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Tips to make your next site survey 100% more fun!

My first project at Cisco was a wireless site survey at a large hospital complex. The hospital wanted a new 802.11n network with CleanAir APs and the ability to track hospital equipment, make Vo-Fi calls and provide guest access for devices like the iPad.  The scope was to survey an estimated 3 million square feet of the facility, which wasn’t even all of the buildings! My retail background consisted of either stores or distribution centers, mostly with fairly large square footage, so my first thought was this shouldn’t take long. What is 3 million square feet, when an average distribution center was 1.5 million square feet?

What didn’t occur to me initially, but did very shortly after looking at a floor plan, is the huge difference in the purpose of the buildings. For starters there are a lot of rooms in a hospital, where as in retail there is primarily just large open spaces. Having to walk in and out of room after room, really adds a lot of time to a survey. Additionally many of the rooms have been re-purposed over time to meet the changing needs of the hospital. For example, rooms now used as administrative or doctor offices were at one time used as isolation rooms for patients, or various other uses that make RF propagation less than ideal. Another challenge was restricted pharmaceutical areas where badge and key access is tightly controlled. This doesn’t necessary pose a challenge in terms of providing coverage, but it does when you are walking your survey and you suddenly find yourself locked out of a room!

After many trips to the hospital and countless number of hours roaming hallways and going in and out of room, I have found that a few things have become almost second nature when I am getting things prepped or planning for a return trip. Below I have a few things that might help WLAN Engineers when planning for their next survey project. While none of these are directly related to the finer technical points of a survey, like configuring your survey APs power level importing floor plans into tools like Air Magnet, they will make life much less frustrating!

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Tablets Welcomed: Will you create the “killer” enterprise app?

Last week’s blog highlighted ways you can improve the user experience by preparing your network to meet the challenges associated with the sea of devices entering the corporate networks. Ultimately however, productivity is not only going to be depended on the freedom to choose a device, or the ease of access to information, or the quality of the connection when consuming bandwidth intensive content. It will largely be depended on the tools available on those devices – in other words “the apps”.

Most desk-bound knowledge workers will be quite content using existing productivity tools such as word processing, spreadsheet, or presentation software already available in the various app stores. There will however be many other types of workers that can tremendously benefit from having applications that are turbo-charged with network intelligence.

What do I mean by that? Well, you will just have to watch the video where Jagdish Girimaji, product manager for the Mobility Services Engine (MSE), outlines what network information can be exposed to make tablet applications more intelligent.

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Tablets Welcomed. Can Your Wireless Network Support the User Experience Expected of These Sleek Devices?

Ok, so maybe you are starting to give in to the idea that, employees bringing personally owned tablets at work, is indeed not a fad and you have to deal with it. You have decided on a BYOD strategy that protects company and network resources, while (mostly?) satisfying user appetite for connectivity anywhere from any device.

Great! Now. Is your 802.11n wireless network capable of delivering the user experience that is associated with these new sleek gadgets?

If you thought your network is “good enough”, then think again. This client wave is about to disrupt everything in multiple ways.

  • First, more devices on the network translate to significantly higher demands for bandwidth. In many cases bandwidth requirements can grow exponentially because the ratio of user to devices is no longer 1:1 but 1:2 and often 1:3. We therefore expect to see network utilization significantly rise over time.
  • Second, tablet form factor now allows users to truly be mobile. Unlike laptops, users can now walk/move and be productive at the same time. This new type of behavior will increase the number of clients roaming between access points.
  • Finally, it has been observed that tablets are primarily used for content consumption (as opposed to creation), and video is one of the predominant types of content being consumed, which further complicates bandwidth issues, but also creates new challenges.

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My new life @ Cisco

Hello and thanks for reading!  My name is Travis Schlafke, and I am a new member of Cisco’s Advanced Services Wireless Team. I’ve been at Cisco a little over 2 months now and I can say it has been a crazy fun ride thus far. My first day I went into the office, picked up my laptop and set up my email and day 2 I was out on a flight to work on a survey of a hospital in Houston, Texas. My primary job task involves working with customers on a wide variety of projects providing wireless network solutions. As  a side project I get to share my experiences through this blog.  Through my work, during my (hopefully!) long career at Cisco, I hope that I can find some fun and unique things to share with everyone and give back to the Wi-Fi community.

To give you an idea of my background, I grew up in Central Wisconsin and pursued a degree Information Technology Management at the University of Wisconsin – Stout. I lived in Minneapolis the past few years working as a Wireless Engineer for a large retailer.  Less  than a week ago I packed up and moved to San Jose, California to be part of the AS Wireless team located there. I’m looking forward to the change of weather and the change of scenery (tech companies on every block, etc). I learned a lot in my previous job,  but found the opportunity to come work at Cisco and expand my knowledge and career experience too exciting to pass up. Although it’s hard to pack up and be so far away from friends, family and my Green Bay Packers, I’m really excited for the opportunity to work with some of the brightest Wi-Fi guys in the industry.

That is a little bit about my background and how I joined the Cisco Team. But what I want to share in one of my first blog posts is why I am excited to have the opportunity to use social media here. I grew up at the right time for social media to play a huge role in how I interact with people in all the facets of my life. Being a millennial, some of my first memories of computers were playing Oregon Trail on the Apple IIGS’s in my elementary school classrooms. I still remember when my parents bought a computer that had a modem and I didn’t have to go to the library anymore to use the internet. Some of the early forms of social networking I recall using, although that term didn’t exist yet, were yahoo chat rooms and instant messaging programs like ICQ and MSN. It was pretty cool to talk to my friends all the time on the internet and not have to call their landline at their parent’s house.

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It’s Not the Wireless! BYOD and Cisco Live! Customer Guest Blog

This week I’m happy to continue our customer guest-blog series with Blake Krone, CCNA Wireless, CCNP Wireless, and CCIE Wireless candidate. You can read more from Blake on his blog, Digital Lifestyle or connect with him via Twitter @blakekrone. Read on for a Cisco Live perspective from a true wireless professional.

Recently 14,000+ technology geeks invaded Las Vegas for Cisco Live! 2011 at Mandalay Bay Convention Center. For me this was my 4th year in a row attending Cisco Live! and the 2nd in a row at Vegas. If you have never attended a Cisco Live! event in person I strongly suggest that you try to budget for it next time around. Not only is this the best week to jump head first into all areas of Cisco’s product portfolio but it is also an opportunity to see how the products can come together to provide connectivity for devices and people.

For every Cisco Live! event that is held Cisco builds their own network to support the conference attendees, sponsors, and speakers. This gives Cisco the opportunity to get a large set of data points regarding their products performance in abusive conditions. Lately we have seen or heard about the BYOD (bring your own device) phenomenon that is sweeping across the enterprise network and there is no better place to see that than a large IT conference.

One can safely assume that for all the 14,000+ in attendance each person will have at least 1 Wi-Fi connected device. Now let’s assume that a large chunk of those in attendance are like me and also have their laptop and a tablet with them, that’s a lot of connected devices to support! Whenever I talk with customers about wireless deployments the first thing I will say when we get to the point of turning on a network is that the client will cause the best wireless network to fail. We always push to make sure that the latest drivers are applied to the devices going to be used to ensure proper roaming and performance. But how do you manage that when you have no control over the devices being used? In the future we’ll use tools like Cisco NCS and ISE, for now we just hope it works!

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