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What is a “Controller”? And how many do we need?

June 26, 2013 at 6:10 am PST

Thanks to SDN, the “Controller” word pops up in many network architecture discussions these days. In networking alone, we’re already surrounded by many “controllers” and we’re busy introducing more as we speak:  For example, Session Border Controllers or Wireless LAN Controllers have been around for quite some time, and have recently announced the OpenDaylight Controller, the Cisco XNC, or the Cloupia Unified Infrastructure Controller. So what is a “Controller” in networking terms, and how many do we need in emerging network architectures?

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802.11ac: Is Your Network Infrastructure Ready for Next-Gen Wi-Fi Traffic?

The next generation of Wi-Fi, 802.11ac couples the freedom of wireless with the speed of gigabit Ethernet. This also translates in additional load on the backbone of the network, which has to deliver at least 3 times the capacity of the current gold standard, the 802.11n based network.

Cisco launched the Unified Access architecture  to scale linearly with the increased load on the network with 60 Gbps Wi-Fi throughput on the Cisco 5760 Wireless LAN Controller and 40 Gbps Wi-Fi throughput on the Catalyst 3850 Series Switch with a built-in wireless controller.  Both these platforms are based on the Cisco Unified Access Data Plane (UADP) programmable ASIC, which provides high performance and scale, common open APIs, and enables consistent QoS policies for both wired and wireless networks.

Aruba recently launched the 7240 series controllers with a throughput of up to 40Gbps claimed, with the same goal of delivering 802.11ac capable performance across the network. This controller is based on a generic network processor and not a purpose built ASIC like the Cisco controller.

Miercom performed a third-party evaluation to benchmark these products  using  IMIX (Internet Mix) packet traffic and test QoS traffic for high priority application.  IMIX is traffic pattern consisting of a preset mixture of small, medium and large frame sizes used to emulate real-world traffic scenarios in a testing environment. We wanted to give you a sneak peek at some of the results.

Performance

Cisco 5760 is six times faster and Catalyst 3850 is 4 times faster as compared to Aruba 7240

miercom1

The Cisco 5760, 3850 and the Aruba 7240 were tested for throughput using RFC 2544 and IMIX Traffic.  The Cisco 5760 and 3850 performed extremely well by achieving 50 Gbps and 37 Gbps, whereas Aruba 7240 fell short by just achieving 8 Gbps, which is 20% of its advertised throughput.

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Cisco will ride the 802.11ac Wave2

If you recall, back in the early days of 802.11n, the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) rolled out the 802.11n certification program in phases.  Here we are several years later and in that same fashion, the WFA has split the IEEE 802.11ac specification into two certification phases: Wave 1 and Wave 2.

Last week we announced the availability of our 802.11ac Wave 1 Module for the 3600 Access Point and along with that, our intention to develop an 802.11ac adaptive radio module that will support the second phase of 802.11ac, or Wave 2. Most of the 802.11ac discussion in the last year has been focused on Wave 1, so we want to kick off the conversation about the second phase, Wave 2.

80211ac1
If Wave 1 promises increased wireless performance to address the increasing demand for higher performance including growing number of clients demanding higher performance for applications such as HD video streaming, then Wave 2 will stun you with its ability to provide even more throughput beyond the 1.3Gbps that Wave 1 provides as well as a number of other features that will further improve wireless connectivity. It is like taking a really good rock song and adding more cowbell to it.

SNL jokes aside, with the additional features packaged in Wave 2 comes the opportunity for further innovation in Cisco’s Wireless portfolio. We feel that it is important to stay ahead of the technology curve so that customers can plan and benefit from these advances sooner rather than later. So let’s discuss what features are coming with 802.11ac Wave 2. Read More »

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Listen Up! Spotlight on NSA Show & Cisco Podcast Series

As some of you already know, we’ve teamed up with the popular wireless networking podcast “No Strings Attached” to release a mobility podcast series. We’ve recorded 6 podcasts, and counting!

Stay tuned for future podcasts!

Any Cisco wireless technologies you want to learn more about? Let us know on our community.

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On Converged Access & Wireless Controller 5760: A Screenplay

At Cisco Live London, Cisco unveiled  Wired & Wireless convergence, along with its associated products, the Wireless LAN Controller 5760 and the Catalyst Switch 3850 with built-in Wireless Controller. While on the expo floor explaining the newly introduced ‘converged access’ to our customers, I had some interesting conversations that I thought might be cool to share with you. There may be some paraphrasing here, but if my conversation became a screenplay, it would have looked like this:

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The Cisco Live! London expo show floor is throbbing with excitement, customers browse the many demos that are around the World of Solutions arena.

NAT, Wireless Controller 5760 Product Manager, stands at a demo booth with the new controller.

CUSTOMER 1 ambles over.

CUSTOMER 1

I heard about the converged access and it sounds very interesting. Why should I consider 5760 controller?

NAT

Do you have bandwidth hungry applications such as video / multimedia  applications used by your wireless users?

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