Friday, March 18, 2011

Wireless Tech Field Day - Day 1 Recap (MetaGeek, Cisco, Aerohive)

Ryan Woodings and Trent Cutler from MetaGeek,
presenting at Wireless Tech Field Day
Today started off with MetaGeek presenting their Wi-Spy spectrum analysis product and Chanalyzer Pro software in the morning. Ryan Woodings and Trent Cutler provided a live demo of features in real-time as they presented product features, which was great. Having a look at the topics being covered and a live reference in front of the delegates worked great! Ryan provided a background of the company beginnings, ran the delegates through the product feature set, previewed some features and product enhancement in the pipeline, which were ALL so cool. Every delegate in the room was engaged in the roadmap discussion and excited to see where they were taking the product. Expect to see some amazing innovation coming out of MetaGeek, they’ve got a great sense of the market and product features that customers will want.

Mid-morning, we shipped off to Cisco for presentations on several wireless products. First up, Jim Florwick discussed media rich applications, outlining key success factors for modern mission critical Wi-Fi networks. Next up, David Stiff discussed challenges with spectrum management, the need for integrated spectrum analysis, and Cisco’s CleanAir technology. The bulk of the information was presented in PowerPoint format and did not include any demonstrations, which was a bit unfortunate as the technical delegates seemed more excited throughout the day when seeing features live. The back-to-back spectrum analysis discussions of MetaGeek and Cisco prompted some great comparison points and different use-cases for each technology, which was a recurring discussion theme throughout the day.

After a brief lunch break, David continued the Cisco presentation with information on the MobileAccessVE partner solution for in-building cellular coverage improvement. The solution seems to be a good fit in the U.S. in many urban and rural indoor locations that have poor coverage. The draw for the product is the reduced expense for cellular enhancement by leveraging existing UTP Cat5e/6 cable plant instead of distributed antennas systems (DAS) or overlay cellular infrastructure. However, the need for the MobileAccess controllers and access pods to be in-line between the AP and LAN switch limits the cost-effectiveness to small installations with minimal IDF closets. The duplication of the controller hardware in multiple IDFs can quickly become cost-prohibitive.

The next Cisco presentation focused on next generation hotspots by David Stephenson, an engineer that helped write the IEEE 802.11u amendment. An engineer at heart, you could tell David was passionate about the solution and had a lot of pride in ownership of the capabilities being brought to market by Cisco Service Provider Wi-Fi. The need for secure hotspots and improved user experience is clear, and 11u will initially enable cellular carriers and independent hotspot operators to offer seamless roaming from cell to Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, not much work has been done to accommodate non-carrier hotspots, which is my opinion is the bigger market segment. I was able to ask about secure anonymous hotspot authentication, but it appears that not much is being done to directly address these networks outside of the hope for Wi-Fi Alliance extensions to 802.11u or continued IETF work on EAP protocols. I am really dis-heartened by this news, as it is my firm belief that guest Wi-Fi in hospitality, retail, and many other verticals has become a basic commodity service that is free for customers in most cases (at-least in the U.S.) and required to stay competitive in the market. The need for ease-of-use for layer 2 security on these hotspots is a huge untapped potential.

Finally, Jameson Blandford provided a brief overview of some 802.11n technology after the live stream was cut. Most of this discussion was confidential analysis information and I won’t be able to write much more about the topics covered.

Aerohive was the final presenter for day 1. There is only one word to describe the session at the Aerohive offices, “amped”! We received a surprise visit from Bob O’Hara (yes, the Bob O’Hara!), who enlightened the delegates on Wi-Fi history of scalability issues and the evolution of the modern wireless controller architecture. His takeaway from that evolutionary phase was particularly insightful. The biggest benefit was not the controller architecture but what it enabled – the transformation of Wi-Fi from a niche product to a mass-market solution. I definitely sensed the pride from Bob in his involvement in this transformation. It must have been truly awesome to be an integral part of a cultural and societal transformation that is now enabled by ubiquitous mobile information access through Wi-Fi. Wow!

Next, Devin Akin shot through the Aerohive product market position and feature set information like a bullet! His technical depth and excitement of the product and innovation being done within the company couldn’t have been more visible. The delegates focused questions on key slides that contained critical product differentiation points.

Paul, Andrew, and Abby then kicked off a serious of ridiculously well-executed product demonstrations! They really kept the delegates engaged showing features live, while managing to throw in some impromptu acting skills. They covered Private Pre-Shared Key (PPSK), TeacherView, Mesh operation, HiveAP Active Directory integration and credential caching (super-cool BTW), Dynamic Network eXtension Protocol (DNXP) for Layer 3 roaming and tunneling between subnets, and failover protocols with layer 2 routing (yes, layer TWO routing). Then Paul performed a complete system factory reset and ground up configuration in under 14 minutes, highlighting the product ease of use and “time to value”.

All in all, a it was a packed, hyped, amped, red-bull energy day. I don’t think I could have asked for more!!!

As a reminder, everyone can follow Wireless Tech Field Day on Twitter using the hashtag #TechFieldDay, following the @TechFieldDay lists for wfd1-delegates and wfd1-sponsors, or by watching the live (and soon to be archived) video streams at

Tune in soon for day 2 activities.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks Andrew. It was fabulous seeing you yesterday and having your talent and expertise in the room. I know your audience (which includes me) will benefit from the things you'll pick up throughout W-TFD for the entire next year. Kudos!