Aruba’s 802.11ac Shindig


Earlier this week in San Jose, Aruba officially announced a few new additons to their access point lineup and system features during a day spent focusing on 802.11ac. The event, which included a few mini presentations and Q&A sessions with Mike Kail (VP of IT at Netflix), Pascal Menezes (Sr. Program Manager at Microsoft), Arun Kanchi (CEO at Exafort), and a roundtable discussion with a group of delegates from the [Tech Field Day]( family, was held at Aruba’s HQ in San Jose, CA and took the better part of the entire day. All along the way, Aruba made it clear that they aren’t just bringing the next generation of wireless to the market, they’re enhancing it using some of their own special sauce. It was a rapid fire day full of slides, talks, Q&A, and open discussion (both live and on the internet). I wasn’t bored for one second.

The day started off with Keerti Melkote discussing a brief history of Aruba Networks, taking us from the early days in 2003 all the way up to the big launch today. He briefly touched on a couple key features like Adaptive Radio Management (ARM) in 2004, FIPS 140-2 certification in 2006, and then through the rush of new additions from 2007 to 2012. Those years produced RFProtect, AirWave, ARM 2.0, Mesh, the S3500 line of switches, the acquisition of Amigopod, BYOD Onboarding and AirGroup. They didn’t spend much time blasting through all the information and quickly got into the reason for bringing everyone together. Everything from the day ties in to Aruba’s vision of a 100% wireless office. This dream-turned-future-reality is a multifaceted solution involving custom software, purpose-built hardware, and some interesting partner integrations.

In a departure from their typical design, Aruba has completely overhauled the new 220 series APs with a much more streamlined, enterprise feel. To start off, it’s a 3×3:3 dual-band access point sporting 802.11a/b/g/n/ac. It’s a purpose built access point, no modules needed to get up and running, that can be configured to run in both controller and controllerless environments. The 220 series boasts a custom antenna design for better coverage than its predecessors, a smaller footprint than comparable APs from the competition, lower power consumption (although still requiring 802.3at to get the unit fully functional), and dual gigabit ports for your choice of redundancy or throughput. The most noticable change is the footprint and removal of the venting which was ditched due to requirements from sterile healthcare environments. It is definitely an evolutionary product for Aruba, it really makes their other APs look ancient. Some added features on the inside are an isolation plane to separate the antennas from the board, eliminating possible interference, a heatsink on the back panel, and a metal construction. The pricing isn’t too bad either, listing at $1,295.00.

After that, Peter Lane demonstrated some real clients and the performance that can be achieved. Check out the video below to see them in action.

Once the performace demo was completed, Keerti was back to talk about what Aruba is doing on the software and design side to optimize the network. The biggest part of this whole rollout is "ClientMatch" which is Aruba’s solution to the sticky client. They claim this is a must have for 802.11ac networks as it targets optimizing the bottom 20% of performing clients which are the one impacting everyone. If you can get those clients on and off faster, your network will run a lot more smoothly.

ClientMatch attempts to take a look at the network from the client perspective and will attempt to steer the client to APs better suited at serving them.

Next up was Microsoft Lync and the partnership that Aruba developed to enhance and optimize Microsoft’s application across the wireless networks of tomorrow. The two companies worked together and, using an API that Microsoft makes available in Lync, have optimized the network to be aware of its data statistics, issues, and streams. This is currently a closed API, only available to Aruba and its partners at the moment, but we were assured by Pascal Menezes that there are plans to open it up in the future. Real world trials were run at Microsoft’s Redmond, WA campus in two buildings covering approximately 1200 users. Based on the success, Microsoft will be transitioning its entire global wireless infrastructure to 802.11n.

From there we held a Tech Field Day round table session and discussed many topics around Aruba’s new products/features as well as 802.11ac in general.

After a break from the action, Mike Kail presented briefly on how Netflix is doing IT right. He talked a bit about how they are working with Aruba to acheive a 100% mobile culture which improves productivity, what their requirements are, and then moved right into a Q&A. Their approach is that of a zero trust network, working towards a goal of no perimeter firewall “gate” and instead using identity as the new perimeter. At Netflix, they have high voice and video utilization so they need a network that can handle it, everything from life size telepresence conference rooms all the way down to Google+ hangouts. It was a fascinating session to see how IT in the new enterprise is being run. No longer managing devices and simply protecting the data is where everyone is headed (some slower than others), watch this video to see what it looks like already in practice.

Also, Netflix is highly invested in opensource (check their [github repos]( and contributes back to the community heavily which is a major plus in my book. Mike, if you give this a read, I live in the LA area… just putting it out there. No pressure.

The day wrapped with Exafort showing how they have future-proofed Arista’s newest building with 100% 802.11ac provided by Aruba. They discussed the hurdles of designing for a new building before the concrete is even dry, how they are approaching user connectivity, and what kind of performance they expect to see throughout the building.

I really wish I could go into more depth on each topic but 1: I don’t want to mangle the message that is conveyed in the videos and 2: I don’t know if I have enough room on my blog to hold it all. It was a firehose of information and I had to trim down my notes just to get a post out the door. Seriously, watch the videos, you won’t be sorry.

It was a fantastic day and I am honored to be invited to attend. A very special thanks to everyone at Aruba Networks and Gestalt IT for letting me be a part of it.

As a delegate, my travel expenses were paid for by Gestalt IT and I am not expected, obligated, or even requested in any way to write about the day, whether good or bad. I received no compensation for writing this post. (Other than a good time with some friends and a pretty decent lunch)