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How Next Generation WLAN Optimizes RoboCup at Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College is a liberal arts college based in the town of Brunswick, Maine. It houses 1839 students in about 100 buildings and offers 33 different majors and 4 minors. The Bowdoin IT Team are pioneering in nature as would be expected from the state whose motto, “Dirigo”, translates to “I lead”; adopting bleeding-edge best-in-class technologies to provide the optimal connected experience for students, faculty, staff and guests. This is counter-balanced with pragmatism in phasing the roll-out of these services.

This next generation pervasive WLAN network enables students to collaborate with each other anywhere on the campus and with the teachers in the classroom. In the previous blog in 2012, we described how Bowdoin upgraded to 3602 Access Points and used the innovative CleanAir technology tie-in with Event Driven Radio Resource Monitoring to optimize WLAN coverage. They also adopted the Cisco Prime and ISE 1.2 for manageability and consistent wired-wireless Policy respectively. In this blog, we will cover more details about the recent upgrade of the Wireless LAN Controller from the previous model WiSM to the new model 5760 and describe highlights of our conversation with Jason and Trevor about the WLAN deployment itself.

bowdoin1 Read More »

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HDX Blog Series #1: Why Spectrum Intelligence Still Matters

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a four-part deep dive series into High Density Experience (HDX), Cisco’s latest solution suite designed for high density environments and next-generation wireless technologies. For more on Cisco HDX, visit

CleanAir for 802.11ac:  Why Spectrum Intelligence Still Matters

In wireless networking and communications, as with life, nothing good comes for free. It’s well known that the primary feature of the new IEEE 802.11ac amendment is support for an 80 MHz-wide channel. The benefit of an 80 MHz channel is the potential to double usable throughput in comparison to that of 802.11n using a 40 MHz wide channel.

However, what is less well known is that a wider RF channel is also more susceptible to interference. In other words, 802.11ac devices “hear more” than 802.11n devices, primarily due to the wider channel support. It should be noted that this is not a flaw in the 802.11ac amendment, it’s simply basic communications theory.

Nevertheless, there is far more to building an 802.11ac access point than simply meeting the standard. Not all 802.11ac access points perform equally without interference. But more importantly, not all 802.11ac access points perform well in the presence of interference.

Furthermore, there is far more to deploying High Density wireless LANs than only considering the performance of individual access points. Read More »

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Miercom: Cisco Aironet AP3702i

Cisco’s newest 802.11ac product, the Aironet 3700 Series Access Point is now orderable and shipping in the next few weeks.  The AP 3700 features an integrated 11ac radio with a 4×4 architecture and Cisco’s High-Density Experience (HDX) Technology.  HDX is a suite of features specific to the AP 3700 that delivers the best possible user experience, especially in high client density networks.  HDX is enabled by a combination of  hardware and software features on the AP 3700, features including:

  • CleanAir 80 MHz – Interference detection and mitigation
  • ClientLink 3.0 – RF link quality
  • Smart Roam – Intelligent roaming handoff
  • Turbo Performance – Performance with high client density

Aruba recently launched their 802.11ac access point, the AP-220 series, featuring a 3×3 design.

Miercom recently published a third-party evaluation of the performance between the AP 3702i and the AP-225.  The report consists of a diverse range of test cases meant to gauge real-world performance of the access points.  The tests include; multi-client performance, single client rate vs. range, performance in the presence of interference, and performance on reduced power.  Here are some of the highlights from the report.

Multi-Client Performance

The AP 3700 performed very well in the multi-client performance test, thanks impart to HDX Turbo Performance.  With 60 clients, the AP 3702i had a 6x performance advantage over the AP-225.  The AP-225 struggled to serve all the clients and only mustered 40 Mbps total.  The AP 3702i was able to transmit a healthy 236 Mbps, while maintaining fair throughput to each client.

The test consisted of 60 11ac clients, all associated to the 5 GHz radio.  The clients used were 10 Dell E6430 laptops with Broadcom 4360 three spatial-stream chips, 20 Apple Macbook Air two spatial-stream laptops, and 30 Dell E6430 laptops with Intel 7260 two spatial-stream chips.  Clients were setup in an open office environment surrounding the AP.  Distances varied from 10’ to 50’.

1-Mulit-Client Read More »

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Deploying, Testing, and Tuning 802.11ac

By now you’ve probably heard quite a bit about the newest generation of Wi-Fi, 802.11ac.  I’ll save you the gory details, just know it’s about 3x faster than 802.11n and will help to improve the capacity of your network. Jameson Blandford and I were recently guests on the No Strings Attached Show podcast with Blake Krone and Samuel Clements (Click to listen to the podcast).

I wanted to follow up the podcast with a blog to go over considerations for deploying, testing, and tuning 802.11ac.

Considerations for deploying 802.11ac

Switching infrastructure

The first question you’ll want to ask yourself, is, if your switching infrastructure can handle 11ac?  The answer probably is, yes.  The things to consider are the port speed and power-over-Ethernet (PoE) capabilities.  You’ll want the access point to have a gigabit uplink to the switch.  Each 11ac access point could potentially dump several hundred megabits per second of traffic onto your wired network.  It’s also not a bad idea to have 10 Gig uplinks on your access switches to distribution or your core.  If you have even just a couple access points on a single access switch, you may quickly find yourself wishing you had 10 Gig uplinks.

Next you’ll need to consider how you will power the access points.  If you are like the majority of our customers, you will use PoE from your switches.  While 11ac access points require 802.3at (PoE+) for full functionality, the Aironet 3700 will run happily on standard 802.3af PoE.  In fact, it remains 3 spatial-streams on both radios, so performance does not suffer because you have a PoE infrastructure.

Will you deploy 80 MHz channels? Read More »

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Robot Soccer? Staying Connected at Bowdoin College

As our team has prepared for Educause 2013 this week, we have been talking a lot about technology in higher education and how it’s impacting colleges, universities, students and staff. Of course, robot soccer was not the first thing that came to mind, but it’s a great example of how different technologies are changing education forever.

Bowdoin College, which you may remember from last year’s #1 Most Connected College, is one of my favorite case studies because it points out that people have to TRUST technology for it to really be effective. Trust is a big word, really – I know I’m not the only person who is a little gun shy when I think about updating my phone to a new software version. So, when a professor has a class full of students and says “let’s all stream this video right now”, it’s important that it actually works – or professors risk losing student attention, losing time and facing maximum frustration levels.

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