B2B Tech Talk with Ingram Micro
B2B Tech Talk with Ingram Micro

Episode · 1 month ago

Taking on Today’s Most Common Challenges with WiFi Networks

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Ensuring productivity of network users has always been job number one for IT teams. To do that, they’ve had to overcome a number of networking challenges through the years.

What are the most common challenges today?

Shelby Skrhak talks with Dan Klimke, Director of Product Marketing at NetAlly, about:

  • Networking challenges in 1993 versus today
  • The pandemic’s effect of WiFi networks
  • Common mistakes people make 

For more information, contact Christopher Maxick (christopher.maxick@ingrammicro.com).

To join the discussion, follow us on Twitter @IngramTechSol #B2BTechTalk

Listen to this episode and more like it by subscribing to B2B Tech Talk on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Stitcher. Or, tune in on our website.

...mm you're listening to B two B tech talkwith ingram Micro the place to learn about new technology and technologicaladvances before they become mainstream. This podcast is sponsored by ingramMicro's. Imagine next. It's not about the destination, it's about goingsomeplace you never thought possible. Go to imagine next dot ingram micro dotcom to find out more. Let's get into it. Welcome to B two B Tech talk withingram Micro. I'm your host shall be skirt Hawk. And my guest today is danclunky, director of product marketing at Net Ally dan. Welcome. Thanks Shelby.It's great to be with you today. Thanks for having us. Well, thank you. And youknow, today we are talking about the most common challenges with wifinetworks and and the network mapping tools that make this troubleshootingeasier. But first dan, tell us about Net Ally and which I understand wasfounded in 1993. So I mean, what what were the networking challenges then andhow have things evolved? Sure, sure. Yeah. You know, we, to be clear, wetrace our lineage back to 1993 when we were actually a part of what was thenfluke or fluke networks And we went through a couple of corporateiterations along the way. But as of 2019 we became a standalone independentcompany. Yeah, obviously lots of things have changed since way back when uh youknow, technology is obviously the biggest thing Back in those days, layertwo Ethernet switching was just coming into play. It was still in its infancy.Most networks were shared media, you know using hubs and in fact the veryfirst product that we came out with the land meter, which we introduced when wewere part of fluke networks was for troubleshooting IBM token ring networkswhich have gone away. So, you know, the specific technical issues have ofcourse changed because of those technology changes and the technologynetworks has become more and more...

...complex, but some things haven'tchanged, you know, from the standpoint of what's needed organizationally. Thatis, you know, the issues and challenges around network troubleshooting. Theyreally haven't changed despite the fact that technology has advanced networkoperations still struggles with reducing mean time to repair andknowing who's on the network and where they connected. So ensuringproductivity of the network users is still job one, it was job one then andit always will be. And the challenge with that is having the rightvisibility to get that job done well. You know, as networks have become moresophisticated, so have its accompanying tools. So what's possible with today'snetworking tools, I guess a good way to look at that as like anything withtechnology uh doing, being able to do more and more in a smaller package.Think about, think about what we can do on our on our phones, our cell phonestoday versus what you could do 10 years ago, you know, the same dynamic as itplay with uh doing network test and analysis. The fact that you can geteverything from basic cable testing, just basically seeing is somethingwired correctly to being able to do wifi site surveying and site analysisand packet capture at up to 10 gigabit speeds all in one tool. Well, all thatis now possible. So it really means that users of network test technologyare getting far more for their dollar today than they would have in the pastand in that smaller package, meaning, you know, I can throw something in mybackpack that has as much capability as a, as a portable, you know, lovablecomputer did way back when uh, so that's one of those big changes. Well,yeah, I mean it's, it's kind of literally put some of those tools in,in consumers and technology departments hands something that really wasn't, Imean it was, it's kind of democratized it, hasn't it? That's a good way tolook at it. In fact, when we think back...

...to, well this going back to that tokenring land meter that we were talking about at the start back then. The onlymethod or tool that was available for network professionals to do analysis ona network was an extraordinarily complex and expensive Network sniffer.Sniffer was a brand of a network analysis product that did packetcapture and packet decode and everyone back then knew, hey, if you wanted tobe a top notch, you know, network professional network analyst, you wentto sniffer University, you know, when, you know, for a solid two weeks tolearn how to use that thing and it was one of those gigantic lovable computers,I do don't recall how much it costs, but it probably in the tens ofthousands of dollars and only a precious few people could accomplishthat task if you have the training, you have the knowledge and skill set to doit. And frankly that was the reason why our company launched into the market ofcreating handheld network analyzers because we knew that more people neededthe ability to see what was going on to their network than could get the skillor the tool to be able to do that complex network analysis. Networkanalysis is still with us packet analysis still with us. I meaneverybody has wire shark, you know, freeware protocol analyzer and more andmore people are learning how to use it. It's still kind of a rarified skill setto find someone who can use packet decodes to solve network issues and yeteverybody needs to be able to do it. You talk to a vendor about a problem,they said, well send me a trace file so everybody has to be able to do that.But the ability to understand why is a performance problem occurring on anetwork. That's really hard to do and democratizing is a word that we usewhen we talk about it is let's give more people the ability to solve moreproblems faster by automating the discovery of a network, automating thetest process and empowering them with...

...something in the palm of their handthat can give them the visibility that previously took, took an expert withexpert knowledge and expert tools and expert cost. Yes, the expert levelbudget. Yes, of course. Well, so I'm curious, you know, the pandemic, youknow, there was a very fast ramp up for many organizations, uh up to work andschool from home and I would think it made things a little bit morecomplicated for system admins and technology teams to really troubleshootproblem areas. So what have you heard from partners and their customers abouttheir wifi networks and maybe this, this effect that that the pandemic had.Yeah, there's kind of a couple, there's a few dynamics that went on, of coursewe had more. If you're a knowledge worker that work like myself here I am,I'm sitting in my home office working remotely, I don't need to be in theoffice to accomplish my job. And so we certainly saw in the pandemic, a lot ofpeople with roles like that knowledge workers were able to accomplish thattask from wherever. And of course there's lots of articles in the pressaround how that's changing the nature of work, but it never eliminated thesites didn't shut down and maybe some did, but a lot of companies of courseare still in the process of re evaluating their network officeinfrastructure, how much capacity they need going forward and realizing thathey, we're getting a lot of productivity out of people who areleading happier, more productive lives because they're not commuting it towork in the morning, but it's rare to find an organization that would shutdown sites because of that. You know, they still have people that have, thereneed to be in a place physically to accomplish the task. Now, whetherthat's manufacturing or government organizations or other health carefacilities, obviously there's lots of places that, you know, the whole workfrom home thing didn't have a big dynamic on the network or an effect onthe network itself. And so we're...

...definitely did have an impact was inthe support of those remote sites because and supporting remote sites hasalways been difficult for network operations. The task of or therequirement to have skilled hands on site. Well, a lot of times you don'thave that, you know, you don't have people at the remote site who can donetwork analysis and troubleshooting. So your experts frequently would haveto drive or fly to that remote site in order to do in depth troubleshooting.And of course in the pandemic, that was difficult, if not impossible to do. Soyou had a lot of need for the ability to do remote troubleshooting. How can Isee into that network without actually physically having to be there. Andwe've built some capabilities into our tools that allows people to remotelyconnect to the tools really doesn't matter who or what kind of a skilllevel a person has on site, the network engineer, network manager technician,they can remotely connect to the analyzer from wherever there they areand do troubleshooting. I can just simply log into our link live cloudservice from where I'm sitting right here and I could connect to one of ouranalyzers in our Colorado Springs office and I can start doing that work.So yeah, I mean obviously the work from home thing was a big change in how weget work done today. But Net. Net I mean there's still people to support atthe sites of these organizations. So there's still that challenge out theredefinitely. Well you know, to that end then with troubleshooting what are someof the most common mistakes you see and wifi design and installation. Yeah. Youknow with um so one of the solutions that we came out with recently was afeature we call air mapper and that's the ability to use our handheld tools,the Air Check G two and the ether scope N. X. G. To be able to sample, takedata samples from around the facility...

...and locate that information on a fourplan on on a map and then to be able to generate various heat maps to showvarious metrics about that wifi network and what we're seeing out there in themarket is significant impact on a lot of networks of over provisioning and Ithink there's a kind of a there's a little bit of I T D N A. Happening herewhich is deeply embedded in our DNA from the old days is the idea that moreis better. And we certainly saw that with, you know, network speeds,increasing segmentation of networks, V lands memory in general. When links,you know, it used to be that we're having a problem connecting our twosites together. There's performance issues on the way and link, let'supgrade that link. We had a 256 K bit link. Let's go to a one meg link. Wehad one let's go to 10 we attend let's go to 100. It's just people. It's justkind of natural to think that capacity is always an issue and with wifi,that's not always the case. And in fact over provisioning a wifi network can bejust as damaging if not more so than under provisioning. Obviously underprovisioning means I may not have coverage across my site so thateveryone can can connect or if I do have coverage, the performance is poor.So a natural response is, well I'll put in more access points will segment thenetwork with more S S I. D. S and what's that what that's leading to is atype of a couple of types of interference. And chief among thosefrom over positioning is co channel interference Now that means I've gottoo many access points and networks on the same channels and we're seeing thatin a lot of circumstances. And unfortunately I think it means thatthere are some, you know, some organizations who don't have the skillset to design their own networks will farm that project out bring contractorand who will, you know, do a plan, site...

...plan and deploy that survey. And in alot of those cases they're still getting over deployed, even thoughyou're bringing in an external professional. We're seeing that a lotof those networks, particularly in a lot of schools, you know, one accesspoint per classroom and and sharing the same channels. And and Ultimately whathappens then it's a lot like those shared Ethernet networks back in 1993,you've got too many people using the same bandwidth and it causes problemsfor everybody because there's not enough air time for all those stationsto speak. So over provisioning, causing co channel interference. That's a hugeissue. Another part of that the impact of having too many S. S. I. D. S. Isbeacon proliferation. So a wifi network needs to beacon to be able to telldevices here. I am. You can connect to me when you have too many of thosethings going on. It's actually taking up valuable air time. There's a stripmall not too far away from our engineering office in Colorado Springswhere we literally we just walked around the parking lot. Now this is atypical strip mall with everything from a Starbucks to an Eddie Bauer. And andyou name it about 30 different stores. Uh, when we walked around that area, wefound that about 25% of the available air time was being taken up by S. S. I.D. Beacons, meaning just the infrastructure itself, the networkitself or the fact that there were so many networks taking up airtime meantthere was less air time for the users. Now, that's not a unique thing. I meanshopping malls all over the place and I think every one of them probably hasthat issue. Maybe not so much of a problem in a commercial businessenvironment, unless that's the kind of business you're in. But yeah, beaconproliferation takes away from air time for your users. The other kind ofinterference that happens in that particular instance a lot too isadjacent channel interference. Not not...

...everyone who's operating a wifi networknecessarily knows the rules about wifi and someone might see O G look at allthese access points on Channel One, I'm going to use Channel two, that will bebetter. Well, not really because that channel is going to actually overlapwith Channel One and cause interference on the adjacent channels. So, so thoseare a few of the key things that we're seeing a lot of and it really is drivenby over deployment for one. And in those areas where businesses have tocontend with neighbor networks, interference from those networks anddesign issues when you're in those crowded environments is a big issue.Airports is another example. You know, you go down an airport where they havethe restaurants and shopping areas as well as the airport guest wifi. Verycommon to have the same kind of issues happening there too. Yeah, well, so I'mcurious what are some of the least common problems you've seen with wifinetworks? I mean, you know, a real head scratcher that you wouldn't have reallythought of as interfering with a wifi network or, or causing a problem there.I guess I'd probably say it's not a, the nature of the problem is not uniqueinterference. Let's talk about interference some more, but the sourcesof interference. So there are devices that when operating can generate energythat is going to cause issues in the wifi spectrum bands. Whether that'smicrowave ovens, you know, some microwave ovens that are not shieldedcorrectly or properly can interfere with wifi radar businesses that arelocated adjacent to or inside an airport, for example, will have tocontend with radar possibly as an interfere. We ran into one issue in thepast in a hospital where I guess the story here was that, uh, if I'mremembering it correctly, there was like a medication dispensary and thehospital security team wanted to put...

...cameras around the dispensary area forsecurity purposes. Didn't consult with I. T. On doing that. They turned upthese cameras that were actually utilizing the same frequency bands asthe wifi network and knocked all the doctors and nurses with their portabletablets and portable computing systems off the network. So I guess it's yeahyou know so interference is a big problem on networks. I would say thereare some rare but but there are sources of interference that are rare to seebut are out there and people have to have the ability to see that spectruminformation so that they can solve those issues when they do occur. Yeah.Well that's true you don't think about that. I remember we had an oldmicrowave an older microwave. And my son you know he would basically justwalks around with his headphones on his ipad in his hands and so he takes iteverywhere and he takes it to the kitchen and he's hitting sitting therestanding in front of the microwave waiting for something to warm up. Andall of a sudden. Dad the wife dies down. The internet's down. And yeah myhusband works in I. T. And he was like well you're in the kitchen are you infront of the microwave? Yeah what does that have to do anything? You'd besurprised, be surprised. That's right. That's right. Well as we start to wrapup our episode today we ask everyone to hear the same question because theyreally got their pulse on technology. So where do you see technology going inthe next year? I guess one of the we'll talk about technology and andchallenges for the coming year. Obviously supply chain issues are topof mind for a lot of people. And you know, I think I saw somewhere that oneparticular vendors uh particular line of access points has got like a 250 daydelivery on it right now. So given that there are shortages and delays in theavailability of the electronic components that are going intoeverything, we are seeing delays in when people can get some of thattechnology. So we might see a slowing...

...of the conversion just because of that,that availability, like specifically with respect to wifi and everybody'stalking about wifi six or wifi six E, the E part, meaning, you know, there'san extended frequency band in the six gigahertz range providing a lot of newbandwidth for us. So I think a lot of people are at the stage of well if wewere thinking about making a network upgrade from Wifi 58 to 11, a C two,wifi six, maybe we'll just hold off now because, you know, availability is anissue. And by the time products are available, maybe there's some newtechnology available. So we are seeing some some were predicting that we'llsee some uh some networks that will skip over maybe from going wifi fivestraight to wifi six E. But you know, it's every year, there's something new.I mean we were talking about what was in place back in 1993 p. You know,technology marches on one of my former co workers used to call it thetechnology bus that's racing down the street that you're constantly trying tokeep up. Uh there's always always something coming down the line in termsof new technology, you know, and I. T. Has to evaluate those, make the rightbusiness decisions and when they do make the decision to deploy a newtechnology, there's a couple of key things that they really need to takeinto consideration. One is to make sure that you've got a thoroughunderstanding and baseline of your network before you make any changesbeing able to discover who's on the network, where they connected. Whatkind of performance are we getting out of the network? What is the quality ofpacket transmission across the network? It's super important to baseline thatinformation because if you don't know all of those parameters before you makethat technology change, how will you know that it's actually working aspromised or as it's supposed to perform in the future? So we're happy to beable to help customers with that kind of analysis. Fantastic. Well I reallyappreciate all of your time and insight...

...and uh thank you so much for joining me.My pleasure. Thanks for having us and thank you listeners for tuning in andsubscribing to B two B tech Talk with ingram Micro. If you like this episodeor have a question, please join the discussion on twitter with the HashtagB two B tech talk. Until next time I'm Shelby skirt talk. You've beenlistening to B2B tech talk with ingram micro. This episode was sponsored byingram Micro's. Imagine Next B two B Tech Talk is a joint production withSweet Fish Media and Anger Micro. To not miss an episode. Subscribe today toyour favorite podcast platform. Yeah. Mhm.

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