Podcast

CTS 150: Wi-Fi Design Day, NAC, Troubleshooting, C9800, and More

Stephen Cooper flies from Australia to San Jose to record in-person for Clear To Send. But really he was in town for work and made time to meet with me, Rowell, to talk about different topics in wireless.

Interview with Stephen Cooper

We met at the Westin hotel which happened to be the quietest place downtown due to a winter holiday event occurring.

He’s a Technical Solutions Architect for Cisco residing in Australia. Previously was the Ekahau SE for Asia Pacific working out of Australia. And before that he was at Dimension Data.

It’s challenging to find wireless guys who understand wireless and network access control such as Cisco ISE or Aruba ClearPass. At Dimension Data Stephen had to work on these types of projects. Network access control usually falls with the security team and the wireless guys don’t have much insight into how it’s deployed.

Troubleshooting is critical for wireless professionals. Understanding how the network should be working helps identifies root causes faster.

While at Ekahau, Stephen was very remote from the rest of the team. He met with a lot of customers where shifting their minds towards thinking about design first and understanding fundamentals. A vendor default is not vendor recommendation. And a challenge Stephen noticed at Ekahau is customers may not necessarily know that distinction.

When it comes to design, we often see that device types are forgotten and not considered into the design process. But the wireless community has been very good at bringing device types and their characteristics into light.

Moving to Cisco, Stephen has been able to work with clients on wireless designs, helping with migration strategies between controllers, helping customers understand how to get onto locations services network or VoIP ready network. He’s more focused on wireless and Cisco DNA – future architecture.

With Cisco’s next generation wireless architecture and intent-based network, Stephen thinks you have more flexibility with how you can deploy new controllers, but there’s still life in the AireOS controllers. There’s a large legacy install but they can still do telemetry you can use in DNA Assurance. You may not get the same level as detail compared to the C9800s.

Wi-Fi Design Day was born out of Ekahau and was started in the UK. It was meant to educate people but have it a community driven event. The first event was a huge success in London and when it was announced in Australia it was also popular. The event is unique where it’s vendor neutral with experts from multiple vendors talking about Wi-Fi as well as end users talking about their use cases. This event is much smaller and intimate compared to larger conferences.

Links & Resources

Twitter: Stephen__Cooper
Blog: wificoops.com

CTS 149: 6 Characteristics Of High Performing WLANs

To deploy a high performing WLAN, in which your workforce heavily relies on, requires more than guess work.

6 Characteristics of High Performing WLANs

Wi-Fi networks were originally built with coverage in mind and access points were installed in rooms where it was known to need Wi-Fi. But as businesses began migrating from Ethernet to a complete Wi-Fi only infrastructure, this made Wi-Fi a mission critical service to business objectives.

We outline 6 characteristics of high performing WLANs which do away with frustrated end users and get the business back on track to productivity.

Planning and Design

You give your finger a quick lick and put it up in the air. Then you turn to your installer and point to randomly selected areas of the ceiling and say, “Put a WAP here, one over there, and one right here and we should be good..” This is a recipe for disaster.

To deploy a high performing WLAN, in which your workforce heavily relies on, requires more than guess work. It requires a proper design which begins with gathering requirements. When it comes to upgrading the core network, Wi-Fi must be treated the same. Treat Wi-Fi as an extension of your wired network.

Design is the result of thorough planning. It requires understanding how the WLAN will be used, what devices will be utilizing the WLAN, how many devices, and what applications. This is not an exhaustive list of questions but it’s a good starting point. The end result of planning and design will be a WLAN built for a productive end user experience.

Planning upfront will lay the foundations to a WLAN designed to fit the business needs. A WLAN must be designed for a mobile workforce. The technical professional must have in-depth Wi-Fi knowledge and understand the knobs required to tune for the specific environment.

A high performing WLAN will be designed so that there are less trouble tickets. It will be designed on the capability of the devices utilizing the WLAN, the capacity needs of the environment, and for high density of devices.

Reliable

Accessing information quickly and easily on any wireless device drives the mobile workforce. Wi-Fi is now the primary access. Businesses have been migrating from Ethernet to an all wireless infrastructure. That means the WLAN infrastructure must be reliable.

Redundancy builds a robust WLAN infrastructure to prevent major outages. It prevents loss of productivity and loss of potential revenue. Ensure the WLAN is built with good backend infrastructure.

A reliable WLAN must be capable of adapting to the radio frequency environment. It must react to adverse effects from neighboring WLANs. Interference is another productivity killer which a WLAN needs to identify and mitigate.

With workforces placing an abundant reliance on cloud applications, maintaining a reliable WLAN is key to boosting business growth.

Secure

Mobile data traffic grew 63% in 2016, according to Cisco. There’s no avoiding the penetration of IoT devices as they take the enterprise by storm. It leaves many wondering how to secure IoT devices and their WLANs.

IoT may help drive innovation but data must be kept secure and unauthorized access needs to be thwarted.

A high performing WLAN must allow trusted devices to authorized data. Properly segmenting these networks is just one of many steps.

A WLAN system must identify rogue access points and devices with a method of containing those threats quickly.

In 2007, TJ Maxx had a cyber security breach of their credit card data because of weak Wi-Fi security. Don’t become the next headline.

Good End User Experience

In today’s workplace, everyone is accessing the cloud at all times. Wi-Fi is now the primary method of access to network resources. People are carrying up to 3 or 4 devices at a time and needing to get their work done from any of those devices.

To provide a boost in productivity and effectively collaborate with others, slow or unresponsive Wi-Fi must be eliminated.

A well performing WLAN always goes back to reliability. An increase in reliability boosts end user productivity. Users can perform their work efficiently and from anywhere in the office. Voice calls are often done over Wi-Fi calling due to a lack of LTE signal penetration into the building. Video conferencing and streaming is putting a strain on the WLAN as well. Plan for these workloads.

The quality of the users work over Wi-Fi can be directly matched to the reliability of the Wi-Fi network.

Designed for Capacity

As people begin working in the office at early hours, the Wi-Fi network will be humming. As more people begin to fill in their seats some start noticing a degradation of Wi-Fi service.

The increase in number of devices creates a high density situation. With each person carrying 3-4 devices can put a strain on the WLAN.

The types of applications used on each of these devices defines how well a Wi-Fi network will perform. If it was designed according to requirements, it will perform as expected. Without planning for capacity equates to planning for failure.

Other factors must be taken into consideration. In addition to planning for capacity, APs must be mounted properly and antennas aligned in the right direction. It is all based on the usage and capacity requirements of the work patterns.

Insight

How do we know if a WLAN is performing? Is the IT support staff armed with the right tools to understand the state of the Wi-Fi network. Analytics can provide valuable insight into how the Wi-Fi network is being used and to what capacity. This information can lead to optimizations for increased end user experience.

Analytics can also empower the IT support staff to troubleshoot quickly when issues arise. The data lends itself to measuring end user experience across an entire network stack.

With powerful information on-hand it can improve root cause analysis, decrease length in time spent during the investigation process, and improve time to resolution.

Links and Resources

Fill out the WLAN Pros Compensation Benchmark. Results will be published freely for the community.

CTS 148: What Does It Mean To Be An Engineer

François goes into what it means to be an engineer.

Meet Daniel Cavazos

Daniel resides in San Antonio, Texas and is a Wireless Infrastructure Sales Engineer for Ventev.

Sorry, Daniel! We thought we had a photo of you but we must have missed it!

What Does It Mean To Be An Engineer

Definitions of an engineer:

A person who designs, builds, or maintains engines, machines, or structures.
A person qualified in a branch of engineering, especially as a professional.

A definition of an engineer

My Definition of an Engineer

  • Finding solutions to complex problematics
  • The goal of an Engineer is to solve a problem most of the time complex problem involving a high level of technical skills
    • Designing a new solution, a new Wi-Fi network
    • Updating and maintaining a Wi-Fi infrastructure
    • Troubleshooting a Wi-Fi issues
  • All these tasks require us to understand what we are doing

Embrace the challenge

  • Once you understand this, you have to embrace it
  • Problem solving
  • Embrace problems
  • See them as a challenge rather than something negative. I really started to appreciate that idea working with more experienced Engineer

Important Skills

  • Be able to understand the WHY
    • Planning / Research
  • Be able to know HOW to
    • Experiment
  • Be thorough and methodical
  • You need to be able to support the solution you are proposing

Not only the technical skills

  • You need to be able to communicate
    • With other Engineers
    • With less technical persons
  • Explain and sometimes sell your solution to management
  • You need to be able to document your work
    • In a very detailed way for your peers
    • In a summarized way for management

What do you think? Is it how you see your job? What other aspects of working as an Engineer are important?

CTS 147: This Week In Wireless – News Roundup

This week in wireless we have a round of news to cover. Below are what we discuss on the show with our opinions. I apologize for the briefness of the show notes. I, Rowell, am traveling this week.

Cisco Catalyst 9800 Wireless Controllers: https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/wireless/catalyst-9800-series-wireless-controllers/index.html

Commscope to Acquire ARRIS: https://www.commscope.com/NewsCenter/PressReleases/CommScope-to-Acquire-ARRIS/

Ubiquiti Networks Enterprise technology segment soars:
https://www.fool.com/amp/investing/2018/11/09/ubiquiti-networks-makes-it-3-straight.aspx

Golden State Warrios partner with HPE: https://news.hpe.com/golden-state-warriors-partner-with-hewlett-packard-enterprise-to-drive-connected-experiences-for-chase-center/

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) vulnerabilities:
https://www.darkreading.com/vulnerabilities—threats/new-bluetooth-vulnerabilities-exposed-in-aruba-cisco-meraki-access-points/d/d-id/1333181

Meraki adds universal maps: https://meraki.cisco.com/blog/2018/11/universal-maps/

Rowell becomes iBwave Wi-Fi certified:
http://www.ibwave.com/learning/certification-courses

CTS 146: Deploying Wi-Fi at Scale with Gurpreet Singh

Gurpreet Singh shares his story of how he got started in Wi-Fi. He also explains how to approach a large Wi-Fi deployment.

Deploying Wi-Fi at Scale

Gurpreet deployed a new Wi-Fi infrastructure for a large food chain and shared his experience. We talk about what is different when deploying at a bigger scale.

Preparation is key

Here are a few things Gurpreet and his team did early on in the project:

  • Plan everything
  • Spend time defining the solution through a Proof of Concept
  • Test as many scenarios as you can
  • Define the processes that will be used for the deployments by the different teams
  • Train the team
  • Plan everything

Challenges

These large deployments come with some interesting challenges:

  • How do you do your Wi-Fi design?
  • How do you choose your Wi-Fi configurations?
  • How do you validate your installation?

Listen to the episode to hear the full story!

You can get in touch with Gurpreet on Twitter https://newtowifi.com or visit his blog https://newtowifi.com.