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

Episode · 6 months 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 talk with ingram Micro the place to learn about new technology and technological advances before they become mainstream. This podcast is sponsored by ingram Micro's. Imagine next. It's not about the destination, it's about going someplace you never thought possible. Go to imagine next dot ingram micro dot com to find out more. Let's get into it. Welcome to B two B Tech talk with ingram Micro. I'm your host shall be skirt Hawk. And my guest today is dan clunky, 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 you know, today we are talking about the most common challenges with wifi networks and and the network mapping tools that make this troubleshooting easier. But first dan, tell us about Net Ally and which I understand was founded in 1993. So I mean, what what were the networking challenges then and how have things evolved? Sure, sure. Yeah. You know, we, to be clear, we trace our lineage back to 1993 when we were actually a part of what was then fluke or fluke networks And we went through a couple of corporate iterations along the way. But as of 2019 we became a standalone independent company. Yeah, obviously lots of things have changed since way back when uh you know, technology is obviously the biggest thing Back in those days, layer two 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 very first product that we came out with the land meter, which we introduced when we were part of fluke networks was for troubleshooting IBM token ring networks which have gone away. So, you know, the specific technical issues have of course changed because of those technology changes and the technology networks has become more and more...

...complex, but some things haven't changed, you know, from the standpoint of what's needed organizationally. That is, you know, the issues and challenges around network troubleshooting. They really haven't changed despite the fact that technology has advanced network operations still struggles with reducing mean time to repair and knowing who's on the network and where they connected. So ensuring productivity of the network users is still job one, it was job one then and it always will be. And the challenge with that is having the right visibility to get that job done well. You know, as networks have become more sophisticated, so have its accompanying tools. So what's possible with today's networking tools, I guess a good way to look at that as like anything with technology 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 phones today versus what you could do 10 years ago, you know, the same dynamic as it play with uh doing network test and analysis. The fact that you can get everything from basic cable testing, just basically seeing is something wired correctly to being able to do wifi site surveying and site analysis and packet capture at up to 10 gigabit speeds all in one tool. Well, all that is now possible. So it really means that users of network test technology are getting far more for their dollar today than they would have in the past and in that smaller package, meaning, you know, I can throw something in my backpack that has as much capability as a, as a portable, you know, lovable computer 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, I mean it was, it's kind of democratized it, hasn't it? That's a good way to look at it. In fact, when we think back...

...to, well this going back to that token ring land meter that we were talking about at the start back then. The only method or tool that was available for network professionals to do analysis on a network was an extraordinarily complex and expensive Network sniffer. Sniffer was a brand of a network analysis product that did packet capture and packet decode and everyone back then knew, hey, if you wanted to be a top notch, you know, network professional network analyst, you went to sniffer University, you know, when, you know, for a solid two weeks to learn 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 of thousands of dollars and only a precious few people could accomplish that task if you have the training, you have the knowledge and skill set to do it. And frankly that was the reason why our company launched into the market of creating handheld network analyzers because we knew that more people needed the ability to see what was going on to their network than could get the skill or the tool to be able to do that complex network analysis. Network analysis is still with us packet analysis still with us. I mean everybody has wire shark, you know, freeware protocol analyzer and more and more people are learning how to use it. It's still kind of a rarified skill set to find someone who can use packet decodes to solve network issues and yet everybody 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 a network. That's really hard to do and democratizing is a word that we use when we talk about it is let's give more people the ability to solve more problems faster by automating the discovery of a network, automating the test process and empowering them with...

...something in the palm of their hand that can give them the visibility that previously took, took an expert with expert knowledge and expert tools and expert cost. Yes, the expert level budget. Yes, of course. Well, so I'm curious, you know, the pandemic, you know, there was a very fast ramp up for many organizations, uh up to work and school from home and I would think it made things a little bit more complicated for system admins and technology teams to really troubleshoot problem areas. So what have you heard from partners and their customers about their 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 course we 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 the office to accomplish my job. And so we certainly saw in the pandemic, a lot of people with roles like that knowledge workers were able to accomplish that task from wherever. And of course there's lots of articles in the press around how that's changing the nature of work, but it never eliminated the sites didn't shut down and maybe some did, but a lot of companies of course are still in the process of re evaluating their network office infrastructure, how much capacity they need going forward and realizing that hey, we're getting a lot of productivity out of people who are leading happier, more productive lives because they're not commuting it to work in the morning, but it's rare to find an organization that would shut down sites because of that. You know, they still have people that have, there need to be in a place physically to accomplish the task. Now, whether that's manufacturing or government organizations or other health care facilities, obviously there's lots of places that, you know, the whole work from home thing didn't have a big dynamic on the network or an effect on the network itself. And so we're...

...definitely did have an impact was in the support of those remote sites because and supporting remote sites has always been difficult for network operations. The task of or the requirement to have skilled hands on site. Well, a lot of times you don't have that, you know, you don't have people at the remote site who can do network analysis and troubleshooting. So your experts frequently would have to 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. So you had a lot of need for the ability to do remote troubleshooting. How can I see into that network without actually physically having to be there. And we've built some capabilities into our tools that allows people to remotely connect to the tools really doesn't matter who or what kind of a skill level a person has on site, the network engineer, network manager technician, they can remotely connect to the analyzer from wherever there they are and do troubleshooting. I can just simply log into our link live cloud service from where I'm sitting right here and I could connect to one of our analyzers 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 we get work done today. But Net. Net I mean there's still people to support at the sites of these organizations. So there's still that challenge out there definitely. Well you know, to that end then with troubleshooting what are some of the most common mistakes you see and wifi design and installation. Yeah. You know with um so one of the solutions that we came out with recently was a feature 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, take data samples from around the facility...

...and locate that information on a four plan on on a map and then to be able to generate various heat maps to show various metrics about that wifi network and what we're seeing out there in the market is significant impact on a lot of networks of over provisioning and I think there's a kind of a there's a little bit of I T D N A. Happening here which is deeply embedded in our DNA from the old days is the idea that more is 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 two sites together. There's performance issues on the way and link, let's upgrade that link. We had a 256 K bit link. Let's go to a one meg link. We had one let's go to 10 we attend let's go to 100. It's just people. It's just kind 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 be just as damaging if not more so than under provisioning. Obviously under provisioning means I may not have coverage across my site so that everyone 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 the network with more S S I. D. S and what's that what that's leading to is a type of a couple of types of interference. And chief among those from over positioning is co channel interference Now that means I've got too many access points and networks on the same channels and we're seeing that in a lot of circumstances. And unfortunately I think it means that there are some, you know, some organizations who don't have the skill set to design their own networks will farm that project out bring contractor and who will, you know, do a plan, site...

...plan and deploy that survey. And in a lot of those cases they're still getting over deployed, even though you're bringing in an external professional. We're seeing that a lot of those networks, particularly in a lot of schools, you know, one access point per classroom and and sharing the same channels. And and Ultimately what happens 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 problems for everybody because there's not enough air time for all those stations to speak. So over provisioning, causing co channel interference. That's a huge issue. Another part of that the impact of having too many S. S. I. D. S. Is beacon proliferation. So a wifi network needs to beacon to be able to tell devices here. I am. You can connect to me when you have too many of those things going on. It's actually taking up valuable air time. There's a strip mall not too far away from our engineering office in Colorado Springs where we literally we just walked around the parking lot. Now this is a typical strip mall with everything from a Starbucks to an Eddie Bauer. And and you name it about 30 different stores. Uh, when we walked around that area, we found that about 25% of the available air time was being taken up by S. S. I. D. Beacons, meaning just the infrastructure itself, the network itself or the fact that there were so many networks taking up airtime meant there was less air time for the users. Now, that's not a unique thing. I mean shopping malls all over the place and I think every one of them probably has that issue. Maybe not so much of a problem in a commercial business environment, unless that's the kind of business you're in. But yeah, beacon proliferation takes away from air time for your users. The other kind of interference that happens in that particular instance a lot too is adjacent channel interference. Not not...

...everyone who's operating a wifi network necessarily knows the rules about wifi and someone might see O G look at all these access points on Channel One, I'm going to use Channel two, that will be better. Well, not really because that channel is going to actually overlap with Channel One and cause interference on the adjacent channels. So, so those are a few of the key things that we're seeing a lot of and it really is driven by over deployment for one. And in those areas where businesses have to contend with neighbor networks, interference from those networks and design 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 have the restaurants and shopping areas as well as the airport guest wifi. Very common to have the same kind of issues happening there too. Yeah, well, so I'm curious what are some of the least common problems you've seen with wifi networks? I mean, you know, a real head scratcher that you wouldn't have really thought 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 unique interference. Let's talk about interference some more, but the sources of interference. So there are devices that when operating can generate energy that is going to cause issues in the wifi spectrum bands. Whether that's microwave ovens, you know, some microwave ovens that are not shielded correctly or properly can interfere with wifi radar businesses that are located adjacent to or inside an airport, for example, will have to contend with radar possibly as an interfere. We ran into one issue in the past in a hospital where I guess the story here was that, uh, if I'm remembering it correctly, there was like a medication dispensary and the hospital security team wanted to put...

...cameras around the dispensary area for security purposes. Didn't consult with I. T. On doing that. They turned up these cameras that were actually utilizing the same frequency bands as the wifi network and knocked all the doctors and nurses with their portable tablets and portable computing systems off the network. So I guess it's yeah you know so interference is a big problem on networks. I would say there are some rare but but there are sources of interference that are rare to see but are out there and people have to have the ability to see that spectrum information 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 old microwave an older microwave. And my son you know he would basically just walks around with his headphones on his ipad in his hands and so he takes it everywhere and he takes it to the kitchen and he's hitting sitting there standing in front of the microwave waiting for something to warm up. And all of a sudden. Dad the wife dies down. The internet's down. And yeah my husband works in I. T. And he was like well you're in the kitchen are you in front of the microwave? Yeah what does that have to do anything? You'd be surprised, be surprised. That's right. That's right. Well as we start to wrap up our episode today we ask everyone to hear the same question because they really got their pulse on technology. So where do you see technology going in the next year? I guess one of the we'll talk about technology and and challenges for the coming year. Obviously supply chain issues are top of mind for a lot of people. And you know, I think I saw somewhere that one particular vendors uh particular line of access points has got like a 250 day delivery on it right now. So given that there are shortages and delays in the availability of the electronic components that are going into everything, we are seeing delays in when people can get some of that technology. So we might see a slowing...

...of the conversion just because of that, that availability, like specifically with respect to wifi and everybody's talking about wifi six or wifi six E, the E part, meaning, you know, there's an extended frequency band in the six gigahertz range providing a lot of new bandwidth for us. So I think a lot of people are at the stage of well if we were 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 an issue. And by the time products are available, maybe there's some new technology available. So we are seeing some some were predicting that we'll see some uh some networks that will skip over maybe from going wifi five straight 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 the technology bus that's racing down the street that you're constantly trying to keep up. Uh there's always always something coming down the line in terms of new technology, you know, and I. T. Has to evaluate those, make the right business decisions and when they do make the decision to deploy a new technology, there's a couple of key things that they really need to take into consideration. One is to make sure that you've got a thorough understanding and baseline of your network before you make any changes being able to discover who's on the network, where they connected. What kind of performance are we getting out of the network? What is the quality of packet transmission across the network? It's super important to baseline that information because if you don't know all of those parameters before you make that technology change, how will you know that it's actually working as promised or as it's supposed to perform in the future? So we're happy to be able to help customers with that kind of analysis. Fantastic. Well I really appreciate 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 and subscribing to B two B tech Talk with ingram Micro. If you like this episode or have a question, please join the discussion on twitter with the Hashtag B two B tech talk. Until next time I'm Shelby skirt talk. You've been listening to B2B tech talk with ingram micro. This episode was sponsored by ingram Micro's. Imagine Next B two B Tech Talk is a joint production with Sweet Fish Media and Anger Micro. To not miss an episode. Subscribe today to your favorite podcast platform. Yeah. Mhm.

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