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Wi-Fi Assurance With Sensors

CTS 112

Fred Niehaus and Wes Purvis, of Cisco, discuss how the network sensor brings an impact with Wi-Fi assurance.

CTS 112

The Network Sensor

This episode was all brought together because of a recent announcement of Cisco’s dedicated Wi-Fi network sensor. A smaller AP-looking device, similar to the Cisco 1815, that can be wall-mounted or placed close to the users. It’s purpose is to validate Wi-Fi connectivity.

Named the Cisco Aironet Sensor, there are three components:

  • Wireless performance analytics
  • Real-time client troubleshooting
  • Proactive Health Assessment

Wes Purvis talks about the requirements of running the dedicated sensor:

  • Cisco WLC with 8.5 MR2
  • Cisco DNA Center
Tests for the Cisco Sensor
Cisco Aironet Sensor Tests

François and Rowell ask why even build a sensor with other companies in the market also developing their own kind of sensors. Primarily it was to give more visibility into the network and to do prescribed testing.

The Cisco Aironet Sensor will associate directly with a Cisco AP. Various health checks can be performed by acting like a client device. The results of those tests bypass the Cisco WLC and get reported directly to Cisco DNA Center.

There are three modes to the sensor:

  • Active sensor
  • Wave 2 AP as a sensor
  • Radio as a sensor
Results of the sensor tests
Results of the tests ran by the network sensor

Those last two modes are interesting. A Wave 2 AP can stop serving clients and become a sensor itself to run any diagnostic tests. The third option is available to APs with an XOR radio. One of the radios goes out of service to clients and acts as a client itself, connecting to other APs.

In the episode we did speak about turning an AP into a sensor and the cautions there. Because APs are not near the clients, the results may not reflect the experience of a real client.

Currently, Cisco supports a number of different tests on the sensor. There are about 10-15 available with future expansion into custom tests. Some of those tests include:

  • DNS
  • DHCP
  • Basic connectivity
  • Default gateway
  • Connect to an IP address
  • Download a webpage
  • FTP test

Let us know what you think below in the comments after you listen to the episode with Wes Purvis and Fred Niehaus.

The heatmap of a Cisco sensor.
Sensor heatmap

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Links and Resources

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Rowell, CWNE #210, is a network engineer in Higher-Ed. He enjoys working with wireless networking technologies and loves to share and engage with the community. You can connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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    • The intent of the network sensor looks promising with Cisco DNA. The idea of doing scheduled tests is a great idea and when custom tests get introduced it would make it very powerful.

      • Correct, these type of solutions are already in the market for a long time (since 2010?), with sensor based testing from the clients perspective (customers love these concepts and have done large deals in the past), but the value is increased with the DNA Center new Assurance piece with the intelligence for client + wireless + wired and security integrations (and more coming up). This is very advanced, having seen many solutions over the years, I have not seen this intelligence before.

        • Hi,
          Do check out the performance of Mojo Networks’ C-130 which is a tri-radio device. With cognitive wifi through Mojo Aware, the analytics can be derived too.

          • I agree, check out the Mojo Network options. There are OEM hardware vendors that use the Mojo cloud, which is where I have used it. It does everything today that they said “not yet” to in the podcast.

  • Thanks for a informational podcast.

    We invested in a lot of licenses for Prime 3.x for our whole wireless network.
    I was under the impression that Prime owners can get DNA Center since its going to replace Prime (3.3 or 3.4 will be the last version of Prime according to Cisco sources). But I cant find Cisco DNA Center for download on
    This link here goes to something else:

    • Chris- I’m not sure on the PI -> DNAC migration paths, probably best to work with your local rep.

      As for DNAC download, that one I can answer. DNAC is sold as a hardware appliance only today. Meaning there is no download from CCO, per se. Updates are handled via cloud tethering on the appliance.

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