Thursday, August 11, 2016

CMX Cloud with Mobility Express is here

For some, Mobility Field Day 1 may be a distant memory.  The first Mobility Field Day Cisco brought Cisco to the delegates to talk about CMX Cloud.  Simply taking presence analytics to the cloud wasn't all that interesting to me.  Prior to 8.3 code you needed a proxy server to convert the NMSP data from the controller to an HTTPS connection to the CMX server in the cloud.  This was a bummer for me because now I have to deploy a server to run the proxy on, as well as a WLC to connect to CMX.   And if I'm deploying a server infrastructure at a site, why not just run CMX locally?

But not all was lost, Cisco told us the plan was for 8.3 to support a native connection to CMX cloud.  So that removes the server requirement, but what about the WLC?  They also announced that Mobility Express (the WLC software running on an AP) would support this direct connection to CMX Cloud in 8.3, removing the requirement to have a physical WLC and controller licensing for this deployment.  This is great news for distributed organizations like retail that want to gain presence analytics, but are shy about either deploying gear locally, or building/leveraging their WAN circuits for this.



Fast forward to today and 8.3 code for Mobility Express is published on Cisco.com.  I was asked to build a CMX demo for the upcoming Interface Boise conference in a few weeks, so I decided what a great opportunity to try out CMX Cloud with Mobility Express.  In just a few minutes I had reset my 1832 AP running Mobility Express and run through the initial setup.  A reboot later and the Mobility Express AP was up and operational.

Now for the CMX Cloud component.  I signed up for a CMX Cloud trial at cmxcisco.com.  It warns you that it can take up to a day to receive your account info.  Less than an hour later, I had my login credentials, server url and authentication token.   Going to the Mobility Express GUI, I was able to configure this with a minimal effort.



*Note: I ran into an issue where during the Mobility Express initial setup, DNS was listed as optional.  When you setup CMX, it NEEDS the DNS server functional to resolve the CMX server URL and to build the needed ACLs for the CMX Connect functionality.  You can configure DNS on the CLI of the Mobility Express if you don't want reset the AP and rerun the setup.  Once DNS was setup, the CMX configuration on the AP worked flawlessly.

If you're familiar with CMX Presence, the setup of CMX Cloud for presence is quite straight forward.  First you create a site and add your AP to CMX.  Remember it's the base radio MAC, not the ethernet MAC.  

Once you have the site created and the AP added to the site, I verified that I saw the Mobility Express controller connected to CMX and that I started to receive data.



Now that the AP is talking to CMX Cloud, for the next part all I had to do was wait (for data to populate).
The AP was running at my desk in the CompuNet Meridian office.  Pretty quickly i started to see the Insights panes starting to get populated.


I found the insights pretty interesting.  Our local engineering team is still edged out on Intel PCs vs Macs, but it's close (51 to 46 in the last 7 days).  I did find it interesting that 12-1 was he peak hour, considering the number of people who go out for lunch.





All things considered, this solution looks really well thought out, easy to deploy and simple from the fact that the only hardware required on-site is the Mobility Express AP.  I’m also really interested to see what this data looks like for the day of the conference (which is the whole point of the demo).



For the future, I think having location as part of this offering would be cool.  However, I think that the need to have maps in Prime Infrastructure and sync that to CMX might be more cumbersome and really take away from the minimal hardware needed.  Maybe this is an opportunity for Prime Infrastructure in the cloud (Or a “Prime Lite” in the cloud).  I also like the fact that I don’t have to manage the box.  It has been exceptionally stable and not having to update it periodically exemplifies why this belongs in the cloud.  This is really attractive when you realize that Cisco markets this to non-IT folks.  IT Doesn’t have to support it aside from 3 lines of config in the Mobility Express AP, and the rest can be managed by the marketing or BI folks.


It should be noted that Cisco provided me with the 1832 access point as part of participating in previous Wireless Field Day activities.  The CMX Cloud was provided by Cisco as part of a 60 day trial.   

Monday, April 4, 2016

Aruba AP 330: Resilience and RF Performance in the Access Layer

It's an interesting time in the industry.  Each AP manufacturer is trying to differentiate against their competitors.  We're seeing speeds, feeds and radios popping up all over the place.  I recently had a chance to look at the new Aruba a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company 330 series AP at Atmosphere 2016 in Las Vegas.

The keynotes talked about how our reliance on wireless are increasing, and how it's becoming a more critical part of our network infrastructure.  I see the 330 series AP announced as a big part of Aruba's strategy moving forward.

Instead of giving a big detailed spec sheet for the AP, I'm going to highlight the things I found interesting.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Shifting Views on RRM

So RRM is the hot topics these days.  We have notable CWNEs out in the media actively discouraging its use, with others (including myself) advocating its use when you understand how to use it.  It’s really hard to cut through the FUD and make a good decision as to what wireless operators should be doing.  I’m going to take a minute to relate RRM to another technology and hopefully let you make some informed decisions for yourself.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cradlepoint as a Backup WAN

I've been skeptical of using cellular as a backup solution, cost being the primary concern.  Cellular data is not exactly cheap.  Yet I found myself in a situation recently where I was working from and had a remote cutover.  Less than an hour before the cutover, my home internet went down.  Now posed with the option of either driving into the office, or finding another internet connection with less than an hour.

I grabbed my IBR1100 that @Cradlepoint gave me from #WFD8.  I pulled the SIM out of my work cell phone and 3D printed an adapter in order to get my SIM into the router.  One I powered the IBR1100 up, it came up and I logged into the interface for the first time.  The interface is simple, the initial setup wizard asks a lot of the right questions to get the device up and running quickly for most of their primary use cases.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

A look at HORST on a Raspberry Pi.

I've been working on diagnosing wireless issues from a Raspberry Pi for almost a year now.  And after writing a bunch of python around packet capture and upload I was searching for some airtime calculations when I stumbled across a piece of software called HORST.  Standing for Highly Optimized Radio Scanning Tool, HORST allows you to analyze wireless statistics and packets in real time.  In just a few minutes, I had it running and was amazed at how well it can analyze a network remotely.  

#WFD8 and the ACMA

For those of you who don't know, Aruba has been pretty generous with the TechFieldDay delegates over the last few years. They are a great contributor to the community, even giving away hardware and software at wireless industry events like #WifiTrek and #WLPC. And with #WFD8, we're heading back to Aruba to hear what's new.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Post #WFD7 RX-SOP Musings

Shortly after #WFD7, I decided to sit down and do some testing with RX-SOP.  During a lazy Saturday afternoon in the lab, I was testing this "dangerous" feature to determine why there was so much hesitation about using this feature. 

And shortly after starting on my testing, things started to go horribly wrong.  I had gotten too aggressive with the setting and my test clients had "hit the wall."  Meaning that my clients dropped below the RX-SOP threshold and the AP was no longer responding to it.