I want to buy some APs and a controller for setting up a test environment so i can experiment. Is there a brand/models anyone can recommend.
It really depends where you are aiming at. What kind of customers are you going for? If your future clients are using Cisco or Aruba I would look for used gear on eBay. If you want to learn broadly I would start with the least expensive gear first. Configure, install and use the gear yourself for at least a month. Then tear it down and install some other brand. They are all very different.
Ubiquiti is my current pet vendor. It is so neatly integrated that it hides many details from sight, though. If you really want to see the nuts and bolts with a shoestring budget then go for MikroTik. There is a steep learning curve with MikroTiks, but I don't know any other way to set up a multi-AS BGP lab for under $100. With MikroTik APs you get to see and set up everything from frequencies to antenna gains and tx powers on a very low level. You can bridge or route wired and wireless as you wish. For centralized management you can set up CAPsMAN. Getting CAPsMAN to work and do what you intended is a learning experience, too :D
It depends on you current skill level as well. If you are just starting out, I wouldn't recommend MikroTiks for the first setup. I would buy two Ubiquiti UniFi APs and an USG for $200 to get started, add a small UniFi PoE-switch for VLAN labs later on.
I just recently found out that LigoWave's Infinity APs support autonomous, distributed and cloud (≤10 devices) control for free out of the box. You probably won't find them at customer sites, but as you learn more ways to skin a cat, the process keeps getting easier to understand.
I don’t want to lock myself to something specific. I want to be as vendor neutral as I can, then maybe later on pick something that I think works best. I have been checking out the MikroTik, getting thrown into the deep end works well with me :P Its like my old HTML teacher said “For those that want to learn how to get shit done in a proper way, notepad is your guy. For everybody else.. Dream Weaver.”
Thank you for the tips, I might post u later with the results!
Do you have customers who are changing out their outdated Wi-Fi network? I've had several opportunities where I could get a Cisco or Aruba AP that was outdated but easily converted to a stand-alone AP. That will give you lots of hands on experience on configuring, analyzing and monitoring Wi-Fi setups.
If you have access to vendor-software, there are ever more virtual controllers you can use. Most of them have trial licenses so you can start to play around.
If you want to get into the details of the frames, basically any AP (or neighbor Wi-Fi network for that matter) will give you plenty of frames to look at.
It does come down to what you want to start with...
On an employer's dime? Cisco.
On your own dime? Ubiquiti.
Or swap meets - Cisco