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3/3/2017

NEW March Blog Part 2: Aruba Atmosphere 2017, Nashville, TN Recap

Brad Rudisail, MCITP, MCSE, Virtualization Administrator, Network Engineer

Continued from Part 1

Day two of Aruba Atmosphere 2017 continued on Wednesday, this time more granularly focusing on Aruba’s product line and the value that Aruba products and services bring to companies and organizations today.
Aruba CTO, Pankaj Manglik, led the keynotes and once again, the presentations focused on the enhanced workplace experience and how millennial workers are demanding a lot from the wireless experience within their work environments.  As was pointed out, millennials grew up on wireless and the only cable they know is the charging cable.  They demand continuous innovation from the products they use.

In order to meet these rigorous expectations of continuous innovation, Aruba strove to separate the software layer from the infrastructure within their current OS 8 release.  Aruba’s mobile first platform is all about separating the control plane from the infrastructure.  This is the same approach exemplified in software defined networking as companies set out to complete the digital transformation of the datacenter.  Aruba has pulled the services out of the controllers and placed them in the mobility masters which can more easily be updated in real time.  In the same way that users can consume Microsoft Office as a product or as a service, Aruba customers will be able to choose how they want to experience Airwave and Clearpass as both will be available as services in the future.

Mr. Manglik then discussed how maintenance windows are hard to find today for today’s organizations, especially in the fields of healthcare and higher education.  This lack of down time presents real challenges for today’s IT teams.  Aruba recognized this when designing Aruba OS8 and to demonstrate it, they showed how they had been implementing a system wide firmware upgrade of all of the access points located in the Gaylord convention center during the conference and how performance had not been impacted to any measurable degree.  They then used wireless video to demonstrate the seemless failover capability of Aruba.  Despite the failover, video performance was not interrupted at all.

An Aruba team of presenters then did a presentation demonstrating how the integration of the API into AOS8 opens the Aruba experience up to so many possibilities.  Using an Amazon Echo, an Aruba technician verbally issued a disconnect commanded to Clearpass which was then immediately executed.  Alert summaries were the verbally orated from both the Airwave and Clarity systems, informing the Aruba technician of any possible network problems and concerns. 
They then presented their Aruba Tag and Asset Tracking solution that allows organizations to track the location of devices in and out of zones.  They discussed the importance of this for healthcare organizations that must be able to locate life saving devices in an instant.  This solution also has great value to retail organizations as well that can track products as they pass through multiple locations before their final destination on store shelves.

The keynotes then gave way to a full afternoon of Airhead seminars.  One of the most attended and interesting seminars featured cybersecurity journalist, Brian Krebs who gave a fascinating presentation about IoT and DDOS attacks and the innormous threats they are imposing upon the digital world today.  Brian is shown below.


 
Later that afternoon, a seminar entitled - Wi-Fi Network Design - 10 Essentials Every Engineer Must Know, provided great tips to use when designing an enterprise Wi-Fi. The presenter used the analogy that designing a Wi-Fi network is very similar to designing a bar.  The bartenders represent the APs which must be idealy located in order to efficiently serve the customers.  Any good bar knows their customers.  The majority of customers simply order a beer or well drink, both of which are easily distributed.  Other customers will order complicated drinks that take more time to prepare and serve.  Similarly, most Wi-Fi users will simply use the wireless network to access simple websites but others will be utilizing streaming services such as NetFlix or advanced applications.

This is why it is so critical to first interview users to determine what their needs are so that you can accurately determine client capacity.  In addition, it is imperative to do a thorough site survey which is a critical step that too many times is omitted altogether.  It is also important to use blueprint quality CAD drawings to map out your AP structure in order to manage your wireless infrastructure.  This can be done through the Visual RF feature of Airwave for instance.  You must have a clear understanding of how your wireless access is distributed in order to address traffic flow problems.  Many times, the first instinct is to simply install more APs.  Again, using the bar analogy, hiring more bartenders isn’t necessarily the best way to address large spikes in customer demand as too many bartenders can bump into each other and negatively impact performance even further.  In this case, having 5 Ghz APs is the equivalent of having a highly skilled bartenders.  The use of spectrum analysis can greatly aid in solving traffic flow problems as well.  The suggestion of using Netflix as “the canary in the coalmine” for testing was highly encouraged.

Another Airhead seminar entitled, “Cloud Networking for the K12” featured the teaming of IAPs and Aruba Central.  Two school districts that utilize these two product lines were featured, one of which has over 6,400 APs that service more than 80 schools.  Although there are still some features such as Clarity and Visual RF that are only found in the appliance version of Airwave, Aruba Central should have all of these features included by year’s end.  One of the great features of Central is the ability to access the dashboards from your cell phone as is shown below.



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