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. Customers that use those gateways can disable the discovery of iOS8 using Bluetooth and mirroring via Airdrop. Cisco AireOS and IOS mDNS solutions offer customers the ability to discover geographically dispersed Bonjour Services e.g. print to the printer in my office from another location and set user-based access policies instead of relying on a shared pin-code.


3. Randomized MAC Address   (iOS 8)

Devices with iOS 8 use a randomized MAC address in probes instead of the burnt in MAC Address in case of clients that are not authenticated or asleep. If the phone is awake or associated to Wi-Fi, it will use the real MAC.

Predicted Impact: For customers using Cisco MSE for engaging authenticated clients, for locating rogues, or locating interference, it is business as usual. The value of analytics is aggregate movement patterns in physical space, so the randomization of MAC addresses in Apple devices will not impact directional metrics such as user density trends or typical client movement paths. For more on the impact of iOS 8 randomizing MAC addresses on Cisco and Cisco Meraki networks, read:

4. Wi-Fi Calling  (iOS 8)

This feature when enabled by the Service Provider allows users that are near a Wi-Fi network to send their voice and messaging over the Wi-Fi network instead of cellular. In areas with cellular coverage holes this will help customers to run calls over Wi-Fi.

Predicted Impact: This feature was already available in several Android phones. Cisco’s robust Voice over WLAN solution has been already embraced by several mission-critical deployments. In addition there are several enterprise best practices and standards introduced including 802.11r the fast transition secure authentication, 802.11k neighbor list radio management and optimized QOS.

Bottom Line

As you can see, the deployment of Android L or iOS 8 releases are not expected to impact your Cisco WLAN deployments this fall (based upon the announcements and limited testing). The upcoming AireOS 8.0 release also supports features that enhance mobile battery life including Proxy ARP, Directed Multicast Service and BSS Max Idle.

The upcoming Cisco AireOS 8.0 also delivers a comprehensive HDX Optimized Roaming solution for customers with a mix of clients by constantly monitoring the health of the clients and making decisions on actively disconnecting clients when they move to an area of low coverage. Cisco HDX Optimized roaming allows clients to roam more intelligently and cleanly between multiple Wi-Fi access points as well as between licensed and unlicensed cells.

As iOS 8 and Android L is rolled out, your network will show a significant spike as your devices upgrade their operating system as well as the associated applications. You can use Cisco AVC to manage the impact on networks–see how here.


Jeevan Patil

Director, Product Management

Wireless Network