Posts Tagged ‘aruba’

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Time for a long overdue blogpost.

On January 3rd an email from Tom Hollingsworth landed in my inbox. Now I had never spoken or even emailed with Tom but he’s one of the people behind the “Wireless Field Day” (and a whole lot of other Field Day’s). Tom wanted to know if I was interested in talking about my work with Disaster Tech Lab at the upcoming Wireless Field Day 6 at the end of the month?

DID I HELL!

I had been following the Wireless Field Day events for some time as it was a sort of holy grail for wireless geeks like myself. To get the chance to speak at the event would be magnificent.

Roll forward 3 weeks and I’m actually in San Jose. I arrived late so missed the first evening socializing with my fellow geeks ( This might have been a good thing…). Day one started with everyone jumping into a stretch limo which brought us to Airtight Networks offices. Airtight had a number of interesting presentations lined up for us with introductions into their cloud based services, social wifi and analytics. It followed on with a WIPS demo by Rick Farina. Rick is my kinda guy with lots of experience in security, hacking and related fields. It was entertaining to watch him to bring up the WiFi Pineaple device. Anyway, it was enjoyable and gave some good insights into where Airtight Networks is going.

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Next we hopped in the limo which brought us to the Aruba Networks offices. This was a bit of a big deal for me as Aruba has been a great supporter of Disaster Tech Lab from right back when we started in 2010. Yet this was my first visit to their offices. I wasn’t disappointed as the offices are pretty cool especially the showroom with all numerous devices on display. Being real geeks we even spotted some sort of prototype USB dongles connected to some of the AP’s. I suspect that these were for use with the Meridian software of which we got a nice real life demo using the Aruba Campus App. After a quick welcome by Ozer and Sean it was time for Manju Mahishi to show us about Aruba’s plans with the Meridian software. In short it offers a platform for user and asset tracking allowing such things as public venues to get greater insight into user movement patterns and such. The presentation led to a lively discussion on topics such as privacy as well as technical.

Next was my own presentation on Disaster Tech Lab’s work. Rather that tell you about it I suggest that you watch the video.

Day 2 started bright and early with a presentation by Germán Capdehourat from Plan Ceibal. Plan Ceibal is a state sponsored project in Uruguay which has as goal to bring internet access to all schools. They obviously use a lot of wifi technology but also branch out into user devices and educational content. Projects like these have great value and contribute immensely to children’s education. Germán was followed by Kevin Koster from Cloudpath. Cloudpath does some really advanced stuff with large scale device onboarding and authentication. It’s not really my area of interest but for anyone managing large networks with hundreds or thousands of users their products are well worth looking at. You can watch the full video here.

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Cloudpath was followed by Xirrus. This was going to be an interesting presentation as Xirrus’s presentation at the previous WFD had been very marketing & PR heavy and had been torn to shreds by the attendees. Dirk Gates, founder of Xirrus started of with a good presentation into the company, their history and the future. Next was the absolute highlight of #WFD6 in my opinion. Xirrus had brought in their head of antenna design Avi Hartenstein. Avi, besides really knowing his shit, looks and sounds like a cool extra from a Bond movie. His presentation with into the antenna design into minute details and for someone like me who loves RF it was simply a pleasure to watch.

To end the day we travelled to Extreme Networks office which were by far the flashiest ones with loads of artwork, purple colors and even rotating server racks with flashing lights. Their presentations there gave a lot of insight into Extreme’s large stadium deployments. It’s interesting to see how a lot of the problems encountered in such environments can be resolved through smart RF use. Real life examples illustrated how antenna placement, antenna radiation power, spatial isolation and low TX power are the main contributors to solving a lot of problems.

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I do realise that this is a way too short blogpost to encompass all the awesomeness that was Wireless Field Day 6. I got to spend a couple of days in the company of people whose knowledge and expertise for exceeds mine but who were also hugely entertaining to hang out with. On top of that we were given an royal welcome by the various companies supporting this event and they each went all out to share their technology and visions of the wireless future with us. Lastly I want to give serious kudos to Steven, Tom and everyone else at GestaltIT for organising not only this fantastic event but all the other Field Days they organise. Seriously guys (and galls) it’s impressive.

I also suggest that you go and watch *all* the videos here.

 

Last week myself & @mrs_Bopp had the pleasure to attend the Aruba Networks Airheads conference in Nice France. We were there by invitation of Aruba Network resulting out of our work done through Haiti Connect to which Aruba had donated a substantial amount of hardware back in 2010. I had a good amount of communication with Aruba staff prior to the event and was really looking forward to the event. The fact that it was in Nice might have contributed to that also. The flight from Dublin to Nice was quite uneventful but the arrival was slightly dampened by grey skies and rain!! As we had just left a *sunny* Dublin this was not what we expected. Luckily this was compensated for by the welcome in the hotel which Aruba had arranged for the conference attendees. The venue was very slick and polished and the Aruba crew was all smiles and very helpful. We finally got to meet Jeanie, Sue & Bart with whom I had contact prior to the event. As our flight hadn’t arrived until 4 pm there was no opportunity to attend any of the Monday workshops but there was the cocktail party that evening to look forward to.  We brought our bags up to the room, plugged in a multitude of devices to charge up and discovered that the *free* wifi was limited to 2 devices per room. The signal wasn’t very strong either. Clearly they weren’t using Aruba equipment 😉

The cocktail party was very entertaining with copious amounts of food & drinks. It was great to meet so many different “Airheads” from all over the globe. At one point we were in a discussion with people from Ireland, the UK, South Africa, Saudi, Sudan, Netherlands and Austria. The discussion ranged from wifi to politics, the price of petrol, taxes and more. All in all a very invigorating and entertaining evening. Bed came at 1 pm and was very much needed after a 4:30 am start.

After breakfast and some excellent coffee Tuesday started of with a splash caused a James Bond type opening show followed by the opening word by Duncan Fisken (VP EMEA) followed by Keerti Melkote (Aruba Networks founder & CTO) who spoke about Aruba Networks’ Technology Vision. Keerti’s talk was very interesting as it gave a clear insight Aruba’s approach to the development in user connectivity requirements, device ownership, usage patterns and how to make all this manageable.  (I’ll ad a link to the presentation when it is available online). Next there was a short break followed by a client panel on BYOD issues after which it was time for me to take the stage to talk about the use of WiFi in disaster response and about the work of Haiti Connect. I wasn’t sure how the presentation would be received but I can now safely say that it went down very well. The slick set-up with two monitors displaying the slides for the speaker as well as very visible timer made it very easy to speak in a coherent manner. I easily filled the 45 minutes allocated.

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After lunch there were a number of break-out session giving some hand-on experience of different WiFi related technologies and applications. I first attended the one on “Designing Outdoor Mesh” which was a delight as it clearly dealt with issues such as antenna modulation, signal propagation, interference etc which area areas that are not covered often enough in WiFi network design. It also provided a good insight in the various mesh network topologies and applications as well as use of Arubas Outdoor RF planner.  Next were two sessions on “Advanced wireless security” (interesting but I was starting to flag a bit and needed coffee) and one on “Clearpass access management”.  The Clearpass session was a real eye-opener. Aruba is clearly on to a winner with its solution to the BYOD issue.  While it allows for excellent user & network management the really impressive feature for me is the easy device “onboarding” which allows a user to easily connect to the network and authenticate after which pre-set network policies are applied according to user, device and application. This means less work for the network support department as well as the fact that users can do this in “remote” locations where there is no direct access to network/sys admin people. I can see this working very well in disaster response scenarios where a network is rolled out quickly and where a very heterogeneous user environment exists. Policies can be pre-set or easily added or changed by network admin staff without the need to come close to any of the users or client devices.

After a long day of seriously getting ones geek on it was time for some top class relaxation and Aruba had really pulled all the tops out on this one! We were bussed to “Chateau de Cremat”  which is in a stunning location on a hilltop North of  Nice with magnificent views across the mountains and the Mediterranean in the distance. After some Casino Royal themed entertainment we were treated to yet another excellent meal and some very drinkable wine from the chateaus own cellars. Around 10 pm the busses departed again and while some hardcore people wanted to go clubbing in downtown Nice we decided to go back to the hotel and have a few more beverages on the rooftop terrace.

Wednesday unfortunately heralded the last day of the Airheads conference but luckily it went out with a bang in the form of tow excellent presentations by Dominic Orr (CEO, Aruba Networks) and Mike Wiley (Manager Global Networks @ Google).  Dominics presentation was titled “License To Win” and ran us through Aruba’s technical & strategical development right from the beginning to into the next few years. It gave an excellent insight not only in Aruba Networks but also into the market that it operates in.  Mike Wiley’s presentation was titled “Google’s Global WLAN Deployment” but it dealt with more than that. It illustrated clearly how people require ubiquitous connectivity, how they benefit from this and how to best deliver this.

What I have come away with from this conference is the impression that Aruba is very much on top of their game with both their hardware & software products. Both are excellent product ranges which complement & support each other. There is the obvious debate about controller vs controller-less architectures but with the Aruba Instant AP’s they are moving in both areas now. While I’m very much a hardware kinda guy I have learned through experience that a network deployment & management tool which is intelligent and adaptive is worth its weight in gold. Aruba’s MOVE & Clearpass hold great promise in that area and I can’t wait to test it in the live environment!

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