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  • CWNP

Wi-Fi Kool-Aid: A Tale of Two Flavors

Since I went ahead and threw down the gauntlet in my last post, I thought you should taste-test a couple of Kool-Aid 'samples' while I had everything out on the table.

 

'Kool-Aid' is about a company's overall approach (philosophy) to networking (in this case, Wi-Fi networking).  At first sip, you might think the two flavors we’ll be discussing taste similar, but one of them has a bit of a 'twang.'  It's like sweet tea that's been sitting out a little too long, and if you're an avid sweet tea drinker like me, that twang isn't a good thang. Motorola, Aruba, and Meru, (the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place Wi-Fi vendors in the market) ALL serve up an 'All Wireless Enterprise' flavor.  In contrast, Cisco serves up the 'Wireless-is-an-Extension-of-the-Wired-network' variety. 

 

ALL WIRELESS ENTERPRISE (AWE) means the distribution and access layers of the traditional 'Core, Distribution, Access' network design layers are primarily, if not entirely, wireless.  Wi-Fi would, in today's market, be the primary technology for access. But Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and other technologies could serve in a distribution layer capacity.  It's a given that the core of any sizable network will remain wired for capacity and dependability.  Vendors who are serving AWE flavor know this, and have typically partnered with wired infrastructure vendors (if they can't offer wired infrastructure equipment themselves) to provide this part of the networking meal plan.  More or less, AWE vendors believe that wireless brings a significant value to the enterprise when implemented properly, and they want to specialize in that area alone.

 

WIRELESS as an EXTENSION of the WIRED network (WEW) gives you a mixture that allows wireless to add value to the wired network, but the wired network remains 'primary' - even out to the network's edge (access layer).  WEW flavor has the underlying requirement of the vendor or the vendor's partner(s) being able to (and wanting to) sell primarily wired networking equipment.  Wireless networking equipment is then sold only where specifically needed (when wired network equipment can't do the job) for the purpose of maximizing gross income.

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  • CWNP

Is Their Kool-Aid Staining Your Training?

I'm often asked by individuals wanting to get into the IT networking industry where they should start.  My answer, like everyone else's, has always been:

1. Cisco CCNA - if you're going to work in a Cisco-centric environment
2. CompTIA Network+ - if you're not

 

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  • CWNP

How to 'Cheat' on a Survey - Don't Be A Victim!

Because of the flexibility and reporting capabilities built into most site survey applications, individuals can either knowingly, or accidentally, use these features to ‘Cheat’ and make survey data look different than it really is.

OK, I understand the word ‘Cheat’ is a pejorative, and connotes some sort of blatant attempt to break some rules or misrepresent.  Many individuals just didn’t know any better when they applied these methods in their survey reporting.  I’m not implying that these techniques suggest any malfeasance, only ignorance.

As a customer, the best protection against this type of deception is to request not only the paper or PDF report, but the actual data files so you can review and analyze the data directly yourself.

Below are some of the techniques that allow one to modify and present survey data to reflect whatever you might desire.

Be wary of using any of these techniques on your own analysis or in reviewing data presented by other third parties. Continue reading...

  • CWNP

Seven Rules for Accurate Site Surveys

Seven Rules for Accurate Site Surveys

The process of gathering appropriate and accurate data during a Site Survey is as simple as following a few easy rules.

Break the rules, however, and you could end up with totally useless – but colorful – Heat Maps that have no value to your organization.

These rules have been gleaned through hundreds of site surveys and through teaching over hundreds networking professionals how to use Site Survey products.
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  • CWNP

Devinitions

I spoke to someone today who, like me, is on a quest to define everything that is Wi-Fi.  She (my good friend Joanie Wexler) is on a quest to make sense of the ever-changing vendor definitions for their technology and to relate it back to a standard definition.  KUDOS Joanie!  Our mission here at CWNP is to help the industry learn to USE the standards-based terminology created by the IEEE and Wi-Fi Alliance.  Where there is no standard terminology, we create it.  Examples are 'Single Channel Architecture (SCA)' and 'Multiple Channel Architecture (MCA)'.  You're welcome.  ;-)  My good friend Joel Barrett has picked up the CWNP torch of standardized exam terminology and has created an entire Wi-Fi dictionary.  If you haven't seen it, see here:

http://www.cwnp.com/store/products/DICTIONARY.html

If you want an example of why this stuff matters, here's my favorite.  Meru and Extricom, the only two vendors to ever release products that use the Single Channel Architecture, call the blob that is their collective logic of controller and APs on a single channel, 1) channel spans, 2) channel stacks, 3) channel blankets, and 4) channel layers.  Geez Luiz.  Why?  I'll tell you why: marketing terminology run amuck.  :-)  No offense is meant to either vendor of course.  This is just my favorite example - there are many more just like it that involve other vendors.  Continue reading...

  • CWNP

What is FAIRNESS Anyway?

Everyone seems to have jumped onto the Airtime Fairness bandwagon all of a sudden.  An idea originally introduced by Meru, Airtime Fairness has various implementations these days.  Airtime Fairness is a feature that is, by design, meant to allow faster clients to have more airtime than slower clients.  Most Wi-Fi cells (basic service sets) have clients supporting one or more PHYs connected and certainly all of those clients roam closer and further from the AP almost continually.  When you add in interference sources, multipath, and any number of RF issues, data rates go up and down like the wind changing direction.  Airtime Fairness is one method of optimizing a cell's aggregate throughput, and certainly there are others (that we won't talk about in this blog post).

 

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  • CWNP

Group Hug Events 2.0: The Meru Summit 2009

"Deployment and Management Headaches Are For Other People"

This was the dominant consensus among large numbers of Meru customers and VARs as I spoke with them en mass and invidually for 3 days at Meru's 2009 summit.  Discussions, public and private, were about Meru cutting a clear and fast path toward Wi-Fi utility (Wi-Fi that works as well as your home's electricity).  

It was a whirlwind event, starting early, finishing late each day.  They had WAY more cool stuff on the event schedule than I had time for.  One night, everyone was bussed to a fight and a hockey game broke out.  The food was awesome. ;-)  

We heard from customers who had very large deployments (2500+ APs and growing fast) managed by only 3 people (with few-to-no help desk calls) and medium-large deployments (800-1000 APs and still growing) managed by a single person.   We even heard from one guy who takes Meru's gear into places where it might take a bullet or grenade from time-to-time.  He said he hasn't lost one to shrapnel yet.  This guy mentioned that site surveying is out of the question in environments like that (ya think!?!?) due to having to wear flack jackets and steel helmets.  You know, routine stuff.

 

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  • CWNP

Group Hug Events

http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Show/3961/grouphug.wav

Customers and partners wanna FEEL the love.  It's no longer enough to give your customers and partners a discount, some cool gear, a handshake, and then send them packin'.  They want to know, especially in these uncertain times, that the company with whom they are doing business values them as a customer/partner - and even a friend.  Customers and vendors (and this analogy also applies to VARs and vendors) have become something akin to dance partners.  For example, a vendor might promise to provide high-quality, leading-edge equipment, good pricing, good support (design, install, configuration, etc.), and even some good old face-to-face training.  A customer might, in return, promise to provide long-term commitment to the vendor, product feedback, and even case studies and a reference as needed.  It's a two-way street, a relationship, a marriage of sorts.  What does this get the vendor?  Loyalty.

 

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  • CWNP

This Ain't Your Momma's Round Table

My brain hurts.  The last two weeks have been spent with the industry's finest wireless engineers and instructors pouring over the industry's technology direction, the need for specific certifications, exam objective topics, hundreds of exam questions, and so much more.  To say the least, it has given me a bit of a headache.  :-) The last two weeks were the CWNE Round Table (RT) events here at the CWNP HQ office in Atlanta, GA.  Wonderful things came from both weeks, and much was learned from many hours of discussion among so many experienced engineers.  Many changes to the program were made that will be announced at the appropriate time, and believe me, we are looking forward to announcing them as much as you are looking forward to hearing them!  I want to say a big thanks to the 22 CWNEs for their hard work in making this year's CWNE Round Tables unbelievably productive and beneficial to the CWNP program.  I also want to give a HUGE shout out to two special people:

Marcus Burton - CWNP Lab Engineer (for documenting a mind-numbing amount of information over the last 2 weeks)

Abbey Cole - CWNP Office Manager (who made both CWNE Round Tables possible by coordinating all logistics from start to finish)

 

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  • CWNP

Marvin Speculates on the MCA Big MAC

I know, you're already wondering, "who is Marvin?"  A pseudonym for Marcus + Devin.  You can thank CWNE Round Table member and CWNT (instructor) Gene Hill, who came up with it, for the chuckle.  Marcus is my trusty lab engineer here in the Batcave.  We were bouncing ideas back and forth about some problems we were having here in the lab, and we came up with an idea that probably won't work...but you never know where it might lead.

We are having an issue where TxBF systems are becoming victims of their own success.  They provide such excellent SNR that clients won't let go of an AP (stickiness).  We've tested clients, like Intel's 4965agn, that have roaming aggressiveness settings, and after configuring them for maximum aggressiveness they still stick to an AP far too long.  If APs with TxBF capability aren't placed appropriately far apart, roaming can be a bit of a problem (because the client makes the decision).  I'm not pointing out a flaw in TxBF systems or necessarily the technology itself, but rather a flaw in the interaction between TxBF infrastructures and the various types of clients that connect to them.  The real flaw here is that clients make crappy and inconsistent roaming decisions. Continue reading...

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