soccer stadium deployments in Brazil feature a few hundred APs per. So for the sake of conversation, we’ll say each of our 400 example venues will get a conservative 250 access points each. That’s a total of 100,000 access points (anyone familiar with topical reality would probably agree that I’m being very conservative with this exercise).

Let’s keep going… behind those 100,000 access points we have:

  • Spare APs
  • Controllers
  • Countless server types
  • Licensing
  • Maintenance agreements
  • Specialized antennas
  • Cabling
  • Pathway
  • Switches
  • UPS
  • Routers
  • New MTRs and ITRs
  • ISP connections
  • NOC operations
  • App developers
  • Security appliances
  • Analytics services
  • Upgrades
  • Jobs- both short term and long
  • New cultures
  • Marketing
  • Infinite “one thing enables another” opportunities

I don’t know about you, but I smell money. Let’s get even more bold, and say that each one of those 400 stadiums with 250 access points had a simple installation cost breakdown like this:

250 APs x $5,000 each (that includes cabling, pathway, controllers, switches- everything) = $1.25 Million per facility.

Multiply that by 400 stadiums, and we’re looking at a theoretical $50 Million cost, just to equip the 400 example venues with theoretical Wi-Fi. (And again- my numbers are BS, very conservative versus likely real costs and actual aggregate AP counts.) Then there are the costs of running the network, monitizing it (it takes money to make money), and evolving it based on the findings of lots and lots of analytics that are being counted on to return quick ROI on the technology investment. Along the way, a number of decent jobs have been created (or will be when people who have no clue what they are doing with big WLAN’s hire help). This is a big story with a lot of chapters.

I’m greatly oversimplifying something that is huge here- and I want it to be perfectly clear that my analysis is simple conversation fodder to make the point. And that point is- there’s a lot of money involved with in stadium Wi-Fi. So much so, that many WLAN vendors have special programs just for stadium WLAN. For example (this is in no way a complete list):

Cisco Connected Stadium

Aruba Networks Large Public Venues

Xirrus Stadium Wireless

Meru Sports and Entertainment Solutions

Extreme Networks Sports and Entertainment

Ruckus High Density Solutions

Even Ubiquiti Is In On It

(I’ll be talking with Extreme, Xirrus, and Aruba at Wireless Field Day 6)

Getting My Brain Ready For Wireless Field Day 6- Expectations

Yeah, baby- another Wireless Field Day approaches, and I’m really looking forward to it.

For those not all that familiar with with the Tech Field Day series, I opined about it last year when I was a rookie, and after getting up to speed at #WFD4, I set my sights on #WFD5, Now, I’m ready for another excellent outing, having been fortunate to get invited back for #WFD6.

The who, what, and where of the event is here.

And my version of the quick skinny on who will be there- and what I hope to get out of the event:

The Delegates: those of us who will travel to sponsor facilities, or host the sponsors at the hotel.

    • For me, most of those on the delegate roster are friends/colleagues by now. Connections made at the last two Field Days have blossomed into mutually beneficial professional opportunities, ongoing and frequent knowledge shares, and some pretty hilarious Tweets back and forth. Seeing these folks in person again makes the trek worthwhile.
    • At the same time, I’m looking forward to meeting Evert BoppGermán Capdehourat,and Richard McIntosh and hope they each find the event as rewarding as I have.

The Sponsors: those companies that will make their presentations to the delegates (and those watching from the Internet).

AirTight Networks– This will be the second time for AirTight at WFD, and on a personal note, I’m hoping that the Great San Jose Balloon Theft of 2013 has been forgiven. I haven’t heard a tremendous amount about AirTight since #WFD5, other than the hiring of some great talent. I did cover them a bit for Network Computing as well.

  • MY EXPECTATIONS: An 802.11ac announcement, perhaps a managed service provider-related story, and feature refreshes as this cloud WLAN vendor plays catch-up to Meraki and Aerohive for roundedness of offerings.

Aruba Networks– As with AirTight, this will be my second Field Day visit with Aruba. The WLAN market’s #2 player always has a big story, and some amazing technical talent in the mix. Given that they are a full-service “unified” provider with a newish cloud WLAN story of their own (that I really wasn’t all that jazzed about when it broke), this could go anywhere given the company’s track record of excellent innovation. I make no predictions here. (In the name of shameless self-promotion, I have been enjoying some blogging in the AirHeads Community).

Cloudpath- This is Cloudpath’s first Field Day visit, and I’m thrilled they’ll be there. My university is a Cloudpath customer, and we leverage their WLAN vendor-agnostic magic to get thousands and thousands of WLAN client devices properly configured and onboarded to our big honkin’ WLAN. But I also know they have a range of other features I have yet to experience or get a good brief on.

    • MY EXPECTATIONS: I would expect Cloudpath to differentiate themselves from competing solutions, after defining the feature sets they want to promote. Some of what Cloudpath does (WLAN-agnostic WPA2 supplicant configuration, for example) doesn’t have a lot of competition, while other features compete with the likes of Aruba’s Clearpass, etc. This will be a telling of the Cloudpath story, where it fits, and what makes it better. I hope for a glimpse at roadmap stuff, too.

Extreme Networks- This will be first time with Extreme Networks (who bought Enterasys if you hadn’t heard). First, I gotta congratulate Extreme on having Mike Leibovitz on staff, as he knows his stuff, is passionate about Extreme’s mobility mission, and has a dynamite sense of humor. Mike is one of my favorite people to banter with. All of that aside- Extreme could go anywhere with their presentation. They have a MSP story, are aiming for the stadium market, and could even have some new hardware trick up their sleeve after the Enterasys thing. I make no predictions on Extreme, and look forward to whatever they have for us.

Xirrus– This will be my second time visiting with Xirrus under the Field Day framework. I know I’m not alone in my own view that Xirrus was talked about long after #WFD5, but maybe not for reasons the company would prefer. To Xirrus’ credit, they came out quick after Field Day and made their case.  Hopefully, we can get enough tech depth to placate the delegates on this go round, while hearing Xirrus’ #WFD6 message.

  • MY EXPECTATIONS: I’m guessing we’ll hear MSP/and or cloud related from Xirrus.

(Bear in mind, these are all my own predictions. I have no inside scoop- I promise.)

***And for the #WFD6 Bonus Round: Something Completely New***

We’ll also be hearing about the excellent work of 

  • Plan Ceibal an interesting education/technology effort in Uruguay
  • Disaster Prep Lab an international disaster communications services company

-Hoping everyone has a great Field Day.