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Behind the WiFi Network @ Mobile World Congress 2014: Site Surveys

In my last blog I discussed setting the stage in preparation for the Wi-Fi network for Mobile World Congress 2014 which supported more than 80k devices over a span of 4 days. Today I’ll talk about one of the many site surveys we conducted at the Fira Gran Via to ensure the success of our high density network.  Full details in the white paper here.

High Density Wi-Fi deployments and site surveys go hand in hand. Pre-installation and post-installation site surveys account for the most effective way to identify the contours of your RF coverage and eliminate potential multipath distortions, hidden nodes, and other coverage issues. Special attention was given to the large keynote auditorium halls in order to keep a check on the additional RF coverage needs to accommodate the high density of users packed in a very close range.

sitesurvey1

View of inside the Hall-4 Keynote Auditorium (23000 sq ft) before the Facebook keynote session

Site Survey analysis used to measure the RF coverage in Hall-4 keynote auditorium

Site Survey analysis used to measure the RF coverage in Hall-4 keynote auditorium

The Hall-4 auditorium was one example of such a high density area with the 2000 person capacity area had a peak connection of 1924 concurrently connected Wi-Fi devices distributed across 16 Cisco APs while the Facebook keynote was in progress, with a max load of 530 Mbps of internet traffic. To avoid an RF overlap, the ceiling mounted APs above the auditoriums were converted to monitor mode. Using the final pre-keynote site survey data, the RF profile for the Hall-4 auditorium was tweaked, and RRM automatically optimized the coverage to the desired degree by adjusting the Tx power levels. Read More »

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Nexus Flexibility Eases Transitions

Cisco has a broad base of data center customers with a diverse set of requirements and we meet their needs with Nexus -- the most comprehensive switching portfolio in the industry.  This week, we are making announcements for both the Nexus 9000 series and the Nexus 3000 series that provide design and deployment flexibility for our commercial, enterprise, service provider, as well as cloud customers.  Key points of the announcement include:

  • ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) is shipping this month;
  • Additional linecard and chassis options provide customer choice and flexibility;
  • 100G linecards for the Nexus 9500 will be available in Q4CY14 and will offer the highest density in the industry; and
  • New starter kits and bundles help customers ease transitions.

Nexus 9000 family

The Nexus 9000 Series

 ACI is shipping this month

 The Nexus 9000 series can operate in standard NX-OS mode or in ACI mode. In either case the Nexus 9000 portfolio delivers the value of the “5 P’s” of Power efficiency, Price, Port density, Performance, and Programmability. NX-OS mode provides customers with the value of the NX-OS operating system used by tens of thousands of customers in data centers around the world.  ACI mode adds to NX-OS capabilities by providing an application driven policy model, integration of hardware and software, and centralized visibility, among other things. ACI requires a controller and switch software.  Both are shipping this month. It is important to note that the pricing for this solution is simple and predictable.  There is a perpetual license for each leaf switch.  Other pricing approaches in the industry are monthly and are based on varying elements like number of VM’s.  Comparing the two approaches is somewhat like comparing a cell phone bill that is either flat rate or usage based.  Personally, I like the simplicity and predictability of flat rate.  See The Future of Networking, as well as SDN and Beyond  for additional details on new ACI announcements and how they can take you beyond SDN.

Additional linecard and chassis options underscore flexibility

We’ll consider how flexibility is delivered for both modular and fixed platforms.  For modular switching, the Nexus 9500 modular chassis family offers different line card options that can be mixed in the same chassis and allow customers to “dial up” or “dial down” their design based upon the price, performance, feature set, and scale they want to achieve.  There are basically 3 different ‘flavors’, all of which are now shipping:

  1. The Nexus 9500 X9400 set of 1/10G and 40G line cards are based on merchant silicon and provide industry-leading price and performance compared to other merchant silicon switches. These provide a very cost effective solution ideal for traditional modular data center designs.
  2. The Nexus 9500 X9500 set of 1/10G and 40G line cards are sometimes referred to as “merchant plus” because they have custom Cisco ASICs, in addition to merchant silicon, and are ideal for customers that need performance together with additional buffering and VXLAN routing capabilities. The X9500 line cards can be used in future ACI designs as well.
  3. The Nexus 9500 X9600 set of 40G line cards provide performance without compromise even for small packet sizes.

The Nexus 9300 series offers ACI capabilities (ala the X9500 linecards in item 2 above) in a fixed form factor.  For customers interested in a merchant only fixed form factor, we offer the Nexus 3000 family.  This week, we announced the new Nexus 3164, which provides 64 ports of 40G and is a great solution for 40G access or space constrained aggregation.

100G linecards

We are also announcing 100G linecards that we believe will deliver industry leading port density of up to 128 ports of 100G in a single chassis.  100G for both the X9400 and X9600 series will be available for the Nexus 9500 in Q4CY14.  Cisco will offer an 8 port 100G X9400 line card and a 12 port 100G X9600 line card.

New starter kits and bundles ease transitions

There are numerous packages available to ease transitions -- from 1G to 10G, 10G to 40G, or from traditional networks to ACI.  There are 2 bundles I want to quickly call out.  The first provides a smooth transition for customers with older End of Row Catalyst 6500’s in their data centers.  It occupies the same rack space and uses the same cabling as they currently have, but provides 10X the performance.  The second is basically an ACI starter kit, providing the APIC, spine switches and leaf switches, even optical cables – everything required to set up and get started with an ACI pod.

In summary, Cisco is continuing its rapid pace of innovation and execution around ACI and data center switching overall.  Ultimately, this means customers gain choice, flexibility and true innovation to support their business needs.

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Behind the WiFi Network @ Mobile World Congress 2014: Setting the Stage

Every year a new attendance record is set at Mobile World Congress by networkers participating from over 200 countries across the globe. This grand attendance of industry-defining vendors, technology enthusiasts and exhibitors triggers an explosive growth in the number of Wi-Fi capable devices being brought to the event. For MWC 2014, Cisco partnered with Fira Gran Via and GSMA to pull off one of the most successful high density Wi-Fi network deployments in the history of global tech events. This blog kicks off a series to provide a glimpse of behind the network, into the design stages, and the course of actions undertaken to implement a robust high density wireless network which served more than 22,000 concurrently connected unique devices and a total of 80,880 devices throughout the event. Full details in whitepaper here.

Setting the Scene

Divided into eight massive exhibition halls, Fira Gran Via covers around 3 million square feet (280,000 square meters) of area which also includes outdoor areas, restaurants, conference rooms, network lounges and a continuous elevated walkway flowing through the entire venue. Higher the environmental complexity, the more fun and challenging it is to achieve the right wireless design for a pervasive network that meets all the needs.

An aerial view of Mobile World Congress 2014 arena at Fira Gran Via, Barcelona

An aerial view of Mobile World Congress 2014 arena at Fira Gran Via, Barcelona

Generally, the physical design of large convention and exhibition halls bear an impish knack of unfavorable conditions for a ubiquitous high density Wi-Fi network, owing mostly to the lofty ceiling heights and construction components. Read More »

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Not All 802.11ac AP’s are Created Equal: Demand the Full Story

It’s always interesting and often entertaining to observe how competitors promote their products and what they choose to focus on—and more importantly, what they choose not to focus on and what they hope people won’t ask questions about.

Consider yet again how a competitor chooses to position their “purpose built” AP vs. the Cisco Aironet 3700 802.11ac Access Point Series.

This competitor frequently (and somewhat obsessively) points out that its 802.11ac AP has dual “active” 800 MHz cores while the Cisco AP3700 has only one “active” 800 MHz core. This is not completely true since it completely overlooks the fact that the Cisco AP3700 also has a dedicated CPU core and DSP for each radio subsystem.

Furthermore, it also overlooks that the dual “active” cores in the competitor’s AP share 512 MB of DRAM. The single “active” core of the AP3700 has dedicated 512 MB of DRAM. Also each radio subsystem has a dedicated 128 MB DRAM (for 768 MB total DRAM in the AP3700).

apdesign

Why is all of this important? Read More »

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Get Your WLAN Ready for Google Android L and Apple iOS 8

July 24, 2014 at 5:00 am PST

This fall your wireless networks will experience many devices upgrading to the new Android 5.0(L-release) and Apple iOS 8 releases (cue: IT managers groan). There have now been many blogs attempting to capture the enhancements expected with these releases. Today I am going to focus on describing how Android L and iOS 8 may affect customers deploying Cisco enterprise grade Wi-Fi networks based upon our research and testing of the Apple seed. Our verdict: Carry on with business as usual.

Here are four features we predict will have the most impact your networks:

1. Chromecast and Google Cast Enhancements (Android L)

Rishi Chandra, the Director of Chromecast Product Management announced that, starting with the Android L release, users have the ability to cast to your neighboring devices such as a TV without having to connect to your Wi-Fi network. In the demo, a phone used the cellular connection to connect to chromecast through the cloud. A variety of techniques are used to authenticate the users in the same room OR use a pin-code as an alternative. Users can Google Cast an ecosystem of applications or even their own applications over any Android or iOS device as well as Cloud based apps on Chrome.

Predicted Impact: Given that this feature works transparently to the Wi-Fi, it is expected that there is no impact on the WLAN in your classrooms or dorm rooms or auditoriums where this will most likely be used.

2. Peer-to-peer AirPlay discovery and playback (iOS 8)

Starting with the iOS 7.1 release, AirPlay devices will discover an AppleTV via the bluetooth network. Users could also secure their AppleTV via a 4 digit pin-code. With the iOS 8 release, Airplay devices can also mirror their content via Airdrop. This feature offers an alternative method for customers to discover and mirroring of Bonjour traffic without accessing the corporate Wi-Fi network.

Predicted Impact: Again this feature operates transparent to the Wi-Fi and therefore customers using this feature should not see any impact on the WLAN. Cisco wireless customers also have the ability to use the Service Discovery Gateway on Cisco IOS based switches, routers or wireless LAN controllers or the Bonjour Services Directory on AireOS controllers. Read More »

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