Wireless 11n net becomes a high-bandwidth way of life

An American university has 720 access points supporting 3,000 users on its high-throughput wireless LAN

"Is the difference enough to justify upgrading to early 802.3at power injectors, or do we wait for the regular switch upgrades [to add 802.3at]?" he asks. He doesn't have an answer for that yet.

Meru's E(z)RF Network Manager application lets the IT staff remotely manage, configure, and troubleshoot the entire WLAN. The application was only recently released with the various updates needed for the 11n access points. MSC's Matt Barber can see WLAN health and statistical information in charts and graphs for the entire network or for each controller with its associated access points, drilling down for details. This "dashboard" for each controller also can be accessed via a Web interface from anywhere in the network.

E(z) RF NM can be set up to trigger alerts when, for example, an access point shuts down. But at this stage, Barber says he has done little with that feature. Security or other updates can be applied to all controllers and access points centrally, instead of individually. Barber can select from a wide range of reports on network-wide trends or the performance of specific access points, based on data saved and aggregated by the application. Graphs can show the rise and fall of network traffic over a 24-hour period, or the busiest access points by number of client associations, for example.

Barber is still experimenting with these capabilities. "We use E(z) RF to get a snapshot of the moment, and we can see signal strength 'heat maps,'" he says.

His chief complaint with the software is that it's not easily customizable. "When I open E(z)RF, there are certain things that I want to see," he says. "When I open it today, there are some graphs [on the dashboard] that I want to see, and others that I don't need to see or don't want to. I want to be able to change my views, or change the time periods or change the colors."

The MSC IT staff came up with a naming convention for the access points: the displayed device "name" includes the MSC building code where it's located, the number of the nearest classroom or office, and the unique access point number. The system helps IT staff quickly narrow down the location of the device.

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John Cox

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