Tag Archives: WFD7

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’…

The Great Wireless Field Day 7 Pre-Blog

It just hit me… Jim Morrison was a mystic- and he predicted Wireless Field Day 7!  Think about it…

The west is the best 
The west is the best 
Get here, and we’ll do the rest 

The blue bus is callin’ us 
The blue bus is callin’ us 
Driver, where you taken’ us 

-“The End”, by The Doors

My keen powers of analysis and Rock-n-Roll sensibility tell me that “the west is the best” is a reference to Silicon Valley. “Get here, and we’ll do the rest” plays to the universal truth that if you fall asleep during a vendor session, Tom Hollingsworth will fastball a can of 7 Up at your head. Yes… yes, it’s all making sense now…

“The blue bus is callin’ us” alludes to the safety and comfort of the rolling chariot that Ramon pilots with expert wheelmanship through the mean streets of Silly Valley, taking the Field Day delegates from one vendor site to another!

And to put the ribbons on what Mr. Mojo Risin’ was portending… “Driver, where you taken us” references the fact that none of us know where the hell we’re going when we’re at Field Day! Oh, this is incredible.  It’s all there, why didn’t I see it before?

I’ll tell you what else is all there: the makings for some excellent sessions. As I write this, the current lineup features visits to AirTight Networks, Aruba Networks, Avaya, Cisco, Extreme Networks, and Fluke Networks. With these 5 network companies and one kick-ass tool maker in the mix, we’re likely to put our collective finger on the very pulse of the wireless industry for a few days.

Predictions:

Given where the industry is, there’s a bit of mystery to what we might see and hear at WFD7. If you’re tuning in expecting to simply hear about fast APs and general client access, I’d say you’ve been asleep for the last year. Anymore, it’s all about features, add-ons, and making the wireless system do a lot more than client access. To call today’s super systems “the Wi-Fi” is like calling the most advanced smartphone “just a cell phone”.

I firmly expect discussion on:

  • Updates on 11ac Wave 2 hardware
  • Hints at what’s beyond W2
  • Unified Access
  • Social Wi-Fi
  • Location Services/Analytics
  • Updates on cloud initiatives
  • Feature sets far beyond simple WLAN access
  • The word “monitize” will be said no less than 634 times

I’d personally be happy if there was some substance presented on:

  • SDN and Wi-Fi
  • Small cells, wireless offload
  • Updates to Air Magnet regarding Apple PCs, apps for Android/iOS
  • How the somewhat lame NMS of today will morph into something truly useful for the future
  • How SDN will eventually kill NMS

The “please don’t” list:

Since this is my fourth Wireless Field Day, I can safely say these topics are generally a turn-off, and I hope the vendors spare us:

  • Dissertations  on why BYOD is important
  • Long tours of onboarding solutions (unless there is something bona fide fantastic to talk about)
  • Bragfests about fast APs
  • Bashing the competition as the only message delivered
  • Bonjour gateways

I count the Field Day series among the most educational of “conferences” that I’ve either been to or monitored online, and am thrilled to be be able to attend WFD7.

If you follow these events, what are YOU hoping to hear the vendors talk about at WFD7?