03 March 2010

The Lessons of Wi-Fi #10: A Bad Tool Will Never Find A Good Network

You need a new Wi-Fi network for your school. The legacy system is a patchwork of consumer Wi-Fi gear and just can't handle your multi-media, throughput, and security requirements. Moreover the old network is a bear to manage because it doesn't provide any diagnostic information about the cause of increasingly frequent network outages.

One of the vendors you call in gives you a nifty sales pitch about their newfangled access points and even throws in a free network survey. When you ask about network management the sales person says they have a system that automatically discovers, configures, and monitors the whole wireless network, and can scale from single sites to cover the whole school district.

"But what
if a problem originates in the wired network or in a mobile device? Or I want to manage the wired switches? How do I handle those scenarios?" you ask. All you draw in return is a blank stare.

The Lessons of Wi-Fi #10: to paraphrase a late13th century French proverb, mauvés hostill ne trovera ja bon network - a bad tool will never find a good network. Network management is really about optimizing operations management, about how to keep a network running 99.9999% of the time. Configuration and monitoring are only small pieces of the work that needs to be done.

Physicians train for hundreds and hundreds of hours to properly handle emergencies. Why? Because patients rarely die waiting for routine check-ups. It's in an emergency - when the stakes are high and time is very short - when they must prove their mettle. The same is true for network management tools.

Wireless networks don't work in isolation. Their operation depends on a wired core, closet switches, cabling, and the mobile devices with which they're associated. A fault could happen anywhere along this chain but "look" like it originated in the Wi-Fi network because that's where the problem first surfaced. A monitoring and diagnostics tool that only looks at the operation of the wireless network will stumble badly in this situation. And the consequence? Classes come to a halt, business stops, patients wait. Pretty bad.

Aruba's AirWave 7 tool is different. It's an operations solution that integrates the management of wireless networks, wired infrastructure, and client devices into a single interface. AirWave 7 provides a single point of visibility and control for the entire network edge, including wired and wireless infrastructure as well as individual client devices. In so doing, AirWave 7 reduces the cost and complexity of network management, while improving service quality for users.

A Mobile Device Management module gives IT managers control over mobile client devices from the same intuitive console they use to manage the network infrastructure. From a single console managers can supervise mobile devices, access points, controllers, and wired edge switches, including vital performance data, port utilization statistics and error data. By integrating monitoring of the wired and wireless infrastructure, the software facilitates faster and more accurate root-cause analysis.

And AirWave 7 is a multi-vendor tool.
It works with Cisco and HP switches, among others, and supports wireless LANs made by more than 15 vendors, including Aruba, Cisco, HP, and Motorola. You're only out of luck if you own non-standard products or products from small niche vendors.

If you'd like to get the whole picture on network management you've only to visit the AirWave product site to see what real operations management can do for you. And leave it to someone else to relearn the lessons of Wi-Fi.