Monday, March 21, 2011

Wireless Tech Field Day - Day 2 Recap (HP, AirMagnet, Fluke)

HP Executive Briefing Center (EBC) Entrance
Day 2 started out at the HP Executive Briefing Center (EBC). At HP we discussed the company's wireless product history, from Symbol OEM to Colubris acquisition in 2008. Today, the HP portfolio consists of wireless mobility controllers and APs. Rich and Chris presented the current network architecture, detailing central vs. distributed traffic forwarding, control and data plane implementation points, high availability options, and thin versus fat APs (which Greg @etherealmind calls 'Big Boner APs').

Discussion continued around access point hardware capabilities, focusing on the new MDM-460 and MDM-466 three spatial stream APs. Andres provided an iperf throughput demonstration to highlight the hardware is capable of up to 231 Mbps, which is a step above current two stream APs, but not earth shattering given the raw data rates up to 450 Mbps.

The HP visit wrapped up with a lengthy discussion on the future of wireless technology. The HP team solicited feedback on current wireless issues observed by the delegates. Topics included security architecture, mobile device support, personal devices, layer 1 RF complexity, and secure hotspots.

Delegates then headed over to Fluke offices for discussions with AirMagnet and Fluke Networks. AirMagnet was up first, and brought Bruce and Jesse in for a presentation of their product portfolio and demonstrations. The presentation covered AirMagnet solutions for wireless LAN planning, design, analysis, and troubleshooting.

In-depth demonstrations of Wi-Fi Analyzer Pro, Spectrum XT, and Site Survey Pro by Bruce allowed delegates to dive into technical features of the products. Since most delegates use these products on a regular basis, much of the discussion focused on product enhancements in the most recent versions, delegate feedback on pain points and desired features, and product roadmaps.

Jesse then presented the AirMagnet Enterprise WIPS/WIDS solution. Focus was placed on their capability for dynamic threat update protection, which is decoupled from the wireless infrastructure, allowing more regular updates without impacting wireless network operations. The ability to quickly respond to security threats is required in modern Wi-Fi networks, which are becoming mission-critical and carrying increasing amounts of sensitive cardholder and patient data. Additional solution benefits included extended channel scanning, forensics capabilities, and minimal WAN outage impact.

The final presentation was given by Carolyn and Paul from Fluke Networks. The presentation covered the Fluke AirCheck, a portable product designed for the 1st level field technician. Paul, a "real" engineer, walked us through the design process and an example use-case scenario. Although a bit dry, the points were spot-on. Additionally, access to an engineer of Paul's high calibre was reward enough, as the delegates were able to pick his brain on many technical details of the AirCheck. An amazing amount of thought and detail went into the product to implement complex functions in a simple and intuitive manner. For instance, AirCheck automatically detects the current country of operation using 802.11d, and offers a simple coloring of the current regulatory channels for the technician. The product is optimized for simple yet effective workflow,  drop resistance, fast power-on (2 seconds by my timing), high portability, and a long batter life (5 hours of constant use).

The Fluke team then allowed all the delegates to get hands-on time with an actual unit, bringing out 16 AirCheck units. Stephen fired up his portable 3G router and delegates were asked to find it. The AirCheck device finder function builds a line graph in real time and beeps similar to a geiger counter. It was amazingly easy to find the device, and quite fun. At first, I was skeptical that the product was too basic a tool for engineers. However, after having one in my hands, I was completely wrong. The tool has a place in any engineer's bag, and fills a gap for quick network analysis without booting a computer or using overly complex software.

Day 2 was full of great discussions and product demonstrations. The delegates were truly amazing, and it was great to be part of this event. I look forward to continuing to contribute to the strong wireless online community.

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 soon to be archived video streams at


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