Your Network’s Worst Enemy
Wireless networks have matured to the point where security is no longer their primary concern. More and more I am hearing from customers that their primary issue these days is interference.Interference is one of those things that is really tricky to both identify and resolve. There are few IT geeks out there that I’ve met, who happen to understand networking and the complexity of radio frequencies. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if most people reading this blog entry have never even seen a spectrum analyzer. I know I have, but it has to be a very bad day when I need to turn one on… It is in fact for this main reason that as we designed the unified Wireless LAN controller – to take the science out of RF and try to provide more visibility in a manner that most networking experts understand. We turned that complex spectrum analyzer into a graph that would show the health of the network, by showing both interference (other 802.11 traffic) and noise (non 802.11 traffic). We’ve heard consistently from our customers how much they appreciate getting a better understanding of their network.The past year has been a very exciting time for us in the Wireless LAN business, as we’ve seen the technology grow from a convenience to a mission critical network. Ironically, while I think we all agree of the importance of this network, most IT managers would still prefer to treat it as a secondary network – and I believe that this is mostly because the science behind RF makes it a very difficult network to troubleshoot. What does one do when excessive noise shows up? It’s not quite like calling your neighbor and asking them to turn down the Deep Purple they’ve been blasting since 9PM (ok… I’m showing my age… these days you’d probably be complaining about Linkin Park). The expertize, and equipment, required to identify the source of noise is so complex that most people simply leave it alone – but this is becoming more of a problem as more of these devices are introduced in your network, while your users expectations of the network increases. As we were designing the WLAN unified system, we quickly came to the conclusion that trying to identify the source of “noise” would be nearly impossible for most customers, and this was in fact the impetus for creating our Radio Resource Management (RRM) system. RRM is a set of algorithms that are run to optimize the configuration of the various radio parameters to increase the system’s performance (for those that are interested, I will write a piece of RRM in a future blog). RRM certainly solved many of the issues in our customer’s networks, by reconfiguring the network to move away from a source that is harming the performance of the network. Ultimately, we need to start thinking about how we can provide more visibility into what is causing the noise – and remove these interferers to help regain some sanity in our air space.