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Enhancing HDX: Improved Mitigation of Wi-Fi Interference through Wi-Fi-Triggered Event-Driven Radio Resource Management (ED-RRM)

Cisco Systems is announcing a new set of features that enhance its HDX (High Density Experience) suite. This blog is the fourth in a series that explains the new features that comprise the enhancements to HDX.

The first three blogs in the Enhancing HDX series are here and here and here.

The rapid and massive adoption of Wi-Fi into handheld devices has created new challenges for managing a wireless network.

As a consequence, the traditional view of a rogue Access Point has to change. The advent of mobile APs and Wi-Fi Direct (client to client networking without requiring infrastructure) means that rogue devices don’t need to be “connected” to the infrastructure in order to create a potential for nuisance.

Effectively these capabilities mean that “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) may also mean “Bring Your Own AP” or “Bring Your Own Network” and therefore “Bring Your Own Interferer”. Thus the threat from a rogue becomes less about security and more about consuming excessive air time (a so-called “spectrum hog”) thus degrading performance in the WLAN. This can be especially troublesome in high density pubic venues but can also be problematic in enterprises.

So in addition to Cisco CleanAir (which mitigates and reports on non Wi-Fi interference) and RRM (which primarily prevents self induced neighboring AP interference via DCA and TPC for the entire WLAN) Cisco is effectively merging aspects of both of these solutions in order to provide improved mitigation of Wi-Fi that is not affiliated with the production WLAN.

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Accounting for rogue Wi-Fi interference is accomplished by configuring a trigger threshold for ED-RRM. This is effectively a severity indicator so that the affected access point that has ED-RRM is additionally triggered by Wi-Fi interference.

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Since rogue severity is now added to the ED-RRM metrics, this provides the capability of a faster channel change than the typical DCA cycle. In other words, if a rogue is interfering with airspace, then instead of waiting until the next DCA cycle to elapse, change the channel as quickly as possible. This is the same behavior as for mitigating non-Wi-Fi interferers with Cisco CleanAir technology.

Since Wi-Fi interference is becoming more prevalent, rogue APs that are serving traffic to clients (e.g., mobile APs) or client devices creating networks in real time means that air quality will be affected. Wi-Fi needs to be prevented from becoming a problem by reacting to the presence of client devices that are legitimately acting as independent, unaffiliated networks.

 

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Mitigating Wireless Threats with Cisco Adaptive WIPS

Controlling the wireless network can some times feel like trying to stop a river.  Employees, customers and vendors have their favored mobile devices and they want to be able to use them for work and play. The momentum for this trend is strong and the promise of productivity high so it’s becoming increasingly difficult to fight this trend. As a result, companies are opening their network to guest traffic.

As you well know, this new openness isn’t without risk. The devices that people bring may not always be productive. And sometimes those devices become rogues that can impact network performance and security.

Let’s be clear that not all rogue devices have evil in mind. In fact, many employees innocently bring their own IP cameras and personal hotspots to “help expand” the capabilities of the network. At a minimum, these rogue devices can cause interference that degrades overall network performance or prohibits critical devices from connecting to the network.

The greater danger is that these rogue devices are the weak link that enables a hacker to breach network security. A hacker can tag onto a tethered personal hot spot for easy entry into the network or can sit outside the venue to gain access.

Whatever the intent of the rogue device, it’s critical that you have a solution that leverages location information to identify and mitigate these rogue devices before they compromise your network.

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Omaha World-Herald, one of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway companies, uses the location capabilities of Cisco Mobility Services Engine (MSE) to ensure rogue devices don’t derail its many offices. Using Cisco’s location and adaptive WIPS capabilities, Omaha World detects rogue devices in real time, determines their location, and mitigates the threat. Read More »

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BYOD on a University Campus: A Student’s Perspective

There is a new generation of college students out there, I would know as I recently was one of them.  Information being at your fingertips is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity.  Professors’ expectations of their students have increased dramatically due to the wealth of information on mobile devices.  Every class I attended leveraged some form of wireless access to the web.  Instant message in response to real-time questions and online submissions are just two of many examples of how network access has been integrated into the education system.  Professors would consistently use online tools such as online drop boxes for projects and web conferencing tools.  According to MarketWire 92% of college students feel a laptop is a necessity, this indicates that the requirement of mobile access at a university is a given and the college experience is defined by the ease of that access. 

Professors are on tight schedules and are generally available only at certain times of the day.  Imagine- wanting to contact a professor during open hours only to fall short because your laptop had difficulty getting any kind of connection.  I remember the frustrations of wanting to revisit PowerPoint presentations on a class website in the library, only to realize that I was sitting by the one window notorious for being a wireless dead zone.  Dorms were infamous for spotty coverage.  Having the dorm room located closest to the access point for best access was purely by luck of the draw.  I was not so lucky.  In my dorm, you would not get any wireless access unless you were sitting right next to the hallway.  That’s why I am especially envious of the students of Colorado University, whose alma mater upgraded to enterprise-class coverage. 

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Tips and Tricks: 9 tips for a Smarter Wireless Industrial Workforce

Nine tips help enable an industrial wireless mobile workforce, including standards, self-healing technologies, and the right blend of hardware and software.

The latest copy of Control Engineering has some useful Tips and Tricks that point towards the kinds of solutions and offerings Cisco provides, to make our customer’s lives easier. In a later post I’ll elucidate on the tips and explain how Cisco is able to make for a Smarter Wireless Industrial Workforce. For now, here are the tips:

#1) Standards-based solutions: Ensure suppliers provide open standards based solutions—this is particularly important when choosing wireless mobility systems.

#2) Self-healing wireless: System integrators can provide good interference detection and mitigation wireless solutions that can automatically change channels to maintain continuity, which reduces operating expenses.

#3) Hardware vs. software: It is better to use wireless systems with specialized hardware and software implementation rather than the older software implementations when analyzing interference. Read More »

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Not all Streams are Created Equal

It can be so easy to be mislead by vendors claiming incredible bandwidth gains offered by their new ‘3 Spatial Streams’ wireless access points. The tricky part is that none of them are outright lying, they are simply describing a reality that nobody lives in.  Cisco released the new 3600 series access points at CiscoLive London last week. We have also had fun showing the incredible bandwidth gains available through this extra stream – but we did it with custom designed silicon to create a 4×4 radio.  Why is this valuable to you? Is it not just ‘more is better?’  Hardly.  The true genius being offered here is only clear when you understand some basics of how radios work.  Multiple capabilities unique to Cisco come into play here such as ClientLink and CleanAir. Watch this ‘Fundamentals of Spatial Streams’ to arm yourself with knowledge you can apply right away. It will be the best 6 minutes of your life (today at least).

When you are ready to go deeper

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