Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Are You There RingMaster? It's Me Juniper. #WFD3 #Trapeze

Wireless Field Day #3 also visited Juniper to hear about their advancements since the Trapeze acquisition in 2010. The group of Juniper representatives were Tina Herrera, Bruce Alexander, Phal Nanda and Tim McCarthy.

Bruce Alexander has been in Wi-Fi since wireless began, and he gave us the overview on Juniper WLAN Architecture, describing the Local and Central Switching design of Juniper's wireless gear. He says that when you locally switch and have 802.11ac access points that you don't have to replace your controllers because the data doesn't hit the controller.

Juniper's wireless design uses virtualized controller clustering (resilient, non-stop enterprise connectivity). Their spectrum analysis is done with the standard access points and they can support scanning the spectrum and supporting clients through software licensing. The list price cost for an AP supporting spectrum analysis is $105 per access point, and you can move licenses in an ad-hoc fashion among the access points you've got deployed to support troubleshooting efforts.

Access point lineup WLA321 - single radio 802.11n 2X2
WLA322 - dual radio 802.11n 2X2
WLA522 - dual radio 2X2 MIMO 
WLA532 - dual radio 3X3 MIMO Maximum Performance
WLA621 - dual radio outdoors 3X3 heated NEMA enclosure

Controller lineup WLC2 - 4 (hardware licensed)
WLC8 - 12 (hardware licensed)
WLC800 - 16 - 128 (software licensed)
WLC880 - 16 - 256 (software licensed) remote AP with encryption to remote AP and IPV6
WLC2800 - 64 - 512 (software licensed) has 10GB interfaces

Juniper's Wireless LAN Management RingMaster Tool Suite (WLM-RMTS) is software if your'e managing up to 1000 access points and it is hardware if your'e managing 250 access points to 5,000 access points.

SmartPass allows for self provisioning of client devices, guest access and radius accounting. Juniper's centralized management allows for up to 32 controllers and 16,000 access points. It allows for continued service without rebooting the controller when the controller software is updated.

Jay Pochop (leads the hardware design team) did a fantastic job of taking us through the different Juniper access point and antenna designs, explaining they use Qualcomm chipsets and their goal is to be the best performing access point in that hardware category. Their two main points of focus are on the RF amplification and the antenna design.

Jay opened up the WLA532 and told us how the antennas are different from one another in the access point. The nulls in the antennas line up with the lobes from the other antennas in order to not have overlapping nulls. Juniper went one step further and tuned every antenna in the access point individually. If the two signals are polarized differently, 15-30db of isolation between two signals that are polarized differently. The horizontal polarity of the access points antenna is 66% and 33% are vertical in the six antenna layout. Juniper spent a long time to develop short vertically polarized antennas for their AP, then they optimized the 5GHz gain relative to the 2.4GHz antenna to be 7dBi on the 5GHz side and 3.5dBi on the 2.4GHz radio. 

Juniper deviated from the original reference design to get higher efficiency on the 2.4GHz radio. They use discreet power amplifiers to achieve higher receive gain on the antennas and have the same receive sensitivity. Juniper's hardware manufacturing return rate targets are .1 percent per year. They've shipped 10k APs out and haven't gotten any back yet due to hardware problems.
The installation brackets for Trapeze access points are easily moved and installed plastic brackets. Installation times are quoted as a 60 second install per AP once cabling is in and installed. The Trapeze plenum mount kit mounts access points directly above suspended ceiling metal (possibly not such a good idea due to the metal grid-work being directly under the access point).

The Trapeze access point naming convention is
300 performance level
500 performance level
600 outdoor

The 2nd number is the number of spatial streams, and the third number is the number of radios.

The Trapeze access points draw very little inline power, the overall power consumption for the 532 is less than 10w for a fully powered access point.

Bruce Alexander then demonstrated the automatic client load balancing and band steering capable with the Juniper controllers. He described Primary Seed and Secondary Seed controllers (the connectivity is much like stacked switches). When joining access points to controllers, you can mix types of access points on controllers and you don't have to assign primary secondary or tertiary controllers. The primary/secondary assignment happens automatically and the access points don't have to be in the same subnet.

If your access points are configured for local switching, if controller fails - calls or videos will continue, if not locally switching the roam is 300ms or less.

High availability licensing for controllers, each can be licensed for 128 APs and the other controller in the cluster can take those APs providing there's enough overhead on the controller to take the APs. Only license what you need, but you'd still need to have extra licenses on each controller.

Code upgrade on controllers can be done without reloading the controllers. The code on the APs are done to ones that are not serving clients, the other APs will have their power turned down to force clients to roam then the AP code will be upgraded.
You can schedule the whole upgrade cycle from RingMaster for a given time, you can't piecemeal the upgrade to just do the controllers and then the APs later.

Each client maintains two connections to two controllers so when the controller drops a few video artifacts will be seen, but the video call does not drop.

TIm McCarthy demonstrated RingMaster (version 8.0) as an RF planning tool to do predictive site surveys. RingMaster can understand wall properties as defined within AutoCad, it can place the APs, set the channels in a multi-floor planning mode.

Some of the features of RingMaster are:

  • Push configurations to controllers
  • Monitoring/reporting of users by user, radio, AP, WLC, SSID
  • 30 day history
  • WIDS/WIPS integration
  • Location aware
  • Search by location
  • Roaming history
  • Geo Fencing

The list pricing for RingMaster starts at $895 and the licensing is variable per number of APs.
You can model sources of interference into your predictive planning, and it's a Java based application, no web UI at this time.

Tim McCarthy then demonstrated Guest access and BYOD with the Trapeze SmartPass (stand alone application) solution. Smart pass is capable of guest provisioning, BYOD, self registration, the end user's credentials are sent via SMS. SmartPass integrates with SMS providers like Clickatel. SmartPass comes licensed to support 50 user accounts for $1400 list price. If you have setup a policy to block YouTube, the video feed doesn't show, but you do see the "spinny circle of death". 

My takeaway from Juniper's presentation on where they are now with Trapeze: From what I can tell, they've done a lot of work with the antennas of their access point line, but the UI for the RingMaster is still Java based. Back in 2004 I did a bake-off between Cisco and Trapeze for the hospital where I was working. Even then I hated the Java interface for managing Trapeze access points. I avoid Java UIs at all costs because Java has wronged me far too many times to trust it again. I thought Jay Pochop did a great job explaining the hardware advancements Juniper has made since the Trapeze acquisition. He was very informative about all aspects of their antenna design and where Juniper tweaked the reference standard specifications. I have not personally run into a Trapeze deployment in recent years, so I cannot speak to the functionality of new Trapeze access points or the RingMaster management platform. It was interesting to get a refresher on the current state of Trapeze Networks now that they're part of Juniper.

Juniper 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 Juniper t-shirt. 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.


  1. Hi Jennifer

    I have worked a lot on Java based UI and management applications. I am curious to know how did Java UI wronged you? Was it the language itself or how it was used to build a management app?

  2. Hi Sriram, I've had problems with Java specifically with Cisco Works and the old Cisco Wireless Lan Solution Engine (WLSE). Each required a specific version of Java, and they were not compatible with each other. Meaning, I had to pick which I would connect to, otherwise I'd be uninstalling and reinstalling the Java version all the time.

    The other problem I had with Java was in the WLSE, there was a bug where the Java portion controlling kicking off configured jobs in the WLSE would just stop working. The only way to fix the WLSE box was to rebuild the whole thing from the installation CDs. That happened to me twice while I was managing a large wireless install and I absolutely needed the scheduled jobs to work. I was using the WLSE to upgrade the code on hundreds of access points in preparation for migrating them to lightweight.

    That's why I try to avoid Java at all costs. I didn't put all that in the blog post simply because it was tangential and not related to the WFD3 content. :-)

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  5. We have 532's with a wlc2 for about 100 clients and its terrible. It's great they can explain the tech and make it sound good but practically speaking the system isn't as good as even consumer level wireless.