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Postmortem: Assessing the Wireless Network at Interop

Xirrus has no qualms about beating its own drum, but it has good reason to do so. Its unique WLAN array is a perfect fit for temporary setups like conventions and conference halls, packing in many more radios into one unit than others do, which reduces AP counts and cable runs, plus spans twice the distance. Although the Network Computing staff at Interop had poor coverage in our private room due to a reshuffling of gear, thousands of other attendees successfully used the service. According to Xirrus, average throughput (sum of transmit and receive) per client was around 35 Kbps, dipping as low at 20 Kbps during off hours but peaking as high as 90 Kbps. Attendees we spoke to had some complaints, but Xirrus pointed out that there were several longer outages in back-end network services that had nothing to do with the ability of clients to associate to the wireless network. Xirrus also said it didn't receive one trouble ticket during the entire event, but we're pretty sure that most attendees understand the challenges of working with co-channel interference and such a larger mass of wireless users. On the security front, one wireless IDS/IPS vendor personally demonstrated that due to the lack of wireless client isolation, it was able to identify live clients and therefore spoof ARP traffic, which redirected all the clients' flows through its laptop. Hopefully attendees were prudent enough to at least encrypt their Layer 3 traffic, but perhaps Interop will offer 802.1X support at future events.
Frank Bulk
NWC Contributing Editor

Think your enterprise wireless environment is demanding? The wireless network for the recent Interop 2007 show in Las Vegas needed to serve 20,000 attendees across 1 million square feet. Vendor Xirrus provided the network--using 12 Wi-Fi arrays and delivering 9.7 Gbps of total Wi-Fi bandwidth to serve a maximum of 550 concurrent users with data, voice and video service.

According to Xirrus, the show's Wi-Fi network included 44 Polycom voice-over-Wi-Fi phones; 20 DiVitas mobile-to-mobile convergence phones; 18 video-surveillance cameras; and 820 access points or ad hoc connections connecting to the backbone wireless network.

"Providing Wi-Fi telephony for InteropNet was an exciting challenge considering the number of wireless LANs in operation, the huge coverage area and density of users," said Geri Mitchell-Brown, Polycom's director of technical business development, in a statement. "Together with Xirrus and in one of our most hostile wireless deployments to date, we were able to provide high-quality mobile voice on our SpectraLink 8000 Series Wireless Telephones."

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