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Cisco @ Mobility Field Day 4

Cisco decided to join the party and also present something at Mobility Field Day 4 this year. They talked about their new wireless Catalyst line of product, IoT and OpenRoaming.

If you want to catch back with the presentations and watch them, here are the links you need:

In this episode, we give our point of views on the different topics Cisco presented on.

For more insights from the other delegates, please read the following articles:

The Wireless Catalyst Offering

Cisco has decided to build a new line of wireless products based on their IOS-XE code instead of updating their legacy AireOS platform. We first heard about it late last year. Since then, we have seen a new series of WLC and Access Points being announced by Cisco.

At Mobility Field Day, they talked about all the wireless Catalyst product they have released yet. On the AP side, they talked about the Wi-Fi 6 access points:

  • Catalyst 9115
  • Catalyst 9117
  • Catalyst 9120

On the WLC side, they talked about the following options:

  • Catalyst 9800-80
  • Catalyst 9800-40
  • Catalyst 9800-L (The new member of the family)
  • Catalyst 9800-CL

The Catalyst 9800-L has been announced at the beginning of August 2019. It is a smaller controller aim to target environment with a lower number of Access Points. It comes in 2 different form factors (one with copper interface for the uplink interface, and the other one comes with fiber modules for the uplink interface). For smaller sites, a customer can now have the option to install a controller on a VM or on a Cloud (Catalyst 9800-CL) or install an appliance on site if they want to (Catalyst 9800-L). I believe the cloud option is very attractive for smaller sites. However, it is nice to be able to offer the onsite solution when customers have special requirements.

The IOS-XE platform is very flexible and future proof. Openconfig models can be found on all the Catalyst equipment. The latest version of the OS is 16.12 and Cisco told us that it will be the next MD release.

This new version (16.12) is ready for WPA3, it supports both 802.11ac and 802.11ax APs, it talks to DNA Center (of course), ISE, Prime and CMX.

On the AireOS side of things, version 8.10 will be the next MD release.

IoT is making it to the enterprise space

I personally really enjoyed the IoT discussion this year at Mobility Field Day. I wasn’t expecting much of it and was happy to see what the vendors are doing to face our upcoming challenges.

IoT devices are being installed in the enterprise space. It is even truer in new buildings where the IoT devices are being installed at the same time as the rest of the infrastructure. We are starting to see a lot of smart connected objects and they will need to connect the enterprise network at some point. I believe that with technologies such as Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth, Zigbee and others, the 2.4GHz band will evolve to become the “IoT band”.

IoT in enterprise space is bringing a lot of challenges:

  • Onboard: how do you connect the devices to the network
  • Manage: how to manage all of them
  • Security: how do you make sure their stay secure and don’t create a breich to the network

Cisco solution to the IoT challenge is to integrate support to IoT technologies within their enterprise access points. The Catalyst 9115 and 9117 support Bluetooth. The Catalyst 9120 support Bluetooth, Zigbee and Thread. Moreover, you can now also support applications on the access point which will have access to the different IoT radios. For instance, you could run an application on the AP that will interact with the Zigbee radio and act as a Zigbee gateway.

Thread was kind of a new technology to me. It allows devices to get an IPv6 address and it is one of the most popular IoT technology after Zigbee, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.


OpenRoaming is not a new subject. We have been talking about it for a while now. For those of you attending the past couple of Cisco Events (Cisco Live), you should have been able to even try it out for yourself.

OpenRoaming allows you to seamlessly connect to a Wi-Fi network, securly and without having even thinking about it. It is an evolution (or alternative) to Passpoint.

OpenRoaming is a Cisco initiative and they are working with the WBA to try to make it a standard and have as many people as possible to participate.

OpenRoaming allows Identity Providers to be used as authenticators. Anyone could register to become an Identity Providers. It could be Google for instance so you could authenticate yourself to the Wi-Fi network using your Google Account. Or Apple, and you would use your Apple ID to authenticate to the Wi-Fi.

As an example, you could have a stadium providing free public Wi-Fi. But instead of connecting using a captive portal, you would connect using your Google account to a much more secure 802.1X Wi-Fi networks (802.11u).

OpenRoaming is very interesting. Cisco seems to be pushing it quite a bit and see it as a solution to onboard devices and introduce seamless transition between Wi-Fi networks and cellular connection. Meanwhile, Aruba presented on Passpoint. I really hope that vendors will agree on one technology and move the industry forward. I am relying on the WBA to be a platform for all the vendors to exchange on that subject. Even if passpoint has been around for quite a while now, I haven’t seen it implemented a lot. I believe OpenRoaming is easier to deploy and also more flexible on the authentication piece (not necessary requiring a service provider). Future will tell!

Presenters from Cisco

Sujit Ghosh presented on Wi-Fi 6

Srinivas Annambhotla presented on IoT

Matt MacPherson Presented on OpenRoaming

Picture credits: Ben Gage

Wireless Network Engineer and Owner at SemFio Networks. CWNE #180. Living in London ON Canada, born and raised in Dijon, France.

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