wifi

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 128: The Value of White Box Wi-Fi with Mojo Networks (Sponsored)

We’re diving into a world where businesses and Wi-Fi network engineers have full control over their Wi-Fi infrastructure through White Box Wi-Fi.

This episode is sponsored by Mojo Networks
Mojo Networks logo

White Box Wi-Fi

Rick Wilmer, CEO of Mojo Networks, got into the wireless industry through a CPE and core router company. He saw wireless networking being the next big technology.

We start by asking him, what is cognitive Wi-Fi? It’s collecting a mass amount of data from a network. They use the data to predict what the network is going to do next. If that’s going to be a negative user experience, going to try to remediate that problem fast enough before a user knows they’re going to have a problem. Cognitive Wi-Fi works better with more data, thus Big Data. Machine learning is applied to that data to automatically remediate issues related to end user experience.

Showing the client journey on guest wi-fi

Client journey from OCP Summit (March 2018) using white box APs

What is the biggest value of white box Wi-Fi? It drives cost of enterprise Wi-Fi down. As the cost of the solution goes down, volume goes up. Mojo Networks is about to ship their 500,000th access point. With the more APs out there in production, the more it feeds Mojo Networks’ big data.

Rick Wilmer says functionality and design is moving to the chipset vendors. Hyper scale companies are scaling out large data centers with compute but in their own way without relying on big vendors. That’s how Rick Wilmer found his way to the Open Compute Project (OCP).

OCP drives open standards around hardware which drives the trend of applying it to Wi-Fi. Nothing new is invented. Just as applying what was done to servers and switches but now into Wi-Fi. This focuses Mojo Networks towards developing more of the software side.

Vendor AP interoperability.

Blue icons are Mojo Networks APs, red are Edgecore APs along the OCP Summit floor. APs connected to the Mojo Networks Cloud.

If the AP is defined by the chipset and all the chipsets are largely coming from Broadcom and Qualcomm, that hardware platform is essentially going to be the same as far as core functionality.

Does that mean hardware doesn’t matter? Hardware is still important. It is important in a design and manufacturing stand point. But it’s driven by sophisticated original design manufacturers (ODMs).

Which verticals can take advantage of white box Wi-Fi? Wilmer says, higher education, enterprise, retail, and many more.

What’s driving the need for white box Wi-Fi? Generation 1 of the white box Wi-Fi is making APs available to customers at a price they come out of the factory. There’s no mark up or margin. Hardware comes from one vendor and software comes from someone else. It’s a disaggregation model but Mojo Networks obfuscates the process for the customer.

Generation 2 white box Wi-Fi is when the industry gets to a point where APs from different Wi-Fi vendors interoperate. Think about a light bulb. Any light bulb from any store can plug in and work.

“I can buy any brand of light bulb from any store, bring it home, plug it in, and it’s going to do what I expect it to do, which is light up my room. Wouldn’t it be amazing for the customer if access points worked that way.” – Rick Wilmer

What is the impact to firmware support. Wilmer says APs have been qualified to work with Mojo Networks cloud. Software has been certified with hardware, such as Edgecore access points.

We will see innovation moving away from hardware and into Cognitive Wi-Fi.

What are the basic requirements of a white box AP and what are the basic features we can expect to see? Wilmer says we will see full parity on the Mojo Cloud.

List of vendor AP interoperability in the Mojo Networks cloud dashboard.

Vendor AP Interoperability within the Mojo Networks cloud dashboard.

This has already been put into production with Edgecore and Mojo Networks APs at the Open Compute Summit which was held in the San Jose Convention Center. Mojo Networks provided the guest Wi-Fi for the summit. Edge Core APs were running Mojo Networks’ code. Attendees were provided views of the Mojo Cognitive UI running at their booth, like a NOC. Connected to the guest Wi-Fi, Mojo Networks was able to see 3400 visitors at the summit.

Table of total client associations during the OCP summit

Client associations from the OCP summit using white box APs.

How do you get other vendors involved? Customer pressure. If we want to see change in the Wi-Fi industry, we must pressure vendors to participate and develop solutions for white box Wi-Fi.

Links & Resources