Monday, September 17, 2012

Ruckus at Wireless Field Day 3

Ruckus Wireless newly designed stadium antenna
Ruckus was a presenter at Wireless Field Day 3. In Steve Martin's presentation he explained how Ruckus puts their effort into redesigning the entire RF integrated circuitry of reference designed wireless silicon chips/antennas to get the lowest noise floor and have the best receive sensitivity of any access points in the wireless business. 

He says that through this redesign process, Ruckus access points/antennas will have a 3 to 6 dB better difference than their competitors. Most of this antenna redesign is done by their 25 person design team in house, most of whom reside in the US.

They take and adapt reference design, create their own versions, get the new designs fabricated then they go through extensive testing. Typically new antenna designs go through this re-design/testing process at least three times (six month + process).

Ruckus has more low level source code control access to the Atheros chip set, and as a result Ruckus has a preference in modifying Atheros reference wireless chipsets.

Manufacturing for the Ruckus product line is done in Malaysia and China, and stringent quality control is ensured by building their own manufacturing test setups. The final product testing before its shipped to the end user is done as a separate step to ensure repeatable quality of their products. Periodically they sample 10 or 20 of a given model out of finished goods, bring them back to engineering & re-run them through the engineering verification testing.

Niv Hanigal presented after Steve Martin, and he explained that Ruckus also has a large presence with Carrier/Service Providers to offload cellular connectivity to Wi-Fi. Today's fixed line carrier cable operators don't have licensed spectrum, they only have Wi-Fi as an offload option. The carriers have been  losing subscribers, experiencing more customer churn, and they needed to invest in an option to enable more features for their customers. This is how Ruckus came to provide the ability to do 802.11u offloading from a carrier to local Wi-Fi. There are two phones already certified for 802.11u but the make and model are currently unknown. The only thing we know is that it is not an iPhone. Reasons for difficulty in getting 802.11u client devices to test with are mostly around the adoption cycle of replacing devices. The lifecycle of a typical cellphone is just over two years. As part of the testbed for 802.11u, Passpoint 2.0 is trying to address online signup process difficulty and enable the operator control side for the Wi-Fi devices.

The SmartCell gateway takes the Wi-Fi connection and makes it look like any other cellular connection. The northbound connections most common are GDP ? It acts as if it is part of the cellular network.

Bill Kish CTO Ruckus Wireless then went over how Ruckus makes advancements in antenna design by adapting the degrees of freedom that the chipsets provide for them. Their antenna testing uses throughput based metrics. This is traffic that is normally generated by the access point is used for throughput modeling, the access point does not need to go off channel during this procedure. They use the 802.11h channel change notification to announce to clients that the channel has changed on the access point. Keep in mind that client devices that support/understand channel change announcements are Broadcom and Atheros chipsets.

If ChannelFly is running on multiple Ruckus access points at the same time, d
istributed optimization technique (simulated annealing) is how the group of APs do not disrupt each others' ChannelFly algorithm. There is a period of 'burn-in' where the access points may interfere with one another while the proper operating channels are being determined by the ChannelFly algorithm.

Victor Shtrom told us more about the multiple spatial stream access points Ruckus has in their porfolio. Ruckus has 3x3 and 4x4 spatial stream capable antennas for outdoor point to point links, but without multi-path you won't get multiple spatial streams out of the access points. Multi-path is almost required to actually get multiple streams. The antennas' signals must look very different from one another if you're using more than 2x2 antennas. The antennas chosen to use with an outdoor 3x3 spatial stream access point would  need to have different multi-path profiles to make full use of the spatial stream capabilities of the access point.

Ruckus was a sponsor of Wireless Field Day 3. As such, they were responsible for covering a portion of my travel and lodging expenses while attending Wireless Field Day 3. In addition, they provided me with a desk name plate made from antenna sector chips (silk screened with my name), a  ZoneDirector 1100 controller and a 7321 access point (I think that's the right model of AP - they're shipping it so I don't have it just yet). They did not ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review/analysis.  The opinions and analysis provided within are my own and any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Metageek at Wireless Field Day 3

Metageek was back at Wireless Field Day 3 to tell us about the updates they've made to their product line since the last Wireless Field Day in January 2012.

Ryan Woodings gave us the background on the Metageek story, how they got started as a company. He explained that the company used agile software and they keep track of all of the projects they're working on via their "Wall of Agility". Metageek employees have 20% of their working time allocated to working on pet projects they find personally motivating. Out of this 20% time slice, the Eye P.A. application was born. Metageek is headquartered in Boise, Idaho and they've won many awards for being an innovative company and for encouraging alternative transportation methods to work (biking/carpooling). 

inSSIDer Updates:
At the bottom of main inSSIDer page, they've put links to training and education for the people who have downloaded inSSIDer. The information shown on the main application launch screen is specifically targeted at the end user who is trying to fix their problematic wireless network. inSSIDer is available for Windows, Mac and Android. The Android phone version of inSSIDer can offer recommendations to change the channel of your access point if you use it to optimize your wireless network. inSSIDER on Android handhelds is designed to encourage the end user to use the app on the phone to calibrate/site survey the areas surrounding where the wireless issues are happening.

Metageek uses a unique method for focusing their goal directed application designs. The have created eight Personas. This is their attempt at tailoring their solutions to each customer by creating individual use case Personas. Each fictional character is an end customer of their products, and each Persona has a unique need to use a Metageek tool to solve a wireless problem. This type of focused thinking about what you're trying to accomplish as a company, and putting yourself in the head of your customers is a powerful way of staying connected to the people that want/need the tools Metageek creates.


Chanalyzer updates
You can now name sessions by rooms or floors to help you remember where you were and what you saw when you were testing. You can filter by band to just show the 2.4GHz or 5GHz networks, or you can filter by vendor name/identifier. The vendor OUI lookup table is not editable by end user, but it can be updated by contacting Ryan or Trent and sending them the new vendor OUI information. You can double click at any point in the Chanalyzer Pro stream to zoom into that segment/capture. This is called Amplitude History Navigation. The r
eport creation in Chanalyzer uses the filters you've set on your capture view when you're adding information blocks into the final report. Filters can be ANDed to show multiple SSIDs, but can't be ORed at this time. The Pro features of Chanalyzer Pro are sometimes difficult to find. For example, the save button has arrow to do non-save options to append other blocks. You can add 'devices that interfere' blocks for customer education to show the customer the RF patterns of  typical sources of interference. You can also add images to blocks to add the details about a particular access point model and you can add custom text blocks to include recommendations on how to mitigate the adverse effects of sources of interference. Report blocks also respect the segment of the timespan you have selected. Meaning, you can zoom into the problem  area in the timeline and add a specific point in the capture to the report. Reports can be exported to RTF or HTML. One caveat to Chanalyzer Pro is that concurrent scanning isn't possible just yet. Using two Wi-Spy dBx adapters is the way to gather both spectrums. The cost of purchasing two Wi-Spy dBx adapters is less expensive than a dual band Wi-Spy dBx USB adapter would ultimately cost to design and manufacture.

Eye P. A.
Eye P.A. now has filters to edit out beacons or whatever you don't want to see to tweak the visuals to focus on the data in the packet capture that you want to analyze. Eye P.A. now has a few training slides that are shown when the app is first launched. You can't use Eye P.A. to open wired captures because there aren't any control frames or management information in a wired capture. That wireless specific information in the capture is required to use Eye P.A. as a wireless protocol visualization tool. You can export Eye P.A. information to a CSV to take that data and put it into a report block in Chanalyzer Pro or you can do a screen capture to put it into a final report. Currently it isn't possible to do a remote capture to any vendor's APs, the only direct capture is to AirPcap (2x2 spatial stream card).

What's coming up
Ruthless Rye (Chandroid) 
Metageek is working on a Chanalyzer Pro application to work on Android tablets. They demonstrated the application on a Toshiba Thrive. The Toshiba Thrive has regular USB ports, whereas most lighter tablets have micro USB reports. Many times micro USB ports do not transmit enough power to the connected devices and an inline power source would be required to power the Wi-Spy dBx Pro USB tool.

inSSIDer 3 codename Strongbow
You can now identify your own network in the networks list displayed within inSSIDer. This allows you to get focused recommendations on what you should do to improve your local wireless issues. Room Level Channel Organization - this piece of inSSIDer 3 is attempting to encourage the end user to walk around to check the channels in the vicinity of the main problem area. If there is a Wi-Spy connected, it will be used in the channel quality check measurements that are calculated. Soon, there will be a report tab to receive a written recommendation report on what steps to take next. For example "Your Xbox will not function properly in this room until you move your access point to location X or you configure your access point to operate on channel Y.

It is now possible to use the Tamograph site survey tool with Wi-Spy integration. This new cross-platform interoperability allows you to perform a site survey in much the same way you would with AirMagnet Survey Pro with AirMagnet Spectrum XT integration. You can collect information on RSSI, SNR at the same time as you're collecting RF spectrum data with the Wi-Spy tool. The final survey data points will include pop-up images which display the spectrum data collected at that survey point location.

Metageek was a sponsor of Wireless Field Day 3. As such, they were responsible for covering a portion of my travel and lodging expenses while attending Wireless Field Day 3. In addition, they provided me with a USB tool bag containing copies of Chanalyzer Pro and a WiSpy dBx usb spectrum analyzer and the directional antenna used with the WiSpy dBx tool. They did not ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review/analysis.  The opinions and analysis provided within are my own and any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone.

WildPackets at Wireless Field Day #3

WildPackets presentation

Jay Botelho Director of Product Management at WildPackets presented at Wireless Field Day 3. He started out by giving us all a short history of WildPackets. They've been providing tools for protocol analysis since 1990 and began wireless analysis in 2001. They were first to market with a visual network analyzer, and were involved with the Wi-Fi alliance before there were many test labs to officially certify wireless hardware.

As of 2012, Wildpackets is the first wireless network analyzer to support 802.11ac, k r, u, v, and w. Many of the chipset vendors (Atheros, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Intel) use WildPackets during testing and WildPackets has the source code for some vendors' chipsets (Atheros for example) in order to tightly integrate the protocol analysis software with the functioning of the wireless silicon.

OmniPeek Remote Assistant (ORA) is a tool plug-in which allows non technical users to perform packet captures. ORA was developed originally for Cisco to enable field engineers to gather data without sending a highly technical resource to a remote site.

The background analysis modules of the OmniPeek application are called Experts. The Experts tools are designed to flag for signs of interference, rogues or wireless attacks that may be detected. Any of the Experts metrics have adjustable thresholds that can be tweaked to adjust when/how triggers are hit.

OmniPeek is designed for network and application analysis, multi channel analysis, remote analysis (OmniPeek Remote Assistant). There is not a Mac version yet, but OmniPeek version 7 is due to be released at the end of September 2012.

In OmniPeek, if 
access points are not broadcasting their SSIDs, the SSID information for those access points are listed with numerical names (since no SSID information is available). 

Users of OmniPeek can enable aggregators to use multiple adapters to capture simultaneously. Mixing vendor cards is possible due to their relationships/drivers with wireless card manufacturers.

Signal strength ranges reported for wireless clients to Omnipeek are the RSSI measurements gotten from the wireless clients, not from the access points.

I'm not sure if everyone is aware that VoIP calls can be captured and played back - therefore it is vital to put them in a separate vlan to keep that traffic secure and encrypted (via AES/TKIP for example). There are also registry settings in the OmniPeek application that can disable the playback of calls captured, if the person capturing the wireless traffic should not have the ability to playback and listen to VoWiFi audio.

Roaming Analysis Module: Roaming analysis is done in the background along with the regular packet capturing. Roam times look for data being sent to the last access point then to the next access point to identify roams. These times may end up being longer as a result.

Remote Analysis: remote adapters can be used with Aruba, Meru, Xirrus and Cisco currently. Remote analysis relies on the central controller or the individual ability to put an access point into sniffer mode. The packets are sent back over the local network for analysis. 

OmniPeek Remote Analysis (ORA) group creation makes a zip file for saving that has the ORA executable (250kb) with a quickstart guide (if the end user needs assistance with what to do next). Today the user needs to install the proper driver, on the roadmap is the installation of the driver with the exe. The application is a standalone executable, which doesn't install on the remote system. The specific driver for the wireless card used at the remote location will need administrator rights to install on the remote machine. The ORA executable creates a .pke file. The .pke file can then be opened in OmniPeek. ORA groups that are created can have their own public private key pair assigned, in order to have a different encryption key for sending the ORA software/hardware to different end devices/groups/users.

The MyPeek community is a robust information sharing portal for end users of the WildPackets suite of software tools. Information found on the site includes developer documentation (requires a maintenance contract), video how-tos and user forums.

OmniPeek can be used to compare traffic flows of wired and wireless captures by using the IP ids that are tagged from wireless to wired transmissions. Evaluation licensing is tied to the machine it's installed on, not the MAC address. This results in a lack of portability of the toolset since it is not licensed to the wireless USB adapter card, but instead the physical laptop the software is installed on. Moving/installing the software to other computers/laptops is limited to two occurrences.  Site licensing options are available to allow 25 copies of OmniPeek to be installed up to 100 times. If larger quantities of OmniPeek are purchased, the limits for install/moves can be customized to the organizations installation needs.

WildPackets recommends 
Atheros or Ralink chipsets in the USB adapters used to perform wireless protocol analysis.

Unfortunately there is no way to run AirMagnet tools and the OmniPeek software at the same time, due to the different wireless card drivers required by each application. There is a 'software shim' available to use the AirPcap card with OmniPeek.

I learned a lot from the WildPackets presentation at Wireless Field Day 3. I'm looking forward to using the evaluation copy of OmniPeek given to us. It has been many years since I've used their wireless protocol analysis tools.

WildPackets was a sponsor of Wireless Field Day 3.  As such, they were responsible for covering a portion of my travel and lodging expenses while attending Wireless Field Day 3. In addition, they provided me with a gift bag containing a t-shirt and a USB drive containing evaluation copies of their software. They did not ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review/analysis.  The opinions and analysis provided within are my own and any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone.