Tuesday, May 18, 2010

CCNA Wireless Official Exam Certification Guide IUWNE 640-721 [Brandon Carroll]

I received this book a couple of months ago, and couldn't devote much time to reading through it when I originally received it, but I sat down with it this evening & made some notes..

First off, I wish I'd had a book like this back in 2005 when I was first implementing Cisco's controller based unified wireless architecture.  I had to read deployment guides and release notes and piece together the information that is neatly contained in this book.

Chapers 1- 9 [Wireless LAN Fundamentals]

  • This section covers everything from the basic WLAN concepts, principles of RF, antennas, 802.11 protocols, AP discovery methods, and how packets are delivered from the wireless to the wired networks
    • The graphics used to show influences on wireless transmissions are very helpful to visualize the affect that different sources of 'interference' have on the RF signals
    • The antenna types section is very thorough and gives good examples of common antennas chosen for wireless deployments, as well as all the extra antenna connectors and hardware that might be required for outdoor deployments.
    • The diagrams of client communications [Fig 7-9 through Fig 7-18] are extremely helpful to visualize the flow of information from a client station through the WLAN and back again.
    • The section covering other wireless technologies is also very thorough in describing how a ZigBee WPAN operates.  ZigBee technology is often overlooked in discussions of wireless LANs, as are DECT phones and WiMAX, and it is good to see these technologies represented even if they are not a major part of the IUWNE exam.
Chapters 10 - 16 [Cisco Wireless LANs]

  • This section covers Cisco WLAN Architecture, controller discovery and association methods, client roaming, SNMP, migrating aIOS {autonomous APs} to LWAPP, the Cisco Mobility Express line of APs/controllers and wireless clients.
    • As Cisco's WLAN Architecture line is always evolving - the best place to read about Cisco's offerings is of course Cisco's website, but this section covers the basics of the access points and controllers that were available when this book was initially published (2009).  Since then Cisco has released the 1140, 3500, and 1520 series access points, along with the 5500 series controllers
    • The step by step process (Ch. 11) of how an AP joins a controller is always helpful when trying to pinpoint where in the join process the communication is breaking down between an AP and a controller.
    • Layer 2/Layer 3 Roaming is described in detail in Chapter 12, along with helpful visual aides to further diagram the roaming characteristics of each type of client roam method.
    • Migrating APs from IOS to LWAPP - this is something that we all do again and again - either the wrong AP SKU was ordered, you're performing a network migration - or are just testing/troubleshooting either IOS or LWAPP functionality - the upgrade process is defined in simple terms with visuals from the upgrade tools.
    • The only time I've personally seen the Cisco Mobility Express line of hardware was when I was assisting with beta testing back in '07 - but they serve a purpose for business cases where the scalability of the other lines of Cisco hardware is not necessary.  It is good to see this hardware covered in depth in this section, as most of us won't see this gear in person.
    • Wireless Clients - great screen captures of configuring Windows, Mac and Linux wireless clients with common wireless NICs, including how to configure the Cisco ADU, ACAU, and the Secure Services Client.
Chapters 17 - 20 (WLAN Maintenance and Administration)

  • These chapters cover securing the WLAN, enterprise management, maintaining & troubleshooting WLANs
    • This first chapter (Ch 17) is a good primer on WLAN attacks, WLAN security methods, and has nice diagrams showing the authentication/authorization information flow between the client, authenticator and authentication servers.
    • WCS is covered in depth in chapter 18, and this section is very helpful in describing the uses for WCS - management, reporting, auditing configurations, simulating wireless coverage and generating proposals based on RF simulations.
    • The troubleshooting section will be a good reference section for any wireless engineer - the most common debug commands are listed along with descriptions of the data generated by each of them, as well as defining common client-side issues.
Now although I have not used this book to study for or take the IUWNE exam 640-721, this book still serves as a reference guide for anyone just beginning to learn about the world of Cisco wireless LANs and Cisco wireless hardware (APs/controllers/WCS).  The information is presented in clear terms along with helpful visuals to reinforce the topics covered.  Brandon Carroll has done a wonderful job of covering a lot of very technical information without taking a deep-dive into the nuts and bolts of each of the topics covered.   This book is a primer for the next stage of reading materials (yet to be published) for the CCNP wireless track.  It is easier to begin to understand wireless networking through repeated layers of information.  This book is an excellent starting place for Cisco network engineers new to the line of Cisco wireless hardware, or the fundamentals behind the technology from Cisco's perspective.

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