NETSCOUT LinkRunner G2; Part 1, Nuts and Bolts

This post will be the first of a few showcasing several of the great new features that NETSCOUT has given to us via their brand new LinkRunner G2.

Building on an already solid foundation, NETSCOUT has recently released the next variation of the LinkRunner rich with new features, all running on Android.  Many of the rock solid testing features we have come to expect from NETSCOUT have been expanded in the LRG2.

The LinkRunner G2 is very close, if not exactly the same form factor as it’s brother the AirCheck G2.   On the right hand side of the device you will find two volume buttons, a mini SD card slot, and a micro USB connection.  Flipping the LRG2 over, you will see that there is an LED flash(light) and also a camera.

The top of the device has one SFP slot which will accommodate LRG2Topmost any SFP module, a copper 10/100/1000 Mbps ethernet port and another USB port which can be outfitted with a wireless USB device.  At the time of this post, the only wireless device that works with the unit is a single band Edimax adapter.  There is no integrated wireless adapter.  The power button is located in the same position as the AirCheck G2’s power button.  Charging the unit is done from the same spot as the AirCheck G2 AND via POE over the wired ethernet port on the top of the unit.

When you first fire up the device the user interface is very familiar to anyone who uses an Android device.  The screen and menus are laid out very similar to an Android phone.  The bottom of the screen has the familiar NETSCOUT logo which is a button thatLRG2Desktop opens the LinkRunner’s native testing features.  You will also notice that there is an App Store which is populated with a handful of familiar apps.  I’ve been told that if there is an App that is not in the store, you can request it be added as long as it is free.  Some of the familiar apps you will find are Microsoft Office, Wifi Analyzer, Meraki, UniFi, Aruba Utilities, and AirDroid to name a few.

 

The device is targeted to field support staff who can use the unit to receive trouble tickets via email, web, etc and a then perform several different troubleshooting steps, gather data, and ultimately upload the results of the tests to LinkLive for further analysis.

When tapping the NETSCOUT icon in the center of the bottom of the screen, you open the LinkRunner menu.

LRG2Tests

You are presented with three options near the top of the screen when the LinkRunner menu opens; Switch, AutoTest, and Cable.  Selecting “Switch” will give you information such as the port the device is connected to, the VLAN tag, port speed and duplex, and POE information if it is available.  “AutoTest” takes all of the information from the “Switch” menu and expands on it.  The information  in “AutoTest” is similar to what you would expect from a LinkSprinter except much more detail.  I will dive a bit deeper into these tests in future posts.  The “Cable” menu performs a continuity wire map test on each pin as well as a TDR on each pair.  The wire map is accomplished using the included WireView Wiremapper.  The TDR function is a great addition which will help determine distance to faults.LRG2WireMapper

This is a very high level overview of a select few features and tests that the LinkRunner G2 can perform.  As noted earlier, there will be future posts that go into greater detail of some of those features.  The LinkRunner G2 will be a welcome addition to any network engineer’s toolbag with it’s Android OS which is highly versatile as we already know.  Being able to collect trouble call information via a web browser, running tests, taking pictures of locations or faults, and possibly doing configs of network equipment via an SSH/Telnet client make this device a true one stop solution for any engineer.  I look forward to further enhancements and developments to the LinkRunner G2 which will make it an even more versatile tool.

More to come soon…

NETSCOUT AirCheck G2 v2.0

We had the opportunity while visiting with NETSCOUT at Mobility Field Day 2 to get a sneak peek of the v2.0 firmware for the G2 (yes, firmware; no need to purchase new hardware).  Many of us were very excited to see some of the newly added features and it seems as though there is even more room to grow in the future.  What we have come to trust as one of our favorite go-to tools in the wifi toolbag has only gotten more powerful and useful.  I am not going to go into a deep dive of each of the features that Chris Hinsz showed us but I will share the links because he does a way better job explaining it (because he is the Product Manager of course).

Notable features in the v2.0 release are iPerf, captive portal support/testing, interferer identification, and packet captures.  Also introduced was the NETSCOUT “Test Accessory” which will function as an iPerf server and can be placed anywhere there is a network connection with POE.

The additional features that are being introduced show that this product is as versatile as ever and should increase the confidence of its user while deployed in the field.

Here is the link to download the new v2.0 firmware.

 

Video from MFD2 featuring Chris Hinsz, Product Manager at NETSCOUT

 

Deep dive of AirCheck G2 v2.0 with Chris Hinsz

 

Video/webinar featuring Chris Hinsz of NETSCOUT and George Stefanick of Houston Methodist Hospital

NETSCOUT – Nuthin’ But a G(2) Thang

A few weeks ago at Mobility Field Day 2 I was afforded the opportunity to listen to a presentation from the fine people of NETSCOUT (all capitals because that is how Kendall Hershey told me it should be).  It was somewhat of a reunion for Brennan, Rob, and myself as we had established a relationship with NETSCOUT and their Social Media Manager, Kendall Hershey, at Cisco Live 2016 (shameless blog plug) .  It was great to see her again as well as take a deeper dive into the NETSCOUT product line, especially the AirCheck G2.

Chris Hinsz, NETSCOUT Product Manager, was the main presenter and he gave a nice overview of the NETSCOUT product line, more specifically the beloved AirCheck G2.  Many of us WLAN professionals use the AirCheck G2 at our day jobs and have come to love the simple yet powerful tool.  Chris went on to offer a closer look into what makes the AirCheck G2 so great as well as some lesser known tips and tricks.  Check out the presentation here.

Chris also gave us a quick demo of the Link-Live dashboard.  The Link-Live dashboard is a clean, easy to read area where you can collect the information that your various NETSCOUT tools gather.  I have had the opportunity to use the Link-Live dashboard with my LinkSprinters for some time and I appreciate the simple layout.  I can quickly get the information I need with a quick glance.  The dashboard organizes your tests into a table and allows you to make annotations, as well as create reports from the collected data.  NETSCOUT has definitely spent some time refining the layout making it easy to get the information you need from your test equipment.

I have been drooling over the AirCheck G2 since it was released.  We recently purchased one for work so I have only recently had the opportunity to use it on a regular basis.  I love the features of the G2 especially the touchscreen and well laid out menus.  The testing features are straight forward.  The G2 is hands down the first device we go to when we get called out for wireless issues.  The G2 saves us a significant amount of time troubleshooting.  Before the G2, troubleshooting wireless issues took much longer.  These handheld testers bring you to a solution much faster with the information that they supply.  I personally own the G2’s predecessor, the **Fluke AirCheck.  The original AirCheck is still very useful to me because it is able to extract a Meru/Fortinet/FortiRu AP ID out of a beacon’s information elements.  This makes it very easy for me to identify an AP that is a member of a Virtual Cell (virtual BSSID).  I still love my original AirCheck for this reason, but mostly because Kendall Hershey gave it to me.  I am told that they will look into adding the FortiRu information element to the G2 in the near future.

Gratuitous NETSCOUT AirCheck G2 product placement by Brett (@crabby_fi)

The AirCheck G2 has been, and continues to be, a staple in the WLAN professional’s bag of tools.  The NETSCOUT product line is built on a solid platform and is sure to deliver for the foreseeable future.  Anyone who uses a G2 will let you know how much it enhances their troubleshooting experience.  Issues that may have previously taken a few hours to figure out are easily diagnosed in a much shorter time period.  NETSCOUT is another one of those companies who I hold near and dear to my heart because they listen to their customers. I am looking forward to what NETSCOUT has coming in the future.

Blogs about the NETSCOUT G2 from my MFD2 peers:

Lee Badman – https://wirednot.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/catching-up-with-netscout-on-their-flagship-wlan-support-tool/

Clear to Send – https://www.cleartosend.net/cts-087-aircheck-g2-w-netscout-mfd2/

 

**On July 14, 2015, the following products from Fluke Networks were merged with NETSCOUT Systems; Visual TruView™, OptiView® XG, OneTouch™, LinkSprinter™, LinkRunner™, AirMagnet™ and AirCheck™. Fluke Networks continue to retain the DTX CableAnalyzer™, Versiv Cabling Certification System, LinkWare™ Live and Telecom products.

Through the Mist; Predictable, Reliable, and Measurable Wifi from Mist Systems

I recently had the opportunity to listen to a presentation from Mist Systems at Mobility Field Day 2 in San Jose.  At first glance/listen Mist might sound like just another controller-less “cloud” wifi solution that touts a shiny dashboard and user analytics.  They even toss around trendy new buzzwords such as “AI” and “machine learning.”  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they are much more than that!

Mist is relatively new to the wifi game but their short lived heritage is backed by staff who have worked for the likes of Cisco, Motorola, Symbol, Airespace, Zebra, and Ubiquiti to name a few.  As you can tell their staff are seasoned professionals that have worked with companies with a very solid track record.  With a list of leaders like this I was confident they would be able to do wireless well, but I was still curious what would differentiate them from other offerings.  It didn’t take long to realize their pedigree and vision, when put together, sound as if they can break through the often “cloudy” (pun intended) traditional stalwarts.  Their current customer base is impressive, including several very large organizations that span several different verticals.

After a few moments into the introduction given by Jeff Aaron, you realize that Mist isn’t just another controller-less wifi company.  Jeff pointed out that Mist has two main objectives:

  • Bring wifi into the modern smart device era by:
    • giving data that allows an engineer to be proactive
    • providing predictive recommendations
    • allowing better visibility into the user experience
      • not traditional network visibility, but focus on user experience
    • making wifi more predictable, reliable, and measurable
  • Expand wireless.  Make wifi work for you.  Wireless as a Service
    • in addition to wifi, providing an indoor personalized location based experience
    • combining wifi and BLE into one platform

You might think that others are doing very similar things but Mist was the first to implement AI and machine learning.  Lee Badman, one of my co-horts at MFD, said it best when he said “Mist is the real deal when it comes to Machine Learning, etc- where the message feels forced with other vendors.”

Next to speak was Bob Friday.  Bob has a rich history of providing location based services in the wireless environment.  Bob was co-founder of Airespace, a wireless networking company who was the first to offer integrated location based services in their products.  Bob went on to explain that wireless has transitioned from just providing wifi into an “end to end” service. Bob made it very clear that the Mist location services were built from the ground up and that it wasn’t just a “BLE laid on wifi” afterthought.

One of the coolest things I got from Bob is that Mist actually employs data scientists to analyze the data that is collected.  He said that Mist has Particle Physicists and professors (you know, people who are actually good at sifting through data) going through and helping with design of the Mist product.  We have all seen a nice dashboard that is spewing data all over the place.  The data may have a nice presentation but is often to much or to little, and then all wrapped up in a pretty box.  It is clear that Mist wants the data to be clear and easy to read, as well as useful.

Mist really seems to be ahead of the game with their vBLE location services.  It didn’t take me long to realize that there are many use cases spanning several verticals for virtual beacons.  App developers can use these virtual beacons to interact with applications designed for all sorts of devices.  Applications can use location data to relay relevant information to the device owner based on the location of the device.  Some examples include way-finding at your favorite ball park or sending offers or discounts to a customer when they are near a particular product in a retail store.

Mist’s dynamic packet capture is something I think is an absolute game changer.  Mist is able to leverage it’s services to detect problems on the wireless network and then collect a packet capture in real-time.  We have all been called out to troubleshoot problems at one time or another and by the time we get to the site, the problem has disappeared or changed.  When Mist detects an issue, it automatically starts a packet capture.  Being able to gather packets immediately when a problem is detected can potentially solve a problem in a matter of minutes where in the past it may have taken several hours.

One other notable feature is Mist’s ability to give meaningful and measurable data that makes it easy to show whether or not Service Level Expectations (SLEs) are being met.  Based on the information given in the dashboard it is easy to tell which clients are having trouble connecting or are failing to connect.  Being able to evaluate access point health, coverage, capacity, and throughput are also a major advantage for any wifi engineer and are all easily found in the dashboard.

Overall, I thought Mist was very impressive.  They are doing things with their product that can make life as a wifi engineer easier.  There is no better judge of a wireless network than the actual user experience and it is obvious that is where Mist is focusing their efforts.  I am familiar with BLE but overall I am generally “green” and have lots to learn.  What I do understand about Mist’s vBLE is that it has potential to be very powerful.  I plan on digging a little deeper into vBLE when I get an opportunity.  Having listened to Jeff Aaron, Bob Friday, and Sudheer Matta, I can tell they are confident and passionate about Mist.  I am hoping to hear  more from them in the near future.  For now, please watch their presentation from Mobility Field Day 2.   There is a lot more impressive information in their presentation. I hope you find Mist as intriguing as I did.

Check out what other #MFD2 delegates are saying about Mist:

Jake Snyder – Mist Systems: A first look

Lee Badman – Mist Systems Polishes Their Message at Mobility Field Day2 

Lee Badman – Mist Systems is the Cloud WLAN Vendor With a (not so) Secret Weapon

 

 

Mobility Field Day 2

The excitement for MFD2 has been building for awhile now and I can tell you we are in store for a great couple of days.  I have been looking forward to this event since I accepted the invitation to be a delegate a couple of months ago.  After coming together for dinner tonight as our first time as a group, I am even more excited for all that is in store.

Here is the lineup:

Mist Systems – July 25, 2017 at 10:00 – 12:00 PST

I have had a chance to play around with one of Mist’s APs over the past couple weeks and I found it to be very intuitive and easy to set up.  It took no time at all to get an SSID on the air and clients connected.  The available data on the dashboard is very helpful/useful.  I am looking forward to getting a deeper dive into the BLE features of the device.

Mojo Networks – July 25, 2017 at 2:00 – 4:00 PST

Mojo Networks, formerly AirTight, has gone through several changes over the last couple years.  They have changed their direction and I am looking forward to hearing more about their plans going forward.  They had an excellent presentation at WirelessLAN Professionals conference this past February.

Cape Networks – July 26, 2017 at 9:00 – 10:00 PST

Cape is a company that I am not real familiar with yet and I am very interested to see what they have lined up.  I did see their presentation at WLPC but haven’t had a chance to work with their gear yet.

Nyansa – July 26, 2017 at 10:30 – 12:30

Another company that I am really looking forward  to hearing more from is Nyansa.  From what I have seen, they are able to take wireless client data and present it to an engineer in an easy to read format to get a better understanding of what is actually going on in the wireless network.  You can find their presentation from WLPC here.

Netscout – July 26, 2017 at 2:00 – 4:00 PST

The AirCheck G2 is our go to tool in the field when a wireless problem is reported at work.  I am excited to hear what they have in the pipeline for the future.  I am also pumped that we get to see our good friend Kendall Hershey.  A couple of us had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with her at Cisco Live 2016.  Her and I both missed this year’s Cisco Live so it will be cool to see her again.

Being able to watch and listen to presenters at previous Wireless/Mobility Fields days and interact with the delegates was something I looking forward to.  With this being my first MFD, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous but I am with a great group of professionals so I am sure it will go great!  I am very excited for the next two days as they will be packed from the beginning of the day until the end with all kinds of great information and maybe some surprises.

Please feel free to follow along on the Mobility Field Day page here.

Please also feel free to interact with me or any of the other delegates listed in the above link.  Interacting with the delegates was almost as fun as listening to the presenters in my past experiences.  If you have any questions you would like to see asked of the presenters, feel free to reach out to any of us delegates via Twitter.  Make sure to also use the hashtag #MFD2.

In the weeks to come I will be releasing blog posts about the presentations so make sure to check those out when they are released.

 

 

#WLPC 2017 PHX, #SingleChannelAdventures, and Looking Back

It has been a couple weeks since I returned from WLPC in Phoenix.  It was a great trip down to the southwest which included catching up with some good friends, listening to great presentations, learning a lot, and also presenting on a topic near and dear to my heart.  I was able to put a lot more names to faces and have some great conversation.

As many of you know I presented on how well single channel architecture works for us.  You can find the video below:

I have received mostly all positive feedback on the presentation.  It was a great opportunity for me to speak in front of a large crowd and give examples of how we have Meru deployed across our school district.  As well as it went, I feel like I need to explain a few things.  I have come to the realization that a Ten Talk may have been the wrong platform to discuss the topic at hand.  I understand that most people wanted more information about SCA rather than “it just works for us.”  Ten minutes was simply not enough time to discuss all of this.

First, I understand that being a large network doesn’t equal wired\wireless networking done right.  Even though this wasn’t conveyed in the presentation, I have received feedback indicating as such.  Although we are very proud of how large and successful our network is, it doesn’t mean that large = successful.  A lot of time and effort goes into making a wireless network work well for 60,000 users on average every day.  We all know that architecture doesn’t matter if you don’t define, design, implement, and validate.

Second, I gave some confusing information.  I realized shortly after the presentation that the stat showing that we “average ~12 connections per AP county wide” was very vague.  Some of our access points have upwards of 100 clients on them at once for an extended period of time.  Some of our access points have 10 clients total (maybe less) in an entire day.  It doesn’t matter whether there is 30+ clients on an AP during every class or another AP that sits unused for the majority of the day.  If an AP was placed in a location, it was done there with the intent that wifi could be needed at any point of an instructional day; planned or un-planned.  The opinion that there are too many APs or not is irrelevant.  Unless you have actually visited our schools and used the network, you won’t know.  The proof is in the pudding so to say.

I know that most of us consider our wireless networks as mission critical.  The vast majority of our schools don’t have desktop computers other than in administrative areas.  Many of our schools don’t have computer labs, but employ several carts of mobile devices.  I know that most of us want NUMBERS to back up the user experience, but most of the time I don’t have time to get this type of information.  If reports of “wireless problems” are low or non-existent and teachers are able to complete their instruction using mobile devices and be successful, our mission is accomplished.  I know a lot of you won’t be happy until you see NUMBERS and that is fine.  I am going to try real hard to get some of those and put them out there.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if some of you will believe it then, and that is fine too.

I understand many of the things that have been said as far as physics, airtime consumption, high density, etc.  I don’t necessarily disagree with some of the opinions.  You may be absolutely right!  The thing that is somewhat discouraging is that there are a lot of opinions based on no experience or an experience that was several years ago.  Don’t get me wrong, the first time I saw virtual port, even with my limited wireless knowledge at the time, I couldn’t believe it would work.  A lot has been improved upon since then with virtual cell and especially the equipment.  I’m not saying Meru will beat another vendor head to head every time, but I bet it will sometimes!  Does it really matter how many jigabits we can ram through the air or is it more important for a user to have an experience where they don’t even notice the wifi?  A user sits down, opens their laptop, completes a task, closes the laptop and moves on without even acknowledging the presence of wifi.  The wifi just works.  Please understand, I am not trying to discount numbers such as channel utilization, retries, available bandwidth, etc.  Those are all very important things to consider in a wireless environment.  We all look to those numbers first when trouble is initially reported.  Those are the numbers that give us a baseline to begin troubleshooting.  They are absolutely critical to a successful wireless deployment.

Obviously interest has been piqued since the presentation.  It has been fun, most of the time, discussing various aspects concerning single channel vs multi channel environments.  I have heard a handful of different people give a handful of different explanations on what Meru’s special sauce is, and they are all different.  There isn’t a ton of information out there concerning the “magic” of Meru but if you are truly interested please watch any video by Dr. Bharghavan, founder of Meru networks.  Many of these videos are a few years old, but still offer great information.  To be honest, I need to re-watch most of them as I get tangled in the “it just works,” sometimes.  Below are a handful of videos.

If you want to catch the videos later but still want to read the conclusion, please scroll down.

Meru Networks Wireless Virtualization Architecture – Part 1

Meru Networks Wireless Virtualization Architecture – Part 2

Meru Networks Wireless Virtualization Architecture – Part 3

Contention Management Schemes: Part 1 – Single / Multiple AP

Contention Management Schemes: Part 2 – Multiple APs

Maximizing Air Traffic – Part 1: Maximize Channel Reuse

Maximizing Air Traffic – Part 2: Simultaneous Transmissions

Leveraging Single Channel Architecture for Multiple Channels

 

A Little Dated But Still Good

Very High Density Wireless LAN Demonstration for BYOD: #1

Very High Density Wireless LAN Demonstration for BYOD: #2

Conclusion

For those of us who went to WLPC 2017, we heard more than one person mention that wireless networking can be done in more than one way.  We also heard that less than ideal practices may be employed against our better wireless judgement due to other factors such as politics, aesthetics, etc.  Sometimes I think we need to remember that just because someone does something different doesn’t mean that it is wrong.  We also need to remember that just because we don’t like a technology it doesn’t mean it doesn’t fit someone’s need.  I need to remind myself of this from time to time.  We deploy wireless networks, in schools, mines, warehouses, large refrigerators, outdoors; you name it, we put wifi in all kinds of places.  Our ultimate goal should be to use the knowledge we have to deploy a wireless network that gives a reliable experience to the greatest number of users.

Since the Last Time We Talked; WLPC on the Horizon

badgerfisca

The countdown is on.  There is less than a week until the Wireless LAN Professionals conference in Phoenix, Arizona.  This will be the first WLPC that I attend and I am really looking forward to it.  I am in the process right now of completing a presentation for a  TEN Talk that I will be doing during my stay in the desert.  I am looking forward to seeing a bunch of guys that I met at Cisco Live, especially a group that I have grown especially close to; Brennan Martin, Rob Boardman, and Stewart Goumans #hosers.  I am also looking forward to putting more faces to names with people I have talked to via social media and haven’t met in person.

A lot of things have happened since the last blog post:

  • Nexus 9k ToR project in our data center
  • Replace all Avaya equipment with Cisco 3850s one school at a time, typically 2-3 schools a week
  • Applied for and selected into Cisco Champions
  • Preparing to open two new school buildings
  • Presentation to staff members helping with basic wifi troubleshooting
  • Surpassed 5700 access points
  • New high score of 68k concurrent clients on the wireless network
  • Preparing for Nexus 7k core install
  • Studying and preparing for CWDP
  • Became a Volunteer Examiner for the ARRL
  • on and on and on…

As you can see I’ve been pretty busy so WLPC should prove to be a relaxing time where I can refocus on the depths of wifi.  I am also looking forward to giving everyone a little taste of how well SCA works for us.

Safe travels to all you wifi peeps that I will see in a few days!

Shout out to Michael Martin at Art Expressions in Saskatoon, Canada.  He has brought at least two amazing things to this world that I know of.  First, Brennan Martin, aka CdnBeacon and the badger SCA logo at the top of this post.  He was awesome to work with, even after bugging him with changes to logo as he was designing it.  Please check out his website.  I can highly recommend his professionalism and product!