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Tag Archives: Tech Field Day

“Thirteen hundred APs, no open support tickets” – achieving quality in wireless networks

“Thirteen hundred APs, no open support tickets,” Sudheer Matta, VP of Products for Mist Systems, boldly stated during his MFD3 presentation.  At the time, he was referencing one of their largest customers specifically, but the company’s desire to prevent bugs, create high quality customer experiences, and resolve issues quickly were principles that permeated the discussions with Mobility Field Day delegates.

Mist leverages several key components in order to pull off their customer focused reliability, visibility, and proactive troubleshooting of the wireless network.

Cloud-based micro-services architecture.  This modern approach to building systems is part and parcel of what many cloud companies have been doing with their software architecture over the last few years.  Instantiating distributed services and leveraging APIs between these services is foundational to providing the kind of resiliency and redundancy cloud makes possible and Mist credits this architecture with how they are able to push out new features, fixes, and services weekly without causing any data plane outages for customers.

In his presentation, Sudheer shares an impressive case of how Mist was able to do a complete restore for a customer that had deleted their entire controller infrastructure. All the controllers and services were back online in less than 2 hrs with no access point reboots or data plane outages, a feat Sudheer also credits to Mist’s distributed architectural approach.

Analytics. These days collecting data is table stakes, the real advancement is in building better algorithms that provide useful information to customers. Mist calls these, “actionable insights” and they are more than just increasing the noise floor with more alerts. Mist believes their actionable insights are so dead on that they’ve announced proactive anomaly detection, meaning the system will open a ticket on your behalf when an issue is detected.

And the analytics don’t stop with just ticket opening – MARVIS (Mist’s AI) is getting several feature enhancements focused on improving the troubleshooting process, reducing analysis time, and improving RRM.

A culture of attention to detail. After watching Mist’s MDF3 presentations, I would describe their business model as “just good enough is not good enough for us.”

Besides a distributed architecture designed to minimized the number of bugs and the impact of those bugs that do make it into the system, issues are expected to be resolved quickly and not allowed to fester or be ignored.  A clear emphasis is placed on quality and usability of the system, from the architecture to the user experience.

Mist is also listening both to its customer base as well as wireless engineers. An improved adapter bracket, the transparency with firmware version issues, the coming soon red and green buttons, and the constant tuning of the virtual assistant were just a few indicators from the presentations that customer experience and usability not only matter, but are at the top of the priority list.

For more Mist goodness, be sure to check out these posts:

@badger-fi – Mom’s love Mist

@rowelldionicio – Demistifying Wi-Fi Issues

@Drew_CM – Mist Enhances Machine Learning Capabilities To Improve WLAN Performance, Troubleshooting

@theitrebel – MDF Day 1 Recap

Disclaimer: While Mobility Field Day, which is sponsored by the companies that present, was very generous to invite me to the fantastic MDF3 event and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.

Published 10/7/2018

 

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Posted by on 2018/10/07 in Tech Field Day, Wireless

 

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Intro into Fortinet WLAN configuration

Simple, secure, sensible – Koroush Saraf, Fortiner VP of Product Management, emphasized these words in his recent MFD3 presentations. While any vendor can claim their products share these attributes, it’s usually the complexity of workflow that reveals the betrayal of one or all of these characteristics. Watching this Mobility Field Day demo, however, the simplicity of setting up a basic Fortinet WLAN SSID, applying security policies, and even setting up automation for quarantining an infected machine boiled down to just a few steps.

Step oneCreate your SSID.

In Fortinet world, creating an SSID creates a virtual interface.  At first, this seems like a strange construct to be involved in a WLAN setup process, but later in the process, the logic and flexibility of having this virtual interface becomes apparent.

To create your basic SSID, navigate to WiFi & Switch Controller, click on SSID, click Add New.  You can select if this SSID will be a Tunnel, Bridge, or Mesh SSID, as well as configure parameters such as IP address, DHCP server options, Default Gateway, DNS servers, etc…

Keep in mind that to avoid clutter, the GUI presents the essential and the most commonly used options for configuration. Some more advanced configuration may not be seen in the GUI but available via CLI.

Step 2: Attach or create an AP Profile.

The FortiAP Profile is where things like radio bands, transmit power, channel and channel width, etc… are configured and controlled in a manner that can be applied to multiple APs.

To create a new AP profile, navigate to WiFi & Switch Controller, and click on FortiAP Profiles, click Add New

To attach an already created AP Profile to an AP, navigate to WiFi & Switch Controller, click Managed FortiAPs, select your AP, and apply the appropriate profile to the AP. This screen is also where you would configure AP specific options that would not apply to all APs using the profile selected. Note, this assumes you have already setup your basic controller parameters so that APs can be automatically discovered.  For more information, see the documentation cited at the end of this post.

Step 3: Create interface policies.

This step brings together the SSID virtual interface created and the security policies that need to be applied to the SSID.  The virtual interface allows for the straight-forward application of security policies such as allowed/denied ports and protocols, along with UTM features and application restrictions.

For engineers that have configured Fortigate firewalls, this part of the process will feel the most familiar since it’s leverages the same process of policy creation used to create traditional firewall rules. 

Bonus step: Configuring an automation alert for compromised clients.

Now that you have your SSID and AP online, you can head over to Automation and quickly setup workflow for what should happen when the Fortigate sees a compromised host. You can see from the screen shot below that not only can the host be quarantined automagically, but an email could be sent to inform those taking the calls from the angry virus-spreading-machine owners that these machines have been blocked.Note this type of automation can apply not just to WLAN clients, it is a feature that can be used globally for all detected endpoints.

To see this demo in action, check out this MFD presentation in which Fortinet makes a compelling case for the idea that the lives of IT engineers shouldn’t be made so difficult all the time. Now if only all IT vendors thought this way…

And for even more Forti-content, check out these posts from fellow delegates:

Lee BadmanClarity and Confusion- Fortinet and Arista at Mobility Field Day 3

Scott LesterForti What

Jim PalmerA Story of Three Companies

 

 

Note: This post is based on the basic setup and topolgy given in the video presentation, for more advanced configuration information, please check out Fortinet’s documentation that can be found here. Also, Fortinet has an pretty awesome demo site here which allows you to log in and look around in pretty much any Fortinet product you’d like to see.

Disclaimer: While Mobility Field Day, which is sponsored by the companies that present, was very generous to invite me to the fantastic MDF3 event and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.

Published 9/30/2018

 
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Posted by on 2018/09/30 in Tech Field Day, Wireless

 

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Cisco Live 2018 – Geek Camp Returns

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a month since Cisco Live 2018! The amazing week at Geek Camp was filled with fantastic sessions, Tech Field Day goodness, and lots of great conversations with incredibly talented people.  Engineering Deathmatch had a great lineup, and even launched a new quiz show that was super fun to watch. I am eagerly waiting the posting of those videos. (hint, hint @samplefive).

Seeing long time friends, meeting new folks, and networking with the engineers in the trenches makes Cisco Live an extraordinary experience every year.  I am constantly impressed by a community of people willing to share, mentor, and embrace one another – figuratively and sometimes quite literally, in an effort to educate, help, and support one another in this incredible field. You all know who you are, and you all are phenomenal.

 

 
 

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Forward Networks – go ahead, break it.

When you’re tasked with planning for data center failover testing, you spend an awful lot of time reviewing configurations and scenarios, scrutinizing every detail to ensure that when the plug is pulled – both figuratively, and in some cases, literally, that all will go according to plan.  If you are someone lucky enough to have a lab environment at your job, it’s usually only a partial reconstruction of the network at best. In many cases, the luxury of a lab is simply non-existent in the workplace. I tend to exist in that latter world…

Watching Forward Networks present at Network Field Day 13, I couldn’t help but think how great this solution would be for exactly these types of scenarios.  Sure, you can plow through configurations manually and predict with some certainty that your routing is resilient. However, what if you could run through failover scenarios and network changes in advance, actually see the impacts in a lab that faithfully reconstructed your entire network?  The confidence in the DR testing plan skyrockets, and the reliance on anti-anxiety meds and lucky rabbit feet plummets.

The Forward Networks solution allows you to do just that by basically pulling all your configurations from your production gear, building your network, and then letting you break it. You could also just evaluate the network as well, if you’re not feeling particularly destructive. Forward Networks has several built in checks for elements that are commonly misconfigured, such as port channels, vlans, and port duplex settings, pretty much letting the lab network point out your previously overlooked mistakes.

You can also use Forward Networks to determine the complete path of certain traffic using their rather snazzy UI, which allows for some intuitive queries formed in human-speak, not SQL-I-don’t-know-the-right-table-name-please-just-show-me-my-data format.

Forward looking at the Forward Networks solution (see what I did there?) – I do wonder if price will be an obstacle for small to medium enterprise, as several products in this space are reassuringly expensive.*

I love that there is already a long list of vendors whose gear is supported in the product, but keeping pace with new vendors and OS versions will be a certainly be a challenge – one Forward Networks sounds excited to take on.

Definitely check out David Varnum’s post on Forward Networks as well, he goes into some detail on the company, the APIs of the product, and configuration checks Forward Networks is capable of in it’s current release. He’s also included some nice screen shots of the UI.

All of the videos from NFD13 from Forward Networks are a good watch, but if you only pick one, don’t miss the simulated outage demo.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be totally impressed by how much fun watching a pretend network failure can be.

 

 

*reassuringly expensive: a term I credit to the one and only Greg Ferro and a term that I make frequent use of in networking.

Published: 11/28/2016

Disclaimer: While Networking Field Day, which is sponsored by the companies that present, was very generous to invite me to this fantastic event and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.

 

 

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Voice Girl Goes to Storage Day

Who has two thumbs and got to attend the last Tech Field Day?  This girl!

In case you don’t know what Tech Field Day is, go here and check it out:  http://techfieldday.com/   In case you don’t care what Tech Field Day is, I suggest you stop reading or make sure you have copious amounts of alcohol handy.  Actually, that last suggestion could improve the reading of any of my posts, so feel free to get started, you have my blessing.

Now, I’m sure we’ve all had that friend who goes on a vacation and brings back 10,000 pictures and insists on narrating them all in great, painstaking detail.  Fear not – I want to smack that guy as much as you do – so I will just be hitting the highlights of this expedition in this post.

So, without further ado, awesome thing number 1: hanging out with server admins.  I know, I know, for network and/or voice guys this hardly sounds like something that would make the list of awesome- unless that list were titled Ways In Which My Day Could Awesomely Suck – but it’s true and let me tell you why.

With roles in IT becoming less and less siloed, it’s clear us folks guarding the layer 2 and 3 keys to the castle are going to have to make nice with those folks rocking the upper layer data center knowledge.  As distasteful as that may initially sound to both parties involved, we all earn huge rewards.

Think about it- do you really want that server guy vMotioning all those production boxes across your precious WAN without any clue as to the implications?  I’m certain that server guy with the ponytail doesn’t want us well-intentioned network junkies screwing with SAN infrastructure when he/she thinks we don’t even know what random IO is. Of course do we do know what it is, but not the point…

Contrary to popular sysadmin belief, we network folks are capable of reading and do in fact know what a manual looks like.  Contrary to network admin belief, server guys do know what they are doing and don’t just break crap on purpose.  Given shrinking IT budgets, device consolidation, and technology overlap, our tiny sandbox has only gotten tinier and now it looks like we’re going to have to share the dump truck and not just the buckets.  (the dump truck was always my favorite)

So awesome thing number two:  presentations! Companies solving problems I was vaguely aware existed in ways I only wish I had imaged because retirement would be nice about now.  The quality of presentations was generally high and the technical level generally deep.  Perfect combination.

Let me offer a few brief take-aways from what I saw, you can catch the presentations here http://vimeo.com/groups/techfieldday:

  • Nutanix: Putting your VMs and storage on the same devices, have them utilize the same resources.  It has a kind of eggs in one basket feel – but the basket is really nice.  Interesting implications on the necessity for SAN administrator. http://www.nutanix.com/
  • Nasuni: If you ever want tips on how to deliver a presentation, watch this one. The send-your-files-in-the-cloud-and-see-them-at-your-other-sites product was wicked cool. Matt Simmons had the product up and running during the time of the demo. Sweet. http://www.nasuni.com/
  • Symantec Storage Foundation 6.0: Least favorite presentation style. So. many. power. point. slides. Clearly this product has some significant improvements over the previous version but the demo certainly wasn’t showing off this products nice curves, so to speak. http://www.symantec.com/business/storage-foundation
  • Data Direct Web Object Scaler: large-scale cloud storage wow-ness.  Keeping track of your massive amounts of cloud data using custom filing system to store and replicate data. Demo was super neat, product super fast.   http://www.ddn.com/products/web-object-scaler-wos
  • Pure Storage- all SSD storage, forget tiering.  They wrote their own software to talk/write to SSD drives in a way that makes SSD drives very happy. In fact, drives never fail for Pure Storage, or so was said- a concept our little group of skeptics had some trouble with. Pure Storage held to their guns though and a promise was made to tweet the first drive failure. http://www.purestorage.com/
  • Arista EOS:  Command line goodness. In the demo, the guy added the XMPP package to the Linux-based software running the switch, then chatted with the switch. Totally cool. Who doesn’t want to ask a switch how it’s day is going? http://www.aristanetworks.com/
  • SolidFire- All SSD storage, optimized for providers who want to limit compute and/or storage on a per customer basis. If you are a cloud provider of storage, being able to establish very specific SLAs for customers I’m sure is extremely appealing.  http://solidfire.com/
  • Arekia- backup goodness.  Presentation went into detail on their particular brand of deduplication which provides quite a lot of benefit when backing up large amounts of data. http://www.arkeia.com/

Last but not least, awesome thing number three: Stephen Foskett and Matt Simmons are freaking fantastic!  As the organizers, they coordinated every intricate detail and then made it look easy to the rest of us.  A very special thanks to those guys for making all of this happen, wishing them happy times in therapy as they attempt to recover.

For links to all things Tech Field Day 8: http://techfieldday.com/2011/tfd8/

 
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Posted by on 2011/09/19 in Tech Field Day, Uncategorized

 

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