abducted. returned. changed.

Toothless slack-jawed yokels win again

Cisco 4404 Marketing Poster

Long time readers of this blog (and the tech•ed 2009 team who have to put up with my whinging) will know that we had a significant number of challenges getting the wifi at GCCEC up to a scratch. Today I am happy to announce, however, that we have had a win. The 5508 delivers in the areas the 4404 didn’t.

Catch up on the complete history:

David Connors and David Eagles posing for a rare post survey photo op. “Weeze frum Queensland and weeze makin wirelesses!”, commented Connors during a recent interview.

The bottom line issue was that all of our investigative work lead to the inescapable conclusion that the Cisco 4404 is a crock. I’d like to say that it was just a matter of the 4404 not supporting 802.11n data rates, but as the previous posts have shown, it would only barely perform at 802.11b rates in some cases.

We engaged with the original installers and Cisco TAC as well as local Cisco reps and pretty much got nowhere. Despite some early positive noises, they certainly did not want to own the issue and every time we would go back to them with detailed reports the responses we received were totally unacceptable (95% RF idle utilisation caused by co-channel interference on a network with 1 access point active and 1 user). Yes, I am still annoyed at the comment about Cisco being “amazed if there was a fault of this nature … especially if someone from Queensland found it.”

The most frustrating thing for me about the whole endeavour is that we spent a LOT of time and both Microsoft and GCCEC spent a LOT of money in having to go back and rectify someone else’s work. We also went to great lengths to ensure that we provided detailed reports that covered off exactly the clinical steps we went through to provide a final conclusion as to the problematic performance characteristics at the deployment.

In the end, we decided to remove the 4404 from the equation and deploy Cisco autonomous IOS images to all of the access points. This resolved the majority of the issues and, to us at least, confirmed that the 4404 was the root cause of all of our pain.

In the time since tech•ed 2009, GCCEC has replaced their 4404 WLC with a new 5508 unit (http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps10325/). The product literature for the unit talks a lot about supporting 802.11n data rates.

O’RLY? What was the 4404 with AGN-capable Aironets on it supposed to do then?

4404 vs Autonomous

The move away from the WLC to autonomous firmware last year was a bit of a painful thing for us to do. We were torn because:

  • The autonomous firmware would demonstrably provide 500%+ performance improvement of ther 4404 WLC.
  • In moving to autonomous, we had to give up:

We wanted to use the WLC but the performance characteristics were so dreadful it was not an option.

4404 in action

5508 Performance Characteristics

On the 26th of March 2010 we were engaged by Microsoft to validate the new 5508. David Eagles, Jorke and I spent the whole day on site with Nathan from the convention centre rerunning the entire survey from scratch. I am delighted to have to report that the 5508 has resolved the performance issues.

Simply swapping out the 4404 for a 5508 (and adding nothing to the RF delivery side of the wireless network) yieled:

  • 484% average throughput improvement over 2.4GHz
  • 340% average throughput improvement over 5GHz

26 March 2010 GCCEC Wireless Survey 2.4GHz Performance Comparison

26 March 2010 GCCEC Wireless Survey 5GHz Performance Comparison

2.4GHz Performance Comparison Across Aironet Deployment Scenarios

5GHz Performance Comparison Across Aironet Deployment Scenarios

So there you have it. There is still a bit of tuning for us to do regarding channel allocation (the same stuff we did for tech•ed 2009 – but was lost in the 5508 deployment) but it looks very promising.

A heartfelt THANK YOU to the GCCEC guys for the capital investment for the new unit for tech•ed 2010 – we really appreciate it.

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