Mobility Field Day 1: Exploring the Future of Wireless & Mobility
Mobility Field Day 1 wrapped this past week and gave us all some great perspective on our industry. More than just focusing in on products and what makes them unique, MFD1 had us take a broader look at the industry in general to help us understand more about where it is, where it’s going, and how we can be a part of it.
Overall Impression of WFD1
Through vendor presentations, roundtables, and great discussions, we got to do what the Tech Field Day series of events is notorious for: in your face meetings with the people who are helping make decisions that drive our industry. What made MFD1 different than past events was that we had a great blend of traditional presentations and amazing dialog, new and innovative products, as well as different perspectives on what we work with day to day. We got to see where we are going from the vendors perspective as well as two of the upcoming working groups: 802.11ax and NBASET. We also got to see some different perspective on the industry from startups as well as industry giants who are getting involved in residential Wi-Fi.
All in all, it was exciting, educational, fun, and different. I loved every minute of it! Here’s what we did:
A Run Down of What We Did
We started out day 1 with a trip to trusty Cisco who had all of the latest and greatest wares ready for us to take a look at. From an introduction to the cloud version of their CMX service to new hardware and enhancements to help networks run better, it was a great trip.
CMX Cloud offers a way to get Cisco customers a way to start measuring analytics about visitors without having to get a 3rd party device or service involved. It had a great layout, a seemingly easy to use interface, and access to data that helps a number of markets. While there was some dialog about the pricing structure, I still see it as a great benefit at about 1/3 the cost of some of the competition.
Following that presentation we got a look at the IW3702 hardened Access Point. IP66 rated, solid aluminum goodness for harsh environments. -50 to +75C was an impressive state, as was the use of M12 connectors for ethernet. Another pitch to get people to buy more hardware from Cisco? Not necessarily. By talking about the shock and vibration that some of this equipment was subject to in the field (e.g. mining, hauling, industrial, and more) it makes sense when you might have an RJ45 that jiggles out of a connector. Fantastic statistics about 100 MPH roaming in bridge mode made it great, but I don’t recall seeing a GPS chip on it which would’ve made it a slam dunk if you asked me. Especially at $3k per ap.
The new 2800 and 3800 APs were next up and presented Cisco’s latest hardware in the wireless industry. While the 2800 is impressive in its own right, the 3800 radio and Flexible Radio Assignment stole the show. Simply, FRA enhances your radio automation (read, RRM) so that instead of just choosing channels, bandwidths, and polarities to best auto-manage your network, now you have a radio that can flip between 2.4GHz and 5GHz to take on instances of congestion.
The example that drove it home for me? Instead of having to run down a hall with a ladder, an ap, and a spool of cable at an event, the radio automagically enables a new Micro cell in 5GHz and shifts users over to it to double-down on the spectrum.
There were some great graphics to point out what this did and the magic behind it, but at the end of the day, it’s a quite simple idea that I am sure took a lot of time and thought into making possible.
After a quick run past the amazing coffee machine and a quick raid of the snack shelves at building 18, we were in the limo and off to the next presentation: A secret new company that had yet to launch.
While we all had our ideas of who it would be, we were greeted in the conference room by some old familiar faces: GT Hill, David Callisch, and a warm handshake and smile from our new buddy Abe. It was nice to see some old trusted blood in the room with someone as friendly as Abe.
They were there to introduce the startup Nyansa. Nyansa is a cloud based platform that collects data from various APIs and taps throughout your network to let you know where problems existing, why they exists, and how to fix them.
Essentially it takes hours of troubleshooting, automates it with some creative tasking to gather and interpret data, and presents you with any issues it discovers. Nyansa Voyance then offers you remediation to those issues, based on what it found out, and shows you in an instantly readable format how to get your network working.
By combining data from devices, such as controllers, via API with data from your network, via freely available virtual machines, Nyansa is able to see the big picture when it comes to your network. This level of automated visibility does what it would normally take hours of technical time to accomplish, and presents it in a way that all levels of an enterprise are able to clearly understand.
The power in the Voyance product multiplies by allowing it to grow with support of deeper hooks into existing equipment, while still having full visibility into your network, ensuring that you can scale this service to event the most complicated scenarios. In short, the more you feed it data, the smarter and more methodic in can become in finding problems and giving you steps to fix them.
After our minds were effectively blown with the new offering and the possibilities to it, we got a great visit from Ventev Infrastructure. What started off with what we thought was going to be a simple presentation about enclosures, antennas, mounts, and power systems, ended up being a tour of the places that wireless service is needed the most, but usually the hardest to reach.
With specialized enclosures built for creative and demanding locations, Ventev specializes in making sure you can get wireless signals where they need to be with ease.
Floor tiles with embedded wireless antennas, ruggedized enclosures for APs and antennas for stadium handrails, spring-loaded antenna mounts for heavy-equipment trafficked areas, and more. I think the lean-ins really came as the product line dove deeper into the creativity of the equipment combined with the amount of engineering that went into it. This equipment isn’t just thrown together to see if it will work, it is studied and calibrated to effectively support the services required while still giving you the flexibility you need to deploy.
The power systems covered at the end of the Ventev presentation were, again, meant to be able to provide you with an easy deployment of your solutions in difficult environments.
An all-in-one solar kit, with a single part number, to provide 5 days of autonomy with POE+ was discussed. Simple, effective, and easy. Now, don’t ask me about the mounting procedures, but all in all, having ordered solar before, this make is way simpler to understand than traditional options. List price at $3k is right in the ballpark of a custom configuration I had worked on, so even the price is on point!
For temporary or emergency events, the Ventev rechargeable, battery-powered, power bank is a slam dunk. Plug it in and charge it over night for 10 hours of runtime at POE+. Includes the pole and all the accessories needed. Totally awesome.
Before heading out to dinner, we had some time for some fantastic roundtable discussions. Here's what we covered:
An overall view of Day 1
Why or why not to use RRM and the automatic functions of wireless
Dinner and Some Facetime
We broke for the day after getting a killer goody bag from Ventev and proceeded to walk up the street to dinner. After some chicken in molè and a few cold ones we got to network with participating vendors, friends, and other wireless enthusiast that were there.
I gravitated towards two conversations in particular to find out more about these newer types of services and what their differentiators are.
I spent about an hour with Fouad from Asimmetric discussing RF Planning, LTE, TVWS in South Africa, and the birth of his network monitoring and services validation company. From a perspective of monitoring services for operators in South Africa to enterprises in North America, Asimmetric makes a product that can easily be fit into any network and instantly start to give you real-world results about usability and functionality.
Combined with my conversation with Panos and Stefano from Y Combinator start-up NetBeez, and the amazingness we saw from Nyansa, and you start to build this whole other industry of machines watching machines to simplify daunting tasks.
While NetBeez and Asimmetric serve a similar market, the approach is a little different from each other. Asimmetric is building their own hardware, NetBeez uses Raspberry Pis. Asimmetric can be adapted for other technologies like LTE and TVWS, NetBeez is focused on Wi-Fi.
All in all, I think they are both on to something great and complimentary not just to each other, but to a great good served by someone like Nyansa, who can combine and merge all of this data into a single pane of visibility and management.
Day 2 was a symposium day where we had a number of great talks cycle through the conference room we were stationed in. With no specific theme to the day other than to see some great stuff and talk about the industry holistically, it gave us a relaxed way to open our minds to where we are headed.
From a fantastic talk about the work the NBASET group is doing and the future of Ethernet to advancements in residential Wi-Fi, day 2 was filled with great stuff.
NBASET, 2.5 & 5gbps Ethernet
Peter Jones of Cisco and the Chairman of the NBASET Alliance laid out where we started, where we have been, and what to expect for the future of Ethernet. With a great chat about 2.5 & 5 gobs technology it painted the importance of a middle-ground product, at least for now, in the Ethernet space.
Getting Started in Wifi and Running Cisco's WiFi Lab
We had a fun chat after this with Wes who runs the Cisco wireless testing facility in Ohio about getting started in the industry. From his start by differentiating himself among his peers to the perks of working for a large company and getting his hands on all the latest toys, it was a fun and light hearted chat. I hope that it finds its way into the browsers of people who are wondering how to make inroads into our beloved wireless industry!
Google OnHub and Residential WiFi
After lunch, Trond Wuellner from Google’s OnHub project stopped by to give us a glimpse of the residential Wi-Fi space from Google’s perspective. As they have moved into the rest space with their product, Trond explained why they did it, what it means to Google, and how they see the space transforming. It was a great break from what we are used to seeing in the corporate and enterprise environments! The presentation was as informative as it was fun and I encourage you to check it out!
Distributed WiFi Monitoring
Stefano from NetBeez knocked out a talk about distributed network monitoring and how it can be leveraged to automate simple tasks. Proof of service and application functionality aside, it went with that overall common theme that we had of using tools and services to make our lives easier and get more data from our network.
Chuck doing Chuck and 802.11ax
A roundtable with Chuck from Aruba wrapped our day as we dove head first into 802.11ax and the future of Wi-Fi. Without a single question left on the table or unapproahced, Chuck did what Chuck does best and explained the hows and whys of where the working group was, how it is coming along, and what the differentiators are between ac and ax. There are so many fantastic things happening in the space, but yet so much work to still be done, it will be exciting to see what the final products look like from this!
All in all MFD1 was a great break from the normal TFD stuff by giving us great sessions centered around the industry, without sticking to the standard format of vendor presentations followed by roundtables.
The group we had was thoroughly engaged, participatory, and delighted to be there; a testament to the Gestalt IT staff for pairing up the right people with the right presentations.
I personally had a blast and can’t wait to see everyone at Interop to have a sit down about what we are seeing there!
Thanks for reading!