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The Tale of the Network Rock Star and The Cisco Technical Support iPhone App

Imagine for a moment you’re a network admin, the rock star of your IT center hanging out at a coffee shop after work.  All of a sudden you get a call notifying you that there is some critical system issue at work.  The issue is a new one in which you would like to turn to the collective power of your peers for assistance in troubleshooting at the Cisco Support Community.  But you don’t have your laptop, and you do have an iPhone.

Cisco Support Community iPhone App

Cisco Support Community iPhone App

Being the rock star that you are, you pull out your iPhone hop onto the app store and download the Cisco Technical Support app where you can access real-time technical forum discussions, videos, leaderboards, and RSS feeds from your iPhone.

You then go to the discussion forum and post a question to the support community.  Within minutes like lightning from the sky you get several responses answering your question.  You then relay this information to work hence resolving the issue and maintaining your rock star status.  You feel good about yourself and resume sipping your coffee knowing that you just saved the company from a catastrophic disaster.  When networks fail, when systems crash, you will be ready to answer the call to action anytime, anywhere.  With the Cisco Technical Support iPhone app you’re the network rock star!

A key element of Cisco Smart Interactions is focused on taking our technical support resources and community discussions to where our customers and partners are – wherever, whenever.  Now, our community members can participate in discussion forums, get real-time access to Cisco experts and access technical support resources directly with the Support Community.

  • Over 260,000 registered users
  • Over 6,000 new discussions and responses each week

Click Here for more information and development on the App and to see the discussions around new features and versions.

For more Technical Support Solutions and Collaboration, Please visit the Cisco Support Community.

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On Consumerisation, Spatial Streams and Why RF Matters

The devil, as they say, is in the details.

One of the key tenets of engineering is to reduce complexity, but in doing so it is important to understand the implications. While we might try to view one technology as it relates to another to help us simplify the details, it is important that we recognise how and where they differ.

Case in point.

When it comes to wireless networks, I often talk about how there are two questions I dislike being asked more than any others:

  1. How many clients can connect to an access point?
  2. What is the maximum range of an access point?

The reason is that I believe they are the wrong questions. They are being asked from perspective of someone trying to relate to a wireless network as if it were a wired network. What they are really asking is “how many switch ports do I need to cover this area?”

But wireless networks are not switched networks. While each connected device in a wired network has its own physical cable, and thereby its own gigabit Ethernet link, in a wireless network, every device connected to a particular access point shares the same RF spectrum, the same total available bandwidth.

For a standard access point in today’s deployments, that means a maximum total bandwidth of 144Mbps on the 2.4GHz band with a 20MHz channel and 300Mbps on the 5GHz band with a 40MHz channel using channel bonding.

But that is an over simplification.

Those aggregate bandwidths assume each client is connected at the highest available data rate. As we increase range, however, the data rate decreases, thereby reducing the overall channel utilisation. Therefore, with fewer access points, we are not just sharing a limited amount of bandwidth with more clients, but we are actually reducing the total available bandwidth.

Interference, particularly as access points cover larger areas, becomes an even greater issue. An increase in the signal to noise ratio leads to a decrease in the maximum sustainable data rate. This again reduces the overall channel utilisation.  The key here is that a wireless network’s ability to not only detect, but where possible mitigate interference is critical to its ability to sustain higher data rates and maximise the total available bandwidth in each cell.

All this assumes that the wireless clients connecting to the network are even capable of supporting those high data rates.

Most smartphones on the market today support only 802.11g in the 2.4GHz band, meaning that at most they can support 54Mbps.

Newer devices, such as the iPhone 4, support 802.11n, but only in 2.4GHz, and only with a single antenna, limiting them to a single “spatial stream”—in simple terms that means the maximum data rate they can support is 72Mbps.

This applies to tablet devices as well. While the new iPad2 supports 802.11n in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz band, it too is limited to a single spatial stream. The Cius goes one step further with support for channel bonding in 5GHz, increasing the maximum data rate to 150Mbps.

Interestingly, we are now starting to see new access points enter the market using Atheros’ first-generation silicon supporting three spatial streams. While this increases the maximum data rate in the 5GHz band to 450Mbps, as we have just seen, this will have no impact on the multitude of mobile devices given their single spatial stream limitation.

Three spatial streams represents a key milestone for the 802.11 standard, and will become increasingly important over the next 2 to 3 years as battery technology improves and wireless chipsets incorporate better power saving designs. Of course, by that time we will be looking at access points supporting four spatial streams and 600Mbps—and again, be waiting for the mobile devices to catch up.

Adding to the complexity in all this are the applications these devices are running across the network. From FaceTime and Skype, to Business Video and Personal Telepresence, voice, and video in particular, are replacing data as the primary traffic type. However, the wireless networks that have been built over the last several years were not designed for voice and video, and certainly not at the device densities we are now seeing.

As we look to support these many different mobile devices entering the market today along with their high bandwidth applications, clearly the two key areas we must consider in our wireless network designs are access point density to control cell sizes, and interference detection and mitigation capabilities to ensure that we maximise the channel utilisation in each cell.

And so, I’d like to propose two different questions to consider at the start of a wireless deployment:

  1. How many different devices do you expect to connect to the wireless network?
  2. And what are the applications that will run across the network and what are their associated bandwidth requirements?

Wireless and wired networks fundamentally differ at the physical layer. While its not necessarily important to understand the details of RF communications, it is important to understand the implications.

RF Matters.

Stay mobile. Stay secure.

—Mark

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WebEx helps you get out! Get mobile with Android, iPhone, Blackberry!

Last week, we released the WebEx mobile for Android. We heard a lot of positive chatter on Twitter and Facebook (thank you) it is has already been named one of the best apps on Android. This is just one of many mobile applications we have for mobile devices aimed at helping you collaborate from wherever you are.

Some of the buzz:

@jhammond: Trying webex Android client for the first time. Working great!

@jennifer_drago: just used the new @WebEx app for android. WOW…what a lifesaver.

@vm365#WebEx Hits a homerun with Android launch. Looks amazing on my #GalaxyTab http://tinyurl.com/4cwfjsa (expand#ohyeah #webinar

@LarsPeters#WebEx goes #Android! Great to just click on cal. and be dialed into the call… expect dramatic drop in accident rate on the 101 [freeway]

Work free. Step away from the computer.

All these mobile applications work on a variety of devices using WebEx Meeting Center -- Read More »

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Mobile Videoconferencing: Take Your Meetings on the Road

When The Who sang about going mobile, they were talking about taking a vacation with no particular destination in mind, not smartphones. But that song could be an anthem for the times: These days, just about every one of us uses a smartphone or mobile device, whether to check email, update our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and to attend teleconferences. But using your phone to attend to a videoconference? That’s the new trend.

Wait, what, mobile videoconferencing? Yes, thanks to a slew of different devices, videoconferencing on mobile devices is the next big thing—a trend that’s predicted to hit “critical mass” in 2011. Here at Cisco we recognize that mobility is a key trend—and one that unites our Collaboration, Borderless Networks, and video strategies. Essentially, we should be able to connect anytime, from anywhere, to any device.

So what’s influencing the rise in mobile videoconferencing? Here’s the rundown, as well as a list of Cisco solutions that help with videoconferencing, and an example of one the ways that one of our partners is responding to the trend.

Read More »

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AnyConnect is Now Available on the iPad

The iPad is one of the hottest gifts for this holiday season. Kids and adults alike are hoping to receive one as a gift from others or as a gift for themselves. It will be a busy time for the App Store for sure and many of the adults will probably be trying to use their iPad to access corporate email or other information.

Cisco’s gift for those users is Cisco AnyConnect for the iPad, making that corporate user more secure. The market-leading secure mobility client, positioned as a leader by Gartner in the recent 2010 Magic Quadrant for SSL VPNs , is now available on the Apple App Store free of charge. Companies with AnyConnect Essentials or Premium VPN licenses on their Cisco ASA 55000 can now allow their employees to connect using the iPad. Companies can now realize the value of Cisco Secure Mobility and Borderless networks. They can connect anyone, anywhere—securely, reliably, and seamlessly. Read More »

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