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Lighting up Cisco Live 2011 Vegas!

I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday here at Cisco Live! The time certainly flies by when you’re having fun and working hard. If you’re here, I hope you’ve been enjoying all the activities and sessions. More importantly, I hope you’re using the pervasive Cisco WiFi network my team has deployed in this venue.

Events like this have always been a big challenge for wireless coverage. You have the logistical challenges of lighting up a huge venue in a very short period of time to support high-densities of users. Many of these venues aren’t built and configured in ways that are conducive to good RF coverage practices. My team has a lot of experience lighting up these venues with wireless over the years and the requirements just keep getting more intense. A couple of years ago, WiFi was usually considered nice to have; now it’s not just expected, but most people carry multiple devices and they expect a great networked experience for their applications. I only expect this trend to continue as people get more and more networked and applications become more and more collaborative, media-rich and interactive. One thing that hasn’t changed though is that the WiFi gets blamed for all networked evils! Client driver problems? Routing issues? DNS down? Doesn’t matter, everyone blames the WiFi!

For Cisco Live this year, we’ve deployed ubiquitous WiFi, featuring 191 of our AP3500e and AP3500i access points. If you’re around the venue, you can see the APs strategically mounted on stands. The AP3500s are our flagship 802.11n APs, with our best indoor performance and, of course, Cisco CleanAir technology. If you aren’t familiar with CleanAir, it’s the coolest thing in the WiFi industry right now. CleanAir leverages powerful ASIC-based spectrum intelligence in the APs to detect RF interference in degrees other systems can’t, identify and locate interference sources, and automatically adjust and optimize the wireless coverage. The benefits of the technology include a self-healing and self-optimizing WiFi network, faster troubleshooting, and less downtime. You can learn more here: http://www.cisco.com/go/cleanair. Or better, come by the NOC and the Cisco booth and check it out yourself.

To support these APs, we’ve got 5508 controllers deployed in the NOC. You can see them in the fishbowl area. We also have Mobility Services Engines for location-based services, wireless intrusion protection, and the advanced CleanAir functions. We’re also happy to show the new Cisco Prime Network Control System (NCS), which we’re using to manage the wireless network and the edge switches.  NCS is designed to offer converged wired, wireless, and policy management in a single solution. NCS builds on WCS as a best-in-class solution for RF management, extending the management paradigm to deliver faster resolution of network access problems and visibility into the network down to the user level. You can check out NCS on the monitors outside the NOC and in the Cisco booth.

We’ve also got full support for IPv6 connectivity for the WiFi network this year. I talk to a lot of our customers and partners while doing my day job and IPv6 has been coming up more and more lately. Some are embracing it, while others are being dragged kicking and screaming towards the inevitable. In any case, IPv6 is finally here and it’ll be an interesting ride over the next couple of years. Deploying a large network like this to support IPv6 has been a real learning experience for my team and we’ll be sharing a lot of what we’re learning and best practices as we spend more and more cycles working on this transition.

Finally, my buddy Jim Florwick gives an outstanding talk on high client density wireless deployments, the somewhat misleadingly titled “BRKEWN-2019: Managing the Mobile Device Wave: Best Practices.” It’s a great presentation sharing a lot of best practices we’ve picked up from events like these and from working with customers. We’ll also be publishing a whitepaper on this topic in the next week or so, so stay tuned.

Once we’ve compiled and processed some of the statistics we have, I’ll be following up with some interesting data and tidbits on this network. We’ve seen some very interesting client and usage patterns, RF utilization, and other stunning numbers. Stay tuned.

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