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802.11ac: More Throughput For One or For All?

In today’s highly mobile society we try to stay as connected as we possibly can, whether that be for instant messaging, email, or keeping up with our favorite TV shows and movies. This obsession for connectivity has stressed the wireless infrastructures that are installed by many organizations. Because of this many organizations are looking to update their systems that support 802.11n technologies or even the older 802.11a/b/g standards. As a consultant it is one of my jobs to help a customer understand the new technology inside and out and make sure their networks are deployed accordingly. One of the major topics discussed when going over 802.11ac is throughput. 802.11ac brings with it a substantial jump in throughput, but there is a price to pay in order to achieve those higher data rates.

test-4Let’s go over a basic first, in wireless technology we use a frequency, or channel, to send our signal from the client to the station (access point). Think of this channel as a lane on a highway or freeway. A single lane carries so many cars per hour. Now if we add another lane in the same direction we can carry double the amount of traffic. This is repeated for each lane that you add. 802.11n and 802.11ac both allow us to combine multiple lanes to act as a single wide lane, allowing for larger traffic to pass. These channels are reflected as 20MHz, 40MHz (2 lanes -- 802.11n and 802.11ac), and 80MHz (4 lanes -- 802.11ac).

Ok, so we get the hole channel concept now right? So what’s the big deal then if we start combining these channels? Channels = capacity in the wireless world. A channel only has so much bandwidth to provide, you can’t create more, it’s a very finite resource. When our goal is to support hundreds of client devices in a large university auditorium for example, we want more channels as this gives us more overall capacity. If I were to deploy a true 802.11ac network for a university in an auditorium that requires say for example 6 access points I will end up with channel reuse when I avoid DFS channels in 5GHz. The channel reuse will degrade the performance of those access points using the same channel. Now if I deploy the same 6 access points with 40MHz channels I no longer have to worry about channel reuse in that auditorium. Read More »

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Cisco ISE 1.3: Welcomed Improvements

I’ve finally had a chance to stop and smell the roses. The roses being Cisco ISE 1.3 that is. It’s been a much anticipated update to Cisco’s core TrustSec component and there are a number of improvements, many dealing with Guest users. So what has Cisco done to improve? Let’s look at 5 areas related to Guest access:

1.     End-User Web Portals
2.     Notifications
3.     Guest Portals
4.     Sponsor Portals
5.     Non-Guest Portals

End-User Web Portals

One of the new features that I really like is how the interface has been modified to centralize the portal configuration tasks and customization into a single location. The first thing you notice when you navigate to Configure Guest Access and Sponsor Access is that the interface is designed to make life easy. Three steps to Guest Access are overviewed and each step is clearly identified. We don’t usually find this information in the user interface. Normally we’re looking for this in an End User Guide or a Lab Guide for one of the courses I teach. So, in my opinion, this is a fresh new approach to making a complex device like ISE much easier to use.


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An Engineer’s Thoughts on Work/Life Balance

Several months ago I became so busy with work that I subconsciously compiled a script that auto-executed every time someone asked any question vaguely resembling, “How have you been?”.  I didn’t have time to think of a human answer, so without hesitation, the canned response “busy” would sound from my lips.

Work Life Balance2Often times we get so busy with work we become robotic, and even worse -- we forget to live.  The funny thing is, by the time we realize it, rather than making some significant change, we just keep working to distract ourselves from the uncomfortable truth.  As we strive to stay current with the evolution of technologies, certifications and the world around us, we quickly become overwhelmed, placing our wellbeing and sense of self at risk.  We have a thousand things going on at work, two thousand things to catch up on, a hundred books to read, tests to take, projects to complete, deadlines to meet, and, oh yeah, an entirely separate life to live with family and loved ones, plus housework, hobbies and so on, all with a phone screen glued to our eyes, constantly checking email and social media.  It’s quite an amazing feat to take on such a loaded life and remain happy. Read More »

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Top 5 Tips for the IT Professional

November 17, 2014 at 9:00 am PST

We asked the 2014 Cisco Champions what advice they would give to someone starting in the IT industry. Cisco Champions are seasoned IT technical experts and influencers who enjoy sharing their knowledge, expertise, and thoughts across the social web and with Cisco. The Cisco Champions program encompasses different areas of interest, such as Data Center, Internet of Things, Enterprise Networks, Collaboration and Security. Cisco Champions are located all over the world.

Here are their top 5 tips.

1. Be a Specialist AND a Generalist
Specialize in your field, but keep general knowledge of related fields. So if you’re a networking expert, make sure to know servers, virtualization, storage and voice among others. You’ll thank yourself when you can troubleshoot problems that aren’t necessarily the network.
Benjamin Story
Benjamin Story
Network Engineer
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Happy Birthday, Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure!

“Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity”. ~ Plato

November 6, 2014 marked the one-year anniversary since the Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) was officially announced in the ACI Launch Event at Waldorf Astoria, New York City. I had the privilege to attend the event; I thought to myself that if Cisco had picked NYC for an announcement that’s got to be serious. Also after living over 20 years in NYC/NJ area, I had never stepped in the historic Waldorf Astoria!

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