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Consultant spotlight – Peter Mackenzie

Peter-Mackenzie_HeadshotBased in the U.K., Peter is the Head of Technical Operations at our partner, MarQuest Limited, where he splits his time between training and fieldwork, providing network consultancy and troubleshooting to large enterprise customers.

Peter leads MarQuest’s Wi-Fi training program where he travels the world to provide instruction on wireless troubleshooting, helping engineers learn the skills to successfully analyze, troubleshoot and optimize their organization’s Wi-Fi network. In this role, he also leads WildPackets Academy training courses in the U.K. Peter enjoys this part of his work because of the diversity of people, organizations and networks that he gets to work with. Working with the variety of organizations that he does, Peter gets to see all kinds of networks and how they work and he continues to learn from this and further develop his Wi-Fi expertise.

“A lot of the time though, I’m pulled into consultancy because generally people have a problem with their network, and they’ve had that problem for a long time and not been able to fix it. I find the reason is that people make assumptions as to where the problem is, but what they never do is look at the packets. Without doing some sort of packet analysis, it is hard find what’s really going on – all you can do is guess.”

Peter recently worked with a retailer who was experiencing wireless problems in its distribution centers after introducing voice-activated devices. One day, its entire network came to a standstill. In order to figure out what was causing the problem, Peter had to take several captures of packets traversing the networks and analyze the data. As a result, Peter was able to determine that the current network configuration did not support the appropriate requirements for working with the new voice wireless devices. The company had to change the low level wireless configuration to allow the new devices to operate on the network.

Thoughts on the State of Wireless
The influx and pervasiveness of smartphones, tablets and the many other kinds of personal electronic devices has created a networking challenge for organizations – one of the most common that Peter has recently observed.

“One of the most interesting trends I’ve witnessed over the years is the fact that more and more devices are connecting to networks. A typical user nowadays has three devices they use daily – a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone – all of which increase the dependence on the network. As a result, we must now build networks to cope with the additional capacity these devices require.”

While the situation is largely being driven by user demand, organizations are forced to find a solution that will enable connectivity while maintaining the security of the network. To deal with this, organizations are adopting various BYOD policies. According to Peter, it’s best for organizations to build dedicated networks for BYOD that can support the growing capacity needs.

Peter also sees a new development evolving in wireless analysis. Currently portable analysis solutions are often not capable of capturing high rate wireless transmissions using 3 spatial streams. He predicts that the future of wireless analysis will be capturing packets at the access points themselves. While most organizations are not currently doing this, Peter thinks packet capture capabilities should and will become a more important criterion for choosing a wireless network equipment vendor.

“When thinking about which wireless device and wireless vendor to choose, organizations need to consider whether it gives them the ability to capture packets and if those packets can be sent back to the network analyzer or not. Organizations must ask, ‘Does it support the ability to capture packets at the access points?’ Most often, these organizations think about things such as, ‘What speed does it run at, what functionality does it have?’ Although these should be the primary concerns, the last thing they think of is what happens if something goes wrong and it doesn’t work. They never think about the troubleshooting capabilities, but they should.”

Value of Real World Experience
As we mentioned above, Peter spends half his time consulting and half his time training. This is not because it’s a requirement for his job, but because he believes that in order to be a valuable teacher, one must also have real world experiences. Instructors must be able to take their students through real situations and be able to walk them through how to effectively troubleshoot a network problem they may encounter while on the job.

When asked what he likes most about his job, Peter responded:

“I like the diversity I get from my job. I like meeting lots of people in my trainings, but I also like being able to go out and see all the different types of networks. One week I may be troubleshooting a retail network and the next a financial network.”

Profile on Peter
Peter Mackenzie is an internationally renowned Wi-Fi expert with more than a decade of industry experience. He is a Certified Wireless Network Expert® (CWNE), the highest credential for a wireless network professional in the Certified Wireless Network Professional Program, which demonstrates he has the most advanced skills available in today’s enterprise Wi-Fi market. Peter is the 33rd person to achieve the CWNE certification (out of 135 globally!). In fact, he’s also the co-author of the official Certified Wireless Analysis Professional (CWAP) Official Study Guide, along with David A. Westcott, David D. Coleman and Ben Miller.

Connect with Peter
If you want to hear more from Peter, check out his blog, Peter Mackenzie’s Blog, and follow him on Twitter, @MackenzieWiFi.

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