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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:
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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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TU Darmstadt Rolls Out Cisco Unified Access to Prepare for 802.11ac

Technische Universität Darmstadt, usually known as TU Darmstadt is a research university based in Germany. It was founded in 1877 and over the last 137 years has grown to be among the largest and most prestigious public universities in Germany serving over 25,000 students per year. It is the alma-mater to many world-wide leaders from Nobel prize winners, a CEO of a fortune 500 company, a president of a country and multiple World Robocup champions.

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No wonder, they have a reference from Albert Einstein!

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In 2009 TU Darmstadt embraced BYOD with the 5508 Series Controller managing the 1140 802.11n Access Points. Recently we talked to Thomas Vogel, the Head of Network Group and Andreas Liebe, the Network Services Manager who have over 15 years of experience managing WLAN environments. In this blog, we will describe some of the details of WLAN deployments using the 3850 Series Switch and the 5760 Series Wireless LAN Controller to address the new requirements in the school environment. Read More »

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School Board of Sarasota County Prepares WLAN for 802.11ac

Sarasota County Schools includes 24 Elementary Schools, 9 Middle Schools, 8 High Schools and various Technical and various Special Centers. It houses about 40,000 students in about 250 buildings. The Sarasota School IT Team believes in using the best-in-class technologies to provide the optimal connected experience for students, faculty, staff and guests.

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, we described how Bowdoin and the Pinellas County have embraced the IOS based 5760 Series controllers. 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 xx about the WLAN deployment itself.

Read More »

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Automatic Software Delivery now available on the Cisco Small Business RV215W VPN Router

You may not realize this, but Cisco has a thriving business building and selling networking products specifically designed for Small Businesses. Unfortunately, we know dealing with Cisco can sometimes be challenging for some smaller customers, a good example of this is managing software. Sometimes, it can be quite challenging to finding out whether equipment is running the latest software, and if not, how to get the latest software.

We recently announced a new feature called Automatic Service Delivery (ASD) on the RV215W, a wireless-n VPN Router that is in the Cisco Small Business Routing Portfolio.

The Automated Software Delivery service allows network devices such as the Cisco RV215W router or management tools such as Cisco FindIT to automatically retrieve software release information and software images from the cisco.com software library. This means that the user can be notified when a new software image is available, and they can obtain that software at the click of a button, rather than having to find their way through the thousands of files in the software library. If the user so chooses, a device can even automatically update itself, thereby ensuring the network is always running the most current versions of software.

This work was completed by our Smart Web Technology Group (SWTG). The API they developed enables client applications to retrieve vital software release and image information including release note, field notices and PSIRT information.

In order to gain access to this new feature, simply download the latest RV215W firmware form the RV215W product page and enable automatic updates on the Administration > Firmware/Language Upgrade page.

Cisco RV Series_RV215W VPN Firewall

Look for more RV Series Models to get this free ASD Service.

So to wrap this up, we know Cisco’s Small Business customers face so many challenges and demands on their time, the Automated Software Delivery service is a great tool that helps make their job just that little bit easier.

Thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to hang out with us.

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