Monday, December 10, 2012

Design your WLAN for High Capacity

High-Density Wi-Fi Design Series:

The demand for high-capacity Wi-Fi networks continues to grow at an astonishing rate. The migration to 802.11n has taken Wi-Fi networking within the enterprise from an overlay to existing wired networks and made it the primary network connectivity method. And the upcoming 802.11ac standard promises to boost demand for Wi-Fi even higher. Users are increasingly adopting mobile devices that solely rely on Wi-Fi for connectivity to the network (when was the last time you left your desk without your laptop, tablet, or smartphone?). They are also carrying an average of 2-3 devices each, to work in the manner that suits them best depending on the situation.

This has spawned initiatives for consumerization of IT (corporate issued mobile devices) and BYOD (personally owned laptop and mobile devices) in many organizations. While the focus has shifted largely to supporting these devices on enterprise networks and securing the network and corporate data, organizations must also be aware of the need to re-assess Wi-Fi network performance.

But there’s a problem. Many Wi-Fi networks were never designed to handle the amount of clients or the traffic load that we see on our networks today. Instead, they were designed in an era not so long ago where simply providing adequate signal strength and coverage was sufficient.  Many organizations are quickly realizing that their existing WLAN deployments designed for basic coverage are no longer adequate to meet these growing demands and that simply adding more access points is usually ineffective, often necessitating new network planning and design. These increasing demands have brought with them new requirements to effectively design and deploy high-capacity wireless networks. But where do you start?

Aerohive’s new High-Density Wi-Fi Design and Configuration Guide provides resources for engineers working with any vendor’s equipment to understand the factors that influence WLAN deployment success, and to begin designing WLAN networks that meet the demands placed upon them.

Aerohive High-Density Wi-Fi Design and Configuration Guide
(Click to download the PDF)

The design guide covers the following topics:

  • Requirements Gathering – These steps are critical to understanding the load and demand that will be placed on the network. We must know what our goal is before we can design to meet and exceed it! This includes requirements for the infrastructure, clients, applications, and forecasting the number of APs required to service the client population.
  • Network Planning and Design – This section details the factors that influence Wi-Fi network capacity, including spectrum capacity, channel planning, minimizing co-channel interference, working with unique facility characteristics, collocating APs to achieve higher capacity, and site surveying. A discussion of critical wired network design variables such as switch port bandwidth, PoE, subnet allocation, DHCP, and Internet bandwidth are also included.
  • Aerohive Network Configuration – Provides detailed recommendations for configuring an Aerohive Wi-Fi network for high capacity, including SSIDs, RADIUS integration, QoS, security, and radio settings.
  • Network Monitoring and Optimization – Managing a high performing wireless network does not stop once it is deployed. Ongoing maintenance and network optimization will ensure that the network continues to exceed performance expectations. This section details monitoring an Aerohive Wi-Fi network through the tools provided within HiveManager to tune network performance as needs change.
  • Appendix – The appendix contains useful worksheets to aid in the process of requirements gathering and forecasting capacity demands, as well as a configuration checklist for deploying the network.
One of the heavily stressed points in the document is the need for proper planning. Wi-Fi can be deceiving, because signal strength no longer guarantees a successful network. Proper Wi-Fi network design must take into account both the client and the infrastructure because airtime is a shared resource. The capabilities of your client population will directly impact the capacity and performance of your wireless network. Only by understanding your client population (or at minimum, making some educated assumptions) can your network be successful.

I put in some long hours and gave my blood, sweat, and tears to this document. I hope it proves valuable for anyone reading it, and translates into successful WLAN deployments.


This post originally appeared on the Aerohive Blogs website.

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