We’re continuing to integrate new tools into dashboard, and we recently added additional live information for each AP: real-time channel utilization graphs. With live channel utilization views you can get an immediate clue into the load on the AP and RF interference, without having to go into full spectrum analysis view (though that’s also right in the dashboard, too).
Live Channel Utilization
When you click on the details of an AP, you’ll see a graph of channel utilization. Dual-band APs will show two graphs, one for 2.4 GHz and one for 5 GHz. The graphs show the utilization of each Wi-Fi channel used by the AP and the amount of non-802.11 interference present on the channel. The above graph was made simply using screenshots of the access point details page in dashboard. The real update rate is once every five seconds, but for clarity the update rate shown here is once every second.
Have you seen the other real-time tools available in dashboard? Use these to troubleshoot connectivity issues, ping APs and clients, run a spectrum analysis test…all without leaving your desk, right from your browser.
Live spectrum analysis
Yes, you can run a spectrum analysis test right from within dashboard! And if you’re using dashboard from a mobile device, such as an iPad, this works from there, too.
Live ping AP tool
Ping AP lets you measure the round-trip time for packets sent from the Meraki Cloud Controller to the access point, and is a very easy way to verify connectivity and latency between them.
Live throughput to meraki.com
This tool runs a speed test between the AP and the Meraki Cloud Controller or the gateway AP.
Have you used these tools when monitoring and managing your network? Let us know if you have any feedback on it.
Part 1 of this series covered technical challenges, operational challenges, and design recommendations. Part 2 of the series covered network configuration recommendations. This final part will cover tips for the event and real-world results.
Designing your network properly and choosing the right settings will go a long way towards a successful wireless deployment at a large event. So what to do when the event finally arrives? Don’t wait to see if your wireless fails – be proactive! Here are some tips:
Since there is often significant uncertainty about how many clients will appear and how heavily they will use the network, start with conservative settings and ease them up as the event progresses. For example, start with a 100 kbit/s per-client bandwidth limit, and later raise it to 200 kbit/s.
Monitor the network
The Meraki Cloud Controller shows a real-time view of the network’s performance. Keep a close eye on the network as clients begin to show up and be ready to react. Careful monitoring will give you the confidence to know whether a reported problem is a real problem or a client-specific issue. Inevitably someone will tweet that the Wi-Fi isn’t working, but if monitoring of the network shows it is working for 700 people, it is very likely this person is having a client-specific problem.
You can use real-time tools to check how many clients are connected to a given AP, monitor interference conditions, or get a reading on channel utilization. Below is a screenshot of the real-time channel utilization for a Meraki AP:
Figure 1: real-time channel utilization for an AP
Walk around and try the network
Go out on the floor and run a speed test at certain intervals, for example, every hour. It’s possible to find issues before users notice them.
Communicate with users
Consider using Twitter or another mass communication tool. To some extent, if users are having problems, knowing that someone cares will help. Also, by delivering reports on the network, it’s possible to avoid getting into a situation where one person’s bad experience leads to a general perception that the network wasn’t performing as well as it actually was.
Assess the situation at the end of each day
If the event spans multiple days, get a summary of the network’s performance at the end of the day so you can see if adjustments need to be made for the next days. The Meraki dashboard network summary will show you who used the most bandwidth, which APs supported the most users, which APs transferred the most bandwidth, which applications were most used, and the most popular device operating systems and manufacturers. For example, you can use this information to see if you need to add extra APs, throttle specific applications, or take specific action with a user’s device. This is an example of part of the summary report for one day, showing top APs by usage:
Figure 2: Summary of top APs by usage over one day
Real-world results: LeWeb Conference
Meraki provided the Wi-Fi infrastructure that BT used at LeWeb in 2009 and 2010. The Wi-Fi at LeWeb supported thousands of devices that pushed hundreds of gigabytes of data over the air. The deployment environment was challenging as there were often many users in a large, open space. This is a photo of the attendees in the main plenary area.
Figure 3: LeWeb attendees
This screenshot shows the floorplan of the event with deployed AP locations and clients connected to each AP.
Figure 4: LeWeb AP placement and client load
Not only were thousands of devices supported, but those devices were able to access the network efficiently. Users even collectively consumed a peak of over 350 Mbit/s of streaming video bandwidth! If you’re interested in more details about the LeWeb conference, check out the case study.
This wraps up the final installation of this 3-part series on successfully deploying Wi-Fi at large events. We hope you use these tips at your next event, and if you do, give us a shout and let us know.
Today is an exciting day for cloud networking and for Meraki customers. We’re thrilled to announce a new router and a suite of enhanced security features for wireless and wired networks:
A brand new member of the MX Cloud Managed Router family, the MX60.
A suite of new features that enhance network security and account protection
99.99% uptime SLA
Third-party audits of Meraki’s cloud networking service
Our new router, the MX60, is the industry’s only small branch router and firewall with out-of-the-box centralized management. With fully integrated networking and firewall services, the MX60 provides 50 percent savings over traditional branch solutions. The MX60 allows organizations to:
Manage distributed branches through cloud-based centralized management, monitoring, and tools
Secure their branch networks using complete firewall services, content filtering, and antivirus/antiphishing
Improve network performance through Layer 7 Application Traffic Shaping (e.g. block Bit Torrent, prioritize VoIP) and user fingerprinting, without the hassle of host and port management
Replace MPLS with cost effective, self-configuring site-to-site VPN
Save over 50 percent by eliminating point solutions (firewall, traffic shaper, content filter)
It’s really easy on the eyes, too, with a form factor that is ideal for small branches that need networking and security features without the bulk of racks of hardware. Have a look:
New security tools, SLA, and third party audits
In addition to the MX60 router, we’re also releasing new enhancements that benefit both wired and wireless networks. These increase security and provide even greater dependability for security-conscious customers. We’re now adding:
Two factor authentication that protects accounts even if a customer’s login is compromised, for example through a stolen password or if someone writes down a password and leaves it visible to others
Change management tools that enable audits, alerts, delegation and control of privileges with fine-grained role based administration
99.99 percent SLA, guaranteeing availability of Meraki’s cloud service, with customers’ data replicated in real time across three independent datacenters
Independent security audits that validate infrastructure security, with daily penetration tests and certifications from trusted third parties including McAfee.
To make security and reliability information easy to find, we’ve created a new section on our website: meraki.com/trust. Here you’ll find a new centralized repository for security and reliability information about Meraki’s cloud service, as well as information on the new tools and services we’re announcing today. Cloud networking has never been as easy, secure, and reliable as it is today. And if you go over and look at meraki.com, you’ll also see a completely enhanced and revamped website to go along with our new products and enhancements.
The previous post in this 3-part series covered technical challenges, operational challenges, and design recommendations. This part will cover network configuration recommendations. Part 3 covers tips for the event and real-world results.
These are more practical tips for the network, this time focusing on specific network configurations and settings we’ve found to be helpful in large event scenarios.
Enable bandwidth limits
This is probably the most important single consideration. If bandwidth limits are not enabled, a small number of clients can quickly saturate a channel. For most events, a per-client limit of 100-200 kbit/s is appropriate, and this will provide a snappy web browsing experience, reasonably fast email, and usable video. Higher limits (1-2 Mbit/s) will, of course, enable higher-bandwidth applications. However, this will require that there is enough local and wide area bandwidth available to support all users at this limit.
One simple and effective strategy is to start with low limits and, if no problems are encountered, then gradually increase the limit. It’s very easy to change the limit using the dashboard:
Figure 1: Per-client bandwidth limit
Make sure to disable SpeedBurst. SpeedBurst allows users to temporarily exceed the bandwidth limit for short periods while still keeping them under the bandwidth limit over time. For large events with many users, this is undesirable.
Shape application traffic
Consider blocking applications that might be considered abusive, such as file-sharing software. Also consider rate-limiting applications that may consume large amounts of bandwidth, or those that do so automatically or perhaps with little notice from the user, such as automatic backup software. For example, @cramforce recently noted: “One person at JSConf uploaded 9.6 GB in the first 30 minutes of the conference.” — Ouch! Using Meraki’s layer 7 application traffic shaping, you don’t have to worry about protocols, ports, or IP addresses. That goes for the end-user and the application as well.
Centralized DHCP servers often fail or become slow when hundreds or thousands of clients request an IP address in a short time. Imagine all those conference attendees attempting to join the network at the same time. Painful! We strongly recommend enabling Meraki NAT, which spreads the DHCP load among all the APs.
Limit splash page size
We recommend limiting the size of the splash page, if you use one. This reduces congestion during a time at which many clients are accessing the network for the first time. 10-50 KB is a reasonable target.
Enable auto channel assignment
Auto channel assignment allows the Meraki Cloud Controller to assign channels to Meraki APs in the network using RF information that the APs constantly send up to the Cloud Controller. Unlike traditional wireless solutions, in which channel assignment decisions are made by each AP in a localized manner, the Meraki Cloud Controller ensures that channel assignments make sense locally as well as globally, relative to the rest of the network.
Enable channel spreading
Channel spreading enables Meraki APs in the same vicinity (e.g. in the same auditorium) to broadcast on different channels so that channel utilization on each channel is minimized. This maximizes throughput and minimizes interference in the network. The Meraki Cloud Controller automatically assigns channels to achieve channel spreading.
Enable band steering
Band steering forces 5 GHz-capable wireless devices (e.g. most 802.11n clients) to migrate away from the 2.4 GHz band. This opens up radio spectrum for legacy wireless devices (e.g. 802.11b/g clients). This is highly beneficial since there are many more 5 GHz channels than 2.4 GHz channels.
Reduce AP transmit power
Reduced transmit power reduces the range of the AP, such that a user associates only with the nearest AP in a room containing multiple APs. This helps distribute the users across the APs deployed in a single physical space.
Set 5 GHz channel width to 20 MHz instead of 40 MHz
Normally, the 5 GHz band is used to support higher-bandwidth applications and users. In this case, this configuration allows for a greater number of individual channels, which is usually desired in a high-density setup. This change is only applied to 5 GHz radios since 2.4 GHz radios already use 20 MHz channels by default.
The Meraki Cloud Controller will automatically select the right channels to use for each AP based on channel spreading, interference, and other factors. You can use the channel planning report to view how the channels are occupied.
Figure 3: Channel planning report
Use static IP addresses on APs
This setting reduces the APs’ dependency on an upstream DHCP server.
Disable legacy 802.11b rates
Slow rates (e.g. 1 or 2 Mbit/s) can enable a small number of clients to consume a disproportionate amount of “airtime.”
Proactively configuring these settings will go a long way towards ensuring your wireless network is prepared to handle the most demanding users and applications. Then, during the event, time can be spent troubleshooting specific issues as they arise, instead of trying to find the optimal network configuration settings on-the-fly. Don’t miss part 3 of this series – tips for the event and real-world results.