Monday, June 18, 2018

Hands-On With the Cambium Networks Outdoor e700 Access Point

Nestled in the heart of McAllen, Texas along old US highway 83 is a food truck park that houses delicacies from across the world. The work of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, local Chefs, the City, & South Texas food enthusiasts culminated in this park a few years ago. Visitors stop by for a quick bite during the week and head over to enjoy the outdoors and the park with their families on the weekends.
When Cambium Networks announced the new e700 series outdoor AP and we got our hands on one, we thought what better place to test it than down at our food truck park. Quick installation ensued on the rooftop of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, adjacent to the food truck park.
Once a month during the Summer, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce hosts a highly regarded karaoke contest at the food truck park. I know it sounds kind of cheesy, but people really get into it!
Speakers, mic stands, and bleachers are set up for the participants and spectators. The only problem is, the food truck parks sits in a bit of a bowl with there is weak cellular service and no Wi-Fi available to use. Each month the chamber has had to figure out ways to get online to stream the songs that are requested by the performers. By implementing a Wi-Fi solution, we give them quick and immediate access to all the resources they need.
Image credit: McAllen Food Truck Park Facebook —
We installed the Cambium Networks e700 on an existing non-penetrating roof mount, connected it to a UV-rated, outdoor Ethernet cable back to a switch inside the Chamber of Commerce, and from there out to the world!
Now we are able to offer free Wi-Fi to the visitors of the park and a prioritized feed to the Chamber of Commerce employees to get the karaoke contest going!

A Pretty Cool Use Case

Even though it sounds simple, think about it:
The primary user is streaming high-definition audio and video and hundreds of users are recording, Snapchatting, posting, and streaming the performances via periscope, YouTube live, Facebook, and more. If there is any hiccup amongst these live performance fans, we’ll definitely hear about it!

About the Cambium Networks e700

The e700 access point doesn’t have any large drastic differences from the e500 other than the expected tech upgrades, but once you open up the box it’s apparent that a little bit more work was put into it then it’s predecessor the e500.
The mount that is used to hold the radio to a pole or wall has an upgrade. Recessed, form-fitting plastic is used to hold the tilt mechanism in place. Very cool, very durable, and probably way over engineered. This bolt / nut combo looks like it will hold a heck of a lot more than the AP. Better too much than not enough though!

A large plate of heat dispersing fins on the back of the unit gives it a more rugged look while helping keep the components of this 4 x 4 radio at the appropriate temperatures. The molded case also has a new wall or pole mounting bracket design. The mount bracket fits into two slots at the top of the heatsink, and then the bottom of the mounting unit is fastened to the radio.

The version that we had required us to use a Torx 25 bit that was not included in the packaging to attach the mounting plate to the radio. I’m not sure if this will change in production version, but I hope it does. Not everyone carries one of those tools :-)
There is also a small chain on the back of the unit but it is not referenced in any of the documentation, so I’m still pretty unclear what it is for.

Vital Stats of the Cambium Networks e700

· 802.11ac wave2 supporting standards based beam forming on 5 GHz
· IP67 housing
· Integrated 8 dBi Omni antenna on 2.4 and 5 GHz,
· 512 clients, 16 SSIDs
· 2x2 on 2.4 GHz and 4x4 Tx arrays on 5 GHz
· EIRP: 33 dBm (2.4 GHz) and 36 dBm (5 GHz)
· Comes with BLE radio — future proof for roadmap plans for collecting presence information and installation procedure assistance
· Operating temp range: -40°C to 65°C
· Best RX sensitivity = -99dBm

A Different Approach to Configuration

Contrary to most configurations serving large crowds, we left both 2.4GHz access and 80 MHz channels enabled in 802.11ac. We wanted to see how, at factory default, client connections would perform in an open environment. Normally we would follow best practices and drop to 20 MHz channels while disabling 2.4 and none of the OFDM data rates, but we wanted to simulate a traditional situation where the person installing this equipment isn’t a wireless professional, but a normal Enterprise or network user.

So Far, It’s Great!

The results that we have seen over the last two weeks have been encouraging and flawless. We are using Cambium Networks free cloud management tool cnMaestro to monitor and maintain the equipment and wireless connectivity. There is no captive portal to access the network, so it is a straight shot once they associate to the WiFi. We are processing DHCP and DNS from the network through the 2 SSIDs being broadcasted.
As the summer months creep up on us in the Rio Grande Valley with Fall ready to follow, more and more people will be getting outdoors to enjoy the food truck park. Now, they can enjoy great quality Wi-Fi service as well, delivered via Cambium Networks e700!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The NetScout AirCheck G2 Test Accessory Adds Practicality to Your Toolkit

A few weeks ago I got a nice surprise in the mail: a package from NetScout with a sample unit of their Test Accessory for the AirCheck G2. Since recieving it, I have put it to use in a number of networks to test, measure, and validate temporary and permamnent Wi-Fi installations. It's proven itself useful just about every time I've used it. Here's the video:

The AirCheck G2 is Awesome, You Should Know That

Now, it's no secret that just about every Wi-Fi pro has pretty much standardized on the AirCheck G2 as a go-to and a must-have for their toolkit. Anyone that's looking to troubleshoot, test and prove out Wi-Fi networks has got a friend in this device. Now, I'm not going to  dive into the G2 as it is it's own amazing piece of gear, but instead I want to focus on the valuable addition that NetScout has added to this set.

The NetScout AirCheck G2 Test Accessory can be connected to your network via POE to power it up and begin testing immediately. If POE is not an option you can use 2 AA batteries to provide the juice and plug it into any standard network port. Once it finishes a boot cycle, it negotiates a link, recieves an IP address, calls out to the NetScout cloud service and is ready to go. Now that you're ready, the next step is to connect your G2 to a wireless network and get testing!

Why the Test Accessory Makes the G2 Better: Practicality

The imporatant gap that I think this tool fills for the AirCheck G2 and the network engineer using it is  the ability to give your client results that they will actually understand. I have yet to meet a manager or decision maker who is having prooblems with their wireless network care if they are using 20 MHz or 40MHz channels, 802.11n, ac, wave 1 or wave 2. What they care about is something that they understand, and in this case, the Test Accessory serves that up on a platter: throughput. If they can't measure their network in "bars", they will want to measure it in capacity. A lot of times network engineers tend to over complicate explanations to problems or solutions, and this provides a level of practicality that can see and understand.

Here's how it works: Once the AirCheck is booted up, you choose an access point on the network you are testing and you associate the G2 to it. Once the connection is successful, you will see an option on the bottom of the screen to start the throughput test. When pressed a list of the Test Accessories found on your network appear and you are able to select the one that you would like to begin testing your throughput to and from.

With the tap of a finger you are able to see the PHY data rate that is negotiatied and the upload and download speeds that are you able to obtain.

It's a simple and quick as that. One of the things that makes the AirCheck G2 such a great tool is it's ability to boot quickly getting you online and testing immediately. You get the full ability to look at the network from an RF perspective, the conenctivity and persepctive and now you get the network capacity as well. Well done NetScout!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Economical UPS Systems for Outdoor WiFi Stability

I want to share a bit about a solution that we're putting together for one of our outdoor WiFi customers. Here's a video going through it and below is the blog post for more info!

We do a lot of outdoor Wi-Fi. Whether it's a construction site, an RV park, or for hospitality outside of a resort, we get involved in a lot of projects that require outdoor Wi-Fi coverage.

One of the problems that we run into are pretty frequently is power. It's not just about having power where we need it, it's about the quality of that power. We find ourselves dealing with GFCI's that are tripped all the time, wiring that shuts down out of nowhere, cabling that you don't really want to plug anything into, or brownouts. As an example, when someone comes in and parks a large RV at some of these parks it causes an immediate power drain at the post that can be enough to make a finicky WiFi access point reset.

The more of these outdoor environments we get into, the more important clean and reliable power is. We've always been on the hunt for a battery or a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) or battery back-up solution that gives us the ability to keep our Wi-Fi equipment online through those brownouts or even if there's a short power outage.  Nothing has ever really been too cost-effective but over the holiday break we saw that the 425 model of the APC UPS had a dip in price and dropped it down to about $30. We were able to pick some up on Amazon and thought it would be a great opportunity to test em out and share the results with you all.

 The APC 425 has six three-prong ports on it. 4 of those are battery backed up and surge protection, the other two are surge protection only.

We are going to be testing this out using the Cambium cnPilot 3500 and the Cambium PMP450b Subscriber Module on the same battery. We will see how much run time we can get out of the battery and understand what to expect in a park or outdoor Wi-Fi deployment!

After about 30 minutes the battery went dead. I was expecting it to last a little bit longer, to be honest, but that's plenty of time. When I ran the numbers on each one of these pieces of hardware, I calculated the access point at 8W, max peak of 12.95W and the subscriber unit at 5W, max peak of 10 watts; between 13W and 22W on average. At that draw, the specs on the battery box say that we should get about an hour out of this. I didn't run a power meter to see what the draw was, but I'm guessing it was on the higher-side of the two :)

All in all, I think it's a great product for under $50 to provide at each AP location in a high-demand environment for outdoor Wi-Fi. At the rate we paid for it, it's about a buck a minute that you're paying for to keep these things online. Either way, it should be enough to hold over the wireless gear through a brownout or short power outage!

If you know of any other solutions that are more cost-effective and offer the same run time, drop a comment below!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

What, no MFD this season? Where to get your Wireless info in 2018

Disclaimer / Please Note: I don't have anything to do with the organization behind Tech Field Day / Mobility Field Day, etc. I am merely an attendee and fan. I can't tell you if there will or will not be an event, that's not for me to decide. As an avid internetter I happened to notice there is no official date for MFD posted yet, and that's what spawned this. 

One of the coolest things about the Tech Field Day events is that anyone can sign-up for them. You go over to their site, take a look at what they are up to and fill out a form if you want to put your name in the hat to get selected as a delegate. Here, I'll make it easy, click here.

This coming year, there is something near and dear to me missing from the lineup: Mobility Field Day.

Now, this isn't the first group to dance with the idea of putting the kibosh on wireless, InteropITX struck it as a main track and rolled it into Infrastructure. But, it's frustrating to think that with the lack of support for Wireless Field Day / Mobility Field Day that there now isn't a place where open dialog can be had with a group of enthusiasts that are specific to something as important as wireless. Especially since almost every way we communicate in this day, age, and economy is via wireless. The back-and-forth discussion, the q and a, the ability to get specific questions delivered from the community to the people that can actually answer the question at the manufacturer level, all of that is so essential when helping choose vendors, at least from my perspective. The insight and interaction that MFD and all the Tech Field Day events are known for will be sorely missed in the wireless sector this coming year if an event doesn't surface.

As far as the ancillary Wi-Fi products that thrive because of the WLAN Industry (e.g. Cape Networks, NetScouts, Ekahau, etc) where are we supposed to hear from them now? I get it, smaller budgets, smaller companies, bigger net = bigger fish. But still, that intimate vendor relationship component gets lost when at larger events. I hope to see user group meetings, focused support for smaller, more intimate events, etc.
So it got me thinking, why aren't companies pushing their wireless tech out into the market the same way they were before?

Well, obvious things first: consolidation.

HPE acquired Aruba. Ruckus got picked up by Brocade Broadcom Arris. Xirrus got snapped up by Riverbed. Motorola went to Extreme. Meru to Fortinet. Even OpenMesh went to Datto. Not that all of these guys were TFD/WFD/MFD presenters, but there is an obvious shift in power in the Wi-Fi industry. Smaller Wi-Fi companies are getting acquired by larger groups who see it as more of a feature to their company than a standout or breakthrough technology. All the shine and luster of what were once the "wicked" and groundbreaking technologies are now broken-in and assimilated with much larger organizations. The companies went from trying to prove what made them individually spectacular to being part of a much larger solution.

Secondly, now that these technologies are part of the mothership, their conglomerate marketing machines are going to want you to focus on the pure play, the turnkey solutions, the one-stop shops etc. I don't expect to hear much about Wi-Fi until 802.11ax comes around and everyone has to whip out there wares to show what makes 'em special, but they won't be doing it at individual events; Cisco Live style events will be the launch point. I hate to say it and I hope it never happens, but Atmosphere rolling in to a few days before or after HPE Discover isn't a far stretch of the imagination. I would also bet that Extreme is working on one helluva partner summit. And the rest of em? Xirrus? Will we ever hear from them again?

So where does that leave the rest of the wireless industry?

Well now that CTIA has been gobbled up by Mobile World Congress America, it seems like a great fit for 5G for now. IWCE still seems to be the conference for the nerds of the point to point microwave and LMR groups.

But what about the wireless engineers and solution builders of the world?

Hopefully we'll see a Mobility Field Day pop-up at a later day or at the very least glimpses of Wi-Fi and wireless offerings making their way into the Network Field Day and Tech Field Day events to start. But, without companies supporting specific efforts like Mobility Field Day, independent events like InteropITX, or anything outside of their monolithic meetups like Cisco Live (and don't get me wrong, CLUS and Atmosphere are freaking awesome, they're just not tailored to the Wi-Fi audience) where is one to go to find out the specifics of working with WLANs? For now, it seems like it will be up to the users, partners, and distributors of the technology to be the goto source for information.

There has never been a better time for the Wireless LAN Pros Conference
Keith & company assemble one of the best annual resources for knowledge sharing, professional development, networking and building friendships in this market. Hands down, second to none.

There has never been a deeper need for events like Wi-Fi Trek
For those that follow the certification courses of the CWNA or have an interest in a deeper understanding of how all of this stuff really, really, deeply, works.

For people looking for more information on point to point and multipoint microwave, you have independant multi-vendor supported events like WISPAPALOOZA and maybe even a slim chance Animal Farm might come back someday!

Incredible distributors and resellers put on annual events like:
Wireless Without Limits from Double Radius
Tessco One from Tessco
The UNWIRED Event from Winncom
and more!

Even though it seems to be heading towards Wi-Fi companies turning into Wi-Fi business units, there is still a ton of progress to be made in the wireless space. After all, when's the last time you plugged a cable into your device?

Hopefully when the vendors start to innovate with 802.11ax and future wireless technology, we will get to hear about it and it will be catered specifically to the group of people that are passionate about it instead of it being stuffed in the corner of a larger annual meeting.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Service Defined Networks: Decoupling Support and Hardware from Wi-Fi Manufacturers

I had the opportunity visit the Cambium Networks campus to be part of the Managed Service Provider kick-off. It was great to see friendly old faces and the new, old faces, that have made their way over to the company. The last time I was here, the place was buzzing as it was still very much in its infancy and trying to ramp up its brand in the industry.

Now, in November 2017, they have swept the WISPA awards, gained international recognition and delivered products to the market with a commons sense to it that is not seen very often any more.

What Makes Cambium Wi-Fi Different? 

One of the key things that I discussed with their product team before our live webcast, was about the licensing structure and some of the "why" behind the support and on-going maintenance offering they have. Along with providing hardware to the industry at a significantly lower cost and taking over the middle-market of the Wi-Fi industry (think, above UBNT and EnGenius, below Aruba and Cisco), they do some pretty unique stuff when it comes to licensing and management software.

If you don’t know, their licensing, management, support, and updates are included in the price of the access point. Yes, freely available.  You get some amazing features with cnMaestro, which we can discuss later, but more importantly is the “why” behind their free licensing and what makes it different. It turns out, it's about overall customer satisfaction and gaining trust and repeat business. So, regardless of what they do with hardware, I want to draw attention to this program.

When cnMaestro and all of the freely available updates were first introduced, I thought it was awesome. I didn’t understand the reasoning behind it, nor did I ask. But check this out.

By including the updates, firmware revs, feature updates, and support with the hardware, it makes the product a better product for you. If they charge for support and updates to a product you own, and you choose not to purchase those support and update contracts, you’re only driving yourself to a bad customer experience. At the end of the day, if you own the hardware and you can’t update it to the latest version of firmware when something comes out, are you gonna get mad at purchasing for not approving the budget or at the manufacturer for not helping you get the most out of the product you already paid for? 

And what then? You have hardware that is limited by a licensing issue? How likely are you to purchase hardware from that company next if there is another option on the table? It sounds like a vicious cycle, but know that you are probably already caught in it.

Now I get it, somewhere, someone got the idea to make the customers beholden to the hardware manufacturer by requiring licensing fees to the software, but thankfully, that is coming apart. Of course I understand that in order to offer support and services and get new features and what not require a whirring machine of people that have to draw paychecks from somewhere. But that too seems to be changing. 

Support and services are being offloaded onto the industry and away from corporate resources. Ubiquiti helped usher in the “hey we just make the stuff” model and others have followed suit. Wireless engineers, designers, and network consultants are positioned to better help customers than ever before, their toolsets are continuously growing and the technical and maintenance support system is being spread wider across the globe. Look at the boom in the WLAN Pros Conference. There are amazing people in the industry that you can rely on to help you without having to purchase contracts from manufacturers. They're skilled, knowledgeable, and can add value you can't find in a support subscription.

Just like open and software defined networking has decoupled software and services from hardware, so goes the way of the industry. Maybe not everywhere, yet. But to see an example of what it could be, take a look at Cambium. 

You buy the hardware and they keep it being the best that it can be for you. At no additional cost.
They’re not the only ones. Cape’s doing it with sensors, Ubiquiti is doing it with a number of devices, and more are coming. 

It’s like this awesome trend in the auto industry.
When you buy certain cars, at least in parts of my area, you get lifetime oil changes and maintenance. Sure it could be a gimmick, but guess what, it keeps the car running wonderfully the whole time you have it. The cost is absorbed into the price of the vehicle and you know what comes out of it? A happy customer. A customer who enthusiastically spreads the word about your brand. They spend more time loving their car than complaining about it not working because they don't maintain it.

Now, if you go buy a vehicle and that vehicle’s functionality is only as good as the service you give it, which A. Doesn’t happen as regularly as it should and B. you have to come out of pocket for, you’re not going to be as happy as the person who has zero worries. And you’re not gonna rave about your vehicle. You will never be heard saying what awesome service is provided by the manufacturer.

As a matter of fact as far as a brand advocate goes, you’ll probably be LESS likely to recommend that brand to someone who trusts you because you know how much work it takes to make sure it continues to do what it was supposed to do in the first place. High-end brand or not, you can't continuously charge for customer satisfaction and loyalty and expect everyone to be peachy keen about it, especially in a world where those options are now opening up.

So now, 

Which car would you be more likely to buy? 
The one that has a great service department that you have to pay for or the one that has a great service department that you never have to pay for because it’s just “taken care of”?

That thought in mind, which AP would you be more likely to buy? 
The one that keeps you locked into a service contract that you need in order to keep the device functioning the way it’s supposed to, or the one that you know will be supported by the manufacturer?

Thankfully the observation of this was made by one of the team at Cambium when the products were coming together and it made it’s way into the pricing structure. 

Keeping customers happy isn't just about building a great product. It's about standing beside that product and ensuring that it will always be the best product it can be so that it can be used the way its supposed to as a testament to the manufacturer.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Getting to know Cisco Live, an Outsiders View.

An eye-opening view from a first timing, non-Cisco partner. 

Image Credit: Scott McDermott. Used under Creative Commons 2.0

Let me be clear up-front:

I’m not a Cisco partner. I wasn’t invited or paid to be at the event by Cisco. I don’t sell Cisco products, in fact I’m pretty well versed in how to sell against many Cisco products and a believe in choosing the right product for the job over how well they snap together. That being said, sometime Cisco is the right choice. A lot of times Cisco has the right options to help the customers, it’s just not my “go to” answer.

To get the “Why Not?” Out of the way..

  1. Sometimes it really isn’t the best product.
    Just to say that is almost blasphemous in the Cisco partner world. There is such a strict brand loyalty with the company that seems the all-or-nothing mentality is embedded in the partner program. And it’s the customers too. You’re either all Cisco or not. I don’t believe it can always be everything to everyone and rather than be scoffed at by customers whose pitchers are full of blue kool-aid and waste time at meetings fighting an uphill battle, I choose to deal with everyone else and steer clear of the brand. 
  2. Margins.
    As a small business owner trying to make money, build a successful business, and provide customer friendly solutions, it’s not friendly. The same deal, the same amount of time spent in the account, and its scrapping over 5 points of margin vs other brands where it’s an easy 20%. And who am I fighting against for that 5%?…..
  3. Everyone.
    Everyone sells Cisco. And by everyone I mean I’m competing with CDW, Insight, SHI, and a host of other statewide partners that can murder me with expense accounts, the ability to ride an opportunity out for 6 months, and the buying power to get incentives that I can’t touch because I don’t deal in enormous volume. 

Why am I not a Cisco partner? 

Because even though the products are small business friendly, the reseller side isn’t. I can’t build a small business selling Cisco.

Then what was I doing at Cisco Live?

Having an amazing time. Listening to passionate product managers and engineers talk about their products. Getting to know what Cisco can do and seeing how partners around the world can help solve huge problems.

I was learning more than I imagined about the products and services that Cisco offered while being overwhelmed with helpful people, an amazing community of fans, and a customer-centric company like I have never seen.

I was taking selfies as a virtual superhero, listening to Bryan Cranston talk about killing chickens, jumping up and down to Bruno Mars. I was high-fiving the people in the hallways whose only job it was was to make sure you knew where lunch, the keynotes, or the expo floor was as they danced to the DJ filled areas that donated electricity to school students in 3rd world countries.

I was listening to keynotes that kept it real, telling execs that it costs too much money and takes too much time to achieve Cisco certifications and that means that the way Cisco does business is cumbersome and broken in this day and age.
I was having a freaking blast at Cisco Live. I was changing my perspective on the stuffy company I thought it was.

Am I Going to Go Home and Star Selling Cisco?

Not as a reseller. Not yet. That part is going to be impossible to fix. Why? Because it’s not broken. It’s operating the way I’m sure it’s supposed to. It’s just not supposed to operate for small VARs like me.

Will I be more inclined to sells overall solutions that Cisco offers?

Absolutely. This company does a phenomenal job of being a solution expert. It’s what I imagine IBM used to be the giant of doing: taking complex problems and finding big, chunky, powerful ways to solve enormous problems. The difference is Cisco has the tools and tool sets in addition to the solutions. Granted, they might not always be the *best* products to craft the solution, but they will get the job done.

I get it..

I get why people use it, live it and love it. I didn’t really get it though until i showed up to Cisco Live. To be inside the machine is amazing. It’s informative, inspiring, and empowering. Cisco does a better job than any company I’ve seen making you feel like you’re part of the overall solution and not just a component.

And seriously, they can throw a party. Their Customer Appreciation Event was incredible. Absolutely incredible.

If only in some magical world I could either be big enough to compete to sell Cisco products or they had incentives that leveled the playing field for small business trying to be a part of the Cisco World of Solutions, it would be amazing.

At Cisco Live, you feel like being a part of this mystical world of the technology of tomorrow is attainable. What better place to have it than Vegas. In this town everything feels magical. At every turn you have a machine that sings to you about how it can change your life. At CLUS you feel the same vibe of “anything’s possible”.

But tomorrow, I fly home.

Part of airplanes landing is touchdown back on Earth. For me that means 5–10% margins competing against Cisco Gold partners with 3 or more CCIEs on staff and unlimited resources making it impossible for me to be a part of that magical Cisco world. It means not being able to survive marathon buying cycles and seemingly unlimited incentives for larger partners. It means continuing to work hard while being creative and intelligent enough to craft the solutions out of several best-of-breed products.
Until I can build a small business large enough to compete with the global dominance of big business…

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Thanks for the memories Cisco Live. See you next year.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Discovering HPE Discover

Early in 2017, I received a direct message on Twitter followed by an email inviting me to HPE Discover. Honestly, it's not a show that I had ever considered going to, but this year I wanted to give it a chance. I have been doing more with Aruba, selling complete solutions with HPE, and have a lot of respect for their teams and products. If there was ever a great time to attend, this was definitely it.

It always exciting to be a first-timer at events. The all-out production isn't lost on people that have never seen it, and every turn reveals something new and exciting.

What is HPE Discover?

Discover is a conference that celebrates all things HPE. From keynotes by the CEO, technical deep dives with Product Managers, and access to the people behind the products, Discover shows you the very best that the product families can produce when working in harmony with each other and anyone in their circle of supporting vendors. Discover is HPEs wonderland of solutions.

Their show floor is a beautiful, well laid out testimony to what they can provide with their family of technology solutions and has everything from product demos to solution demos, in an area they call the Transformation Zone. Every product they make is on the floor.  Every expert and product line manager is available. They are all eager to show you what you can do with their technology, and they step you through their platforms with genuine enthusiasm.  This is that great moment where the people that make the magic get to put it directly in the hands of the people that use it.

A great example of this is a well spoken, extremely intelligent, patient, and driven team member named simply, Y. Y took us on a tour of something that had absolutely nothing to do with wireless, but she did it in a way that was filled with pride, knowledge, and the type of affection that can only come from someone who has dedicated a significant portion of their time to passionately building something they believe in. Regardless of what it had to do with me and my purpose at Discover, the conversation I had with her had everything to do with the reason I was at Discover: to Discover what HPE could do for me, not from a brochure or sales pitch, but from someone who knew how to apply something they believe in, to anyone that cared to spend time with them. Y, you were incredible. Thank you for the laughs and thank you for loving what you do enough that it made the impression it did. HPE is lucky to have you.

Discovering Discover is truly what made it a great experience.

What About All the Products?

The products were all tremendous, as should be expected. The launch of the 8400 series Core switch, as another example, was something really neat to be around. The room buzzed with excitement about the new piece of hardware on the turntable in the Aruba section of the show. Demos were given by people like Ed and Karthik who again, weren't there to sell you, but to show off what they had worked on with an unmatched level of spirit. Why it worked, how it worked, why it did what it did and the thought process behind things as simple as the fan mechanisms to the intricacies of the database structure were applied to real world scenarios.

Again, the power of Discover was that the right product people were there, accessible, eager to talk, and ready to help.

From someone who is used to walking past tradeshow booths of people trying to pitch their latest product, quick-sell you on why they're awesome, or make their widget work in your world, it's refreshing to see the people behind the curtain being given the opportunity to come out and represent what they are passionate about. It makes a huge difference.

With the understanding that the formalities have been dropped and the acknowledgment that I was a guest in "their house", it made for candid, fun and meaningful conversations. There was nothing to prove about why their product was better than someone else, why the HPE solution made the most sense, or why it was imperative that we stop by the booth to "learn more". We were all there on their turf, fully immersed, and ready to soak it up. In other words, since we had moved passed any of the pitches long before opening the door, it was easier for everyone to keep it real.

When it comes to keeping it real, you can't get more real than Jon Garside. From the Baccarat table to the boardroom, you need to get this guy in front of everyone you work with if they don't think security is important. With the understanding that we were all there to learn, his session on security was insightful and eye-opening without being so scary that it drove everyone away. Just to clarify, we didn't actually play Baccarrat but I though it added a nice touch of character to throw it in there.

Real-world security examples were laid out in thoughtful and ultra-realistic ways that provoked thought, conversation, and hopefully, calls to action. From using vending machines and printers to compromise corporate networks to identifying anomalous behavior with machine learning, the conversation was confident yet candid and very well put together.

Talks like this are always appreciated, at least by me, because they are not filled with vendor buzzwords and dialect, they're filled with things that make you think and that drive you to be better at your job.

How About the HPE & Aruba Acquisition? 

Obviously, the Aruba acquisition is finally starting to settle in with the move of all of HPE Switching being branded Aruba switching. Now, somewhere between second and third place globally, Aruba and the HPE team have coalesced to do amazing things with wireless technology, that's a given. Adding their powerful switching line to the mix and throwing the HPE resources at it, if handled the right way, is sure to make an impact on the industry. They are off to a great start with the 8400 and the 2900 series switches.

Culturally, there are still some small traces of Aruba "ride til ya die" in the crowd. I can't necessarily say who or where, but I can tell you that it's still pretty easy to recognize the Aruba folks in the HPE crowd.

Honestly, and I wasn't sure I was going to mention this, but I want to be honest about my experience, my first impression of HPE Discover was "Look at all the suits!"

This show is dripping with old school "business". In my head, as I was walking in the first day, I couldn't help but think of the words of Bad Religion's "Inner Logic"

Automatons with business suits clinging black boxes,
Sequestering the blueprints of daily life
Contented, free of care, they rejoice in morning ritual
As they file like drone ant colonies to their office in the sky

I mean, this place was straight up suitville. I didn't smell an ounce of Tom Ford or see a set of sneakers at this show. This is definitely an after shave only scented event straight out of a traditional business setting.

Normally I would have felt totally underdressed rocking my typical jeans and a button up with some bright blue kicks, but my name tag did say "blogger" not "analyst" and besides I was humming Bad Religion, so yeah .. to be the man you gotta beat the man. I was surrounded by the man. But that's what made being there so punk.

This is of absolute stark contrast to the Aruba Atmosphere show that took place an earlier in the year in Nashville. Engineers stormed the floor, filled the sessions, and had no problem talking shop in the hallways of the Gaylord.

Here, amongst the crowds and lunch tables, it was mainly filled with mouthfuls of jargon that is the typical dialect of a corporate CxO.

Dare to be Different?

Maybe that's what opened the teams up to me and created my experience. Maybe because I was so willing to let the nerds geek out about their products and not focus on the business case, bottom line and P's and Q's they were willing to keep it real. A funny thing happens when you tap into passion, it equalizes the conversation and gets down to the why instead of the how that drives decisions.

What I will tell you is that if you're a techie nerd at heart, this might be a great opportunity for you. Get there before it becomes so laid back that your presence doesn't make a difference. In a sea of gray suits, rock your favorite band T-shirt, grab a pair of kicks from Midnight Run on the strip, and give the product teams a breath of fresh air that doesn't smell like starched wool.

All kidding aside, the show is absolutely worth your time. I am truly appreciative that I was invited by HPE to attend and I will gladly welcome the opportunity to attend again, regardless of what I'm wearing.

All of it couldn't be possible without the teams at HPE and Aruba, namely Pegah and Becca that took care of us. Instead of stumbling around trying to figure out where to go, Pegah had sessions, tracks, and showcases that may interest us identified and optionally available for us to attend. It was awesome. We got the best of the show and the rest of the show. Thanks for your hard work ladies.