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Category Archives: 802.11ad

Why Customers Choose WildPackets

Customers come to us for a multitude of reasons. Some aren’t happy with their current network monitoring solutions; others are experiencing network glitches that they cannot solve; and some simply need a cohesive analysis solution. WildPackets offers a suite of products that bring customers to us from far and wide, many of whom need specific capabilities in their monitoring solution. Let’s take a look at just a few of the reasons WildPackets is the leading network analysis solution.

10G Analysis
WildPackets led the way in 10G analysis, being the first to introduce a network recorder to break the 10G barrier. When our TimeLine network recorder was introduced in 2010 it was the only network recorder to capture and store packet-level data, with no data loss whatsoever, at 11.7Gbps. Since then, WildPackets has continued to refine TimeLine, offering even more real-time statistics, increasing our overall data throughput, and adding support to capture directly from 40G network segments.

Network Forensics
Going hand-in-hand with network recording is network forensics. As you’re streaming packets to the network recorder perhaps you see a troubling trend in the real-time dashboard, or maybe a user enters a trouble ticket. Network forensics allows you to analyze a subset of your recorded data while the overall high-speed capture continues uninterrupted.

Often associated with security, network forensics goes well beyond security and also helps solve far more common issues on your network, like spikes in utilization, drops in VoIP call quality, and increased latency in both network and application performance. If a problem does occur, you no longer have to try to recreate the problem, which is typically the most time consuming task in any troubleshooting session. Instead, with TimeLine, you simply go back in time, find the problem on the dashboard, and solve it.

Remote Analysis
The days of using a laptop to perform portable analysis, especially on high-speed wired networks, are now extinct. Corporate networks are highly distributed, even for small to medium sized businesses. Even if your company operates from a single location, odds are you host some services remotely, and use some level of software-as-a-service (SaaS), making it difficult to always be where problems are occurring. WildPackets’ Omni Distributed Analysis Platform provides a wide range of options for remote network analysis, from “lightweight” software solutions like OmniPeek Remote Assistant and OmniEngine software probe, to high performance network recording appliances like TimeLine. With a WildPackets solution, network engineers can monitor and analyze highly distributed network architectures without ever leaving their desks.

Top-Down Approach to Network Monitoring
For an overall, top-down view of any network segment, customers find WildPackets flagship OmniPeek network analyzer most helpful, whether as a portable analyzer or as a console to any of our remote analysis solutions. OmniPeek provides complete visibility into your network – including Ethernet, Gigabit, 10G, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, and VoIP and video. OmniPeek provides visual context into the network so that even junior IT staff can drill down into performance problems and solve performance issues across multiple network segments. This ensures maximum network uptime and user satisfaction.

The Full Suite of Network Monitoring and Analysis Products
And for a complete view across your entire network, WildPackets offers WatchPoint network monitor. This solution builds on our suite of distributed analysis products and provides a comprehensive graphical interface of overall network performance, including top talkers, top applications, overall utilization, VoIP performance, and detailed reporting of detected network and application problems (Experts). WatchPoint also provides a direct link for detailed, packet-level analysis to determine the root cause of any issue.

What is your favorite WildPackets product? Feel free to leave us a comment and share your thoughts.

Best Practices in Planning Your Wireless Network

Laying out a wireless network can be tedious, and sometimes downright stressful. In multi-AP deployments (i.e. every enterprise deployment) the placement of one AP affects all others, so every tweak in AP positioning can be like bumping the first domino, causing the entire chain to fall and have to be set up again. That is why, when mapping out where to place APs and how many to use, it’s important to have a blueprint before taking on the task yourself.

This can be done in two fashions: automatically and manually. Both practices are relatively easy for wireless pros, but each has its strengths and weaknesses. When mapping out a network across multiple stories, or large open buildings like warehouses, it is best to automatically plan AP placement using a downloaded 3D map of your space and software specifically designed for this task, like Ekahau Site Survey. On the other hand, when planning out smaller networks, often times professionals find more satisfaction, and more control, in doing so manually.

We’ve outlined both best practices below, as well as next steps to follow to ensure that your network keeps running at peak performance.

Automatic Network Planning
For the less technical wireless professional, or for large scale deployments, automatic network planning software is the best way to map out where APs should be placed to optimize your network’s performance and the overall user experience. This process involves importing floor plans of the areas to be covered by the wireless network, specifying some key dimensions on the floor plan (so the program can determine the scale accurately), specifying key construction elements in your floor plan (wood vs. metal studs, wall materials, other structures not represented in the floor plan, etc.), and selecting the AP make(s) and model(s) you plan to deploy. Most software includes a database of AP features and capabilities for common manufacturers and model numbers, so it tries to do the very best job to maximize the potential of the equipment you plan to use. The software will then calculate the approximate locations and configurations for the APs on a virtual 3D map of your building. It will also provide a channel map (a channel assignment for each AP), making every effort to avoid co-channel interference between APs. Once the software has developed a proposed layout, you can make manual adjustments, for example, if some APs end up being located in undesirable or infeasible locations (no power, no network drop, etc.). This is where the real value comes in, because in an actual deployment a few tweaks like this causes the domino effect, but since you’re only dealing with software right now you can see the effect your manual change has without needing to do any other work.

You can also play “what if” with the software, trying different configuration parameters than those recommended, or even “trying out” equipment from different manufacturers to see if certain solutions have advantages over others. For a large deployment, the time savings with an automated approach are tremendous, and easily justify the cost of either the software purchase, or the services of a third-party to run the simulations for you.

Once you’re pretty confident of your deployment, you can lay out the network, and again leverage the software to perform a site survey, taking measurements at locations within the deployment to assess the accuracy of the original software layout and make other small adjustments to ensure the best WLAN configuration.

Manual Network Planning
This approach is better suited to the more seasoned wireless expert, and is typically best for smaller deployments. It still requires the use of software – any deployment of more than just a few APs has far too many variables to manage the entire process manually. Manual network planning is only “manual” in the sense that you place your APs on the building map yourself, possibly even choosing the channel layout yourself, and then letting the program calculate overall WLAN coverage, providing a “heat map” of expected signal strengths at all locations in the network, so you can see if your layout is acceptable before actually deploying any equipment. This approach is most often used when your choices for AP placement are limited. The software can optimize the AP settings to maximize overall performance based on your AP placement constraints. After you’ve settled on a design, the same site survey described above should be used to validate both the placement and the settings, with necessary adjustments being made along the way.

Ongoing Monitoring and Analysis
Once a network is up and running you need a different solution to perform day-to-day network monitoring and analysis. Monitoring solutions are used to track which stations are connected to which APs, the overall throughput each station is able to achieve, signal strength and noise measurements, and network problems like packet loss, latency, and device configuration issues. When problems are identified, you need to be able to drill down to the details of each station to AP connection, often down to the packet level, to determine the root cause of problems.

Using a combination of WLAN planning software and a WLAN monitoring and analysis solution, you will be ensured of both the best overall WLAN design possible, and well as a network that continually meets the demands of your ever-expanding wireless network user base, essentially eliminating the threat of one day toppling over all those WLAN dominos.

Common Questions and Our Answers on 802.11ac and 802.11ad

One of the most popular topics from our webinars, the media, and of course our customers is 802.11ac and 802.11ad, two emerging wireless standards that will continue to propel the popularity of 802.11 wireless networking. In this blog we’ll cover the most common questions that we receive regarding these new 802.11 protocols. If you have other questions, please feel free to send us a message on twitter (@wildpackets) or leave a comment at the end of this blog post.

If you are simply looking for the 101 on both of these technologies, we suggest watching our ondemand webcast, “802.11 – Who is Ready for 802.11ac and ad?” or checking out the videos below, which provide a quick encapsulation of these new wireless technologies.

With that, here are some common questions that we’re getting from our customers and the wireless community at large.

Q: Will stations and access points require updates to leverage 802.11ac and 802.11ad?
A: Yes. If you are planning to take advantage of 802.11ac or 802.11ad technologies, you will need to purchase new stations and access points; it can’t simply be done with firmware updates. The underlying chipsets are new for these technologies.

802.11ac APs will be backward compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n clients, but those clients will not be able to take advantage of the new 802.11ac capabilities.

Q: Will 802.11ac replace 802.11n?
A: Our prediction is that 802.11ac will replace 802.11n, over time. 802.11ac is a “lessons learned” from 802.11n, so it includes all of the benefits, and more, with less of the drawbacks. But if you’ve already deployed 802.11n , or are in the process, there’s no need to worry. 802.11n is still a very capable technology that will serve you well for many years to come.

Q: Is 802.11ac better for VoIP?
With VoIP you don’t need a lot of bandwidth, but you need reliability, and improvements at both the PHY and MAC layers in 802.11ac provide exactly that.

Additionally, 802.11ac improves beam forming, which was first introduced with 802.11n, and this will help with real-time transport applications like video or voice over IP.

That said, as we mentioned above, 802.11n is a perfectly good technology, so you’ll need to decide the cost benefit of VoIP to your business. If you consistently see problems with VoIP and use VoIP applications like Skype for business, then it might behoove you to make the switch. But if you’re happy with your VoIP performance, then you may not want to replace all of your access points and stations to switch over to 802.11ac just yet.

Q: Can a single VoIP call leverage multiple data streams?
A: Yes, VoIP can leverage multiple data streams, just as with any other application on the wireless network. This does of course assume that both the AP and client can support multiple data streams. Remember, MIMO (or multiple data streams) is only supported with 802.11n and 802.11ac.

Q: Can you explain the power consumption between 802.11n and 802.11ac?
A: Power consumption is all about the number of radios required to generate a certain data rate. And for battery operated devices, minimizing the number of radios (in fact, requiring only one), is tantamount to acceptable battery life, especially for “power” users (pun intended). A single radio 802.11n device will get you up to 150Mbps (megabits per second). With 802.11ac devices you’ll get almost three times that data rate for a single radio, or 433Mbps. So almost 3x the performance for the same battery life!

Q: Are the four channels in 802.11ad non-overlapping?
The four channels are non-overlapping. This is possible because 802.11ad is designed to use an entirely new part of the spectrum so channel allocation can be made with channel bonding in mind. The 2.4 and 5GHz bands never had this luxury, since channel bonding came along well after the channels were assigned.

For more information on 802.11ac, sign up for next month’s webinar, “802.11ac – Wireless Gigabit Speeds Driving Changes in Wireless Analysis