Tag Archives: Wi-Fi

I Friggin’ LOVE You, Ruckus ZoneFlex 7055

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Why aren’t the other WLAN makers doing this? Why isn’t MY wireless vendor doing this?

I have ran an awful lot of UTP in my day. Those of us who grew up installing UTP before wireless came along know that network wiring isn’t just copper in the wall. When properly installed by trained professionals, premise wiring is as much a component as anything else in the enterprise network environment.

Where solid, well-provisioned cabling systems are getting less used because wireless is fundamentally changing our access habits, we have an easily overlooked investment at the ready. So why do we have to run more wire for wireless access points when we’re often just a few yards away from perpetually unused UTP runs in the wall?

I get that ceiling-mount APs are the preferred methodology where possible. But holy smackers, sometimes getting there takes huge money, new pathway, hazardous materials abatement, and dancing with a labor union or two. In the right setting, an AP designed to leverage existing wall-plate network jacks would be the cat’s ass, baby.

Ruckus gets it, and just announced their sweet new ZoneFlex 7055 access point.

With dual-band 11n, 2×2 MIMO, support for 16 SSIDs, a Gigabit uplink port and four Fast Ethernet ports all powered by 802.3af PoE, the 7055 brings a lot of capability at a list price of $369. Yes- three hundred and sixty-nine dollars… Shut up!

The ZoneFlex 7055 will also power an IP phone, and mesh other locally-powered 7055s that just can’t be located where cable exists, which amounts to a pretty empowering feature set.

You already own the wire, you might as well use it.

And with that, Ruckus hits one of my top-three requests for WLAN makers!

Mi-Fi Not Kind to Wi-Fi

Are you “that guy”? Do you take your Mi-Fi hotspot with you everywhere you go and light it up as if it were your constitutional right, regardless of your location? Do you treat your hotspot like an extension of your very being?

If so, I say to you…. “Grrrrrr.”

We live in an exciting New Age of Connectivity. The Internet- nay, entire worlds– are at our command from the palms of our hands. We are sailing the Good Ship Mobility on The BYOD Sea, and we have friendly wind. For those who need connectivity for work or play, life is good.

But isn’t everything in IT a study in paradox? Is there ever a free lunch?

BYOD and the consumerization of IT is not without collateral damage. One of the most irritating aspects of affordable, high-bandwidth portable devices is the wonderful, maddening Mi-Fi Hotspot. To rip off Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love:

It ought to be easy ought to be simple enough
User meets Mi-Fi and they fall in love
But the spectrum’s haunted and the ride gets rough
And you’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above

The problem is that Mi-Fi devices are an addiction. Where we have no easy access to our own or decent public Wi-Fi, they are great. But users can’t keep ’em put away when they visit places where the Mi-Fi is not welcome. Worse, they leave them on (especially when your smartphone is the hotspot) and never disable them. And yes- they are rogue access points that violate most corporate wireless and network policies.

One popular Mi-Fi Hotpsot is the Novatel 2200. With a stated range of 30 feet, this little darling has the potential to be felt in multiple cells in a dense WLAN environment. As an added bonus, I frequently see Hotspot devices come up on channel 2 in the 2.4 GHz spectrum- which means your own channel 1 is toast, and your channel 6 is degraded if the environment is open enough to allow the Hotspot to share physical space with the business wireless network (you know, the same that is already fighting off the effects of microwave ovens, Bluetooth devices, poorly-chosen cordless phones, wireless cameras,and a range of other devices).

Here’s a great review on another Hotspot, where the author found the range and wall-penetrating abilities of the Novatel 4510L to be surprisingly beefy. Again, great when you have no other network nearby, bad news for your wireless neighbors when you fire it up in the conference room of the company that you’re visiting rather than use their guest wireless service.

After watching the impact of these devices when a couple dozen of them pop up in a stadium packed with fans trying to use my state-of-the-art wireless system, I understand why the London Olympics tried (and why other venues continue to try) to police the use of personal Hotspots. Where a significant investment has been made to provide a carefully engineered WLAN for thousands of fans, a few personal hotspots can ruin wireless life for hundreds of fans and for venue operations that require wireless.

These popular devices certainly aren’t going away, but it would be wonderful if there were some etiquette training provided with their purchase.

And for Corn’s sake, why channel 2?

Again, grrrrr.

 

3 Things I Would Like From WLAN Makers

Wireless networking is amazing stuff. When you first learn the nitty-gritty of how clients access the medium and the orchestrated nuances of timing, modulation, and propagation, it can make your head spin. Add to it a rapid evolution where each improvement on the original 802.11 standard brings an order of magnitude more benefit (and complexity) and you really have to appreciate the incredible engineering minds that come up with this stuff.

Sure, it’s easy for the rest of us to “arm-chair quarterback” all of the things that we think our wireless networks should do. And that brings us to here and now. I would love to see the WLAN industry embrace the following three suggestions (and will even waive my name being in the credits at the end of the movie if wireless makers follow through and give me what I want):

1. Every WLAN maker should provide a single-gang, flush-mount AP so we can leverage the huge and frequently unused already-installed premise wiring infrastructure. I understand lofty topics like heat generation, space constraints on high-performance dual-band 11n radio assemblies and all that. But I’d even be happy with single-band, low power “micro cell” kinda things that, in the right situation, negated the need to run new wiring and allowed me to make use of some the thousands of unused UTP runs I have installed as ever more users ditch the Ethernet cable and go with wireless. Such an access point would open up huge possibilities. (A couple of vendors already do this, but I want ALL WLAN makers to do it, as there is no interoperability between vendors.)

2. Give us a “virtual client” troubleshooting utility. I want to be able to turn an in-place AP into a client device, and remotely use it to exercise every SSID, DHCP pool, RADIUS server, and path from the wireless environment to the rest of the network whenever I feel like it. This would let me “be” anywhere I want to test critical network functions without leaving the comfort of my office. As a bonus, I would be able to schedule the functionality. The key here is that I don’t want to pay for a pricey overlay to get the described functionality- I want it from my already-purchased pricey WLAN.

3. Finally, with every major code upgrade, I don’t just want release notes in a cold PDF that I have to wade through to glean what I’m getting into. I’d love an accompanying podcast or video in plain English that gets to the meat of what’s important. Something like Blake Krone and Andrew vonNagy interviewing Cisco For “No Strings Attached”  when the 3600 AP was released would be the proverbial cat’s ass. Having the truly important parts of the new feature set introduced along with the potential gotchas in podcast or video form and without the taint of marketingspeak before the upgrade would rock.

And there you have my wish list for today.

If the WLAN industry gets ambitious and meets my demands quickly and then wants something else to do, please get with the printer industry and teach them what it takes to make wireless printers actually function on secure business WLANs.

About Wirednot

Lee Badman (that’s me) is a long-time wireless and networking professional. I also blog professionally as described here, and I’ve I’ve written hundreds of short and feature-length articles through the years.

Not everything I’m interested in or want to say in a more unfiltered way regarding wireless makes it to print in the other blogs, and so my Wirednot Blog provides me an alternative venue to cut loose a bit.

Follow me on Twitter @wirednot, and feel free to comment on anything you feel like here. I do the LinkedIn thing, but I don’t take it particularly seriously.