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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).

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Why is all of this important? Read More »

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Wi-Fi Roaming 101

Wi-Fi roaming is often a tumultuous subject.  The crux of the issue is, with Wi-Fi the roaming decision is left to the client.

In the recent years, there have been great strides in improving Wi-Fi roaming with the creation of standards-based roaming technologies.  Cisco first pioneered fast roaming many years ago with CCKM (Cisco Centralized Key Management), which was the foundation for 802.11r.  11r which was ratified by the IEEE in 2008, allows for fast roaming, even on a secure 802.1X SSID.  With 802.11r it is possible to roam without disruption during a voice or video call.

While client support of 802.11r is largely lacking in the laptop space,  there is large support in the smartphone realm.  Apple iOS devices have supported 11r since iOS 6 (http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5535).  The recent Samsung smartphones, such as the Galaxy S4, S5, and Note 3, also support 11r.

Note: Some non-802.11r clients can react adversely when connected to an 11r WLAN.  The current recommendation from Cisco is to have a separate WLAN for 802.11r clients.

802.11k is another amendment from the IEEE that helps to improve roaming.  802.11k provides a whole slew of information to the client, which allows the client to understand the RF environment and make an informed roaming decision.  This information can include channel load and AP neighbor lists.

11r and 11k help, however, that does not mean the infrastructure is irrelevant in the roaming picture.  With the help of a model train, we did some testing to figure out just how much impact the infrastructure could have.  We compared Cisco to one of our competitors, whom we will call Vendor A.

This video summarizes the results and shows the train in action, or continue reading for more details:
Read More »

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802.11ac: That’s the Answer. What’s the question?

Everybody’s talking about 802.11ac, but we’ve sensed some confusion for next steps as far as how CIO’s and IT organizations should be approaching the new standard.

3700internal2Should I move to 802.11ac?

You’re probably thinking: Chris, you’re a leader at Cisco, of course you want me to migrate to 802.11ac. That, my friends, is where you are wrong. There is no simple answer to the question of whether you should move your network to 802.11ac. Here’s my simple rule of thumb:

There is no premium for 802.11ac from Cisco. If you are deploying new Access Points’s today, you should be buying 802.11ac. If you’re not buying, you are probably satisfied with your network and how it will handle the growth of more and more clients associating with your network and the bandwidth demands that come with that client demand. If you feel you have a plan to handle this demand, then you are one of the few that can pass on 802.11ac.

That said, there is a strong ramp up for Cisco 802.11ac products in the market, the AP3700 is the fastest ramping access point in our history and we have yet to see if the AP2700 will claim that crown in the coming months. ABI Research estimates that currently 50% of new device introductions are 802.11ac enabled, a statistic expected to increase to 75% by the end of 2015.  This is enough proof of the overwhelming interest in adding the benefits of 11ac to networks. Let’s take a step back and consider the basics of why people are moving to the new standard.

Why .11ac?

Today, everything is about getting what we want, when we want it. Instant gratification. It’s not just the millennials—we’ve all been conditioned to expect things within seconds. Could you imagine the days pre-Internet if you had the capability for on-demand movies? Read More »

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Cisco’s 802.11ac Portfolio Expands with the New Cisco Aironet 2700 AP

As a Product Manager there is some anxiety but more of an excitement around introducing a platform to the market. Today I am proud to be part of Cisco team that is  bringing to market the Cisco Aironet 2700 Series Access Point.  What it offers is a tremendous amount of power at a very attractive price point.  

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We all know Wi-Fi is here to stay and is expanding all around us rapidly. That need for speed is exciting.  But what does that mean? Not everyone feels comfortable being on the cutting edge. Many of our customers are not as concerned about chasing the future and have more limited budgets that they hesitate to put down for the best AP knowing there are lower priced options.  At the same time, everyone is aware technology moves ahead with or without you, so they don’t want to give up lot of the new capabilities by going totally to the other extreme of not upgrading at all.  What they want is something that’s going to last for a while that gives them the advantages available today, but not have to invest a lot to get it. I equate this to buying something like a car.  A year ago when I was in the market to buy a new car I didn’t want to sacrifice whole lot of options but if there was one or two options that I could give up in order to save a bit of money, I was okay with that.

This is similar to what Cisco is offering with Aironet 2700 Series.  Customers have to choose something that they can utilize in their network that is better than any of the competitive solutions out there, truly built-for-purpose, sleek design on the outside yet tough on the inside and very powerful. Read More »

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Not All 802.11ac AP’s are Created Equal: Built-for-Purpose vs. Purpose-Built

As more and more 802.11ac devices come to the market this year, businesses need to make sure the best possible 802.11ac wireless infrastructure gets deployed to make sure those 802.11ac end points are performing at both the best possible data rates and application throughputs to maximize the move to  802.11ac.

Cisco’s Aironet 3700 with HDX Technology does just that. If you’re thinking that the 3700 is just another 802.11ac AP,  think again: not all 802.11ac AP’s are created equal.

To demonstrate this, let’s take a Cisco 3700 access point..

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When you open a Cisco AP, you will see dedicated memory (RAM) on the radio chipset itself (one on the 2.4 GHz radio, another on the 5 Ghz radio) to ensure the RF packets get processed “onboard” each radio instead of “offboard” in order to reduce latency and any packet processing collision from memory contention on the AP. Additional packet processing can be handled  on the “offboard” memory that is part of the network processor portion of the AP platform as well. This unique, innovative ASIC-based Wi-Fi chipset by Cisco exemplifies the built-for-Purpose design, and is the hallmark of Cisco’s 3700 Series AP.

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Contrast this with the competitive landscape that claims to be Purpose-Built, but in reality is leveraging off-the-shelf merchant silicon-based 802.11ac WiFi chipsets. Read More »

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