Aruba wants you to stop buying the AP-134 and AP-135. Offers no alternative.

Every once and a while, I stumble across articles that make no sense, are poorly worded or constructed, or flat out wrong. Last week, I ran across one such article that was so out of left field that I felt compelled to address it directly here in my own words. The article is over on the Aruba Networks official blog site (presuming it’s still up). Take a moment, head on over and give it a read (article preserved here for posterity). I was so flabbergasted by the article and its combination of FUD and flat out incorrect information that I used the ‘leave a comment’ link on the bottom. Once I did that, it dawned on me that my comments would likely never get posted – I then realized that I have my own forum to respond to this in, so the next portion of this blog post is the comments I left (with a few typographical and edits to make it flow):

Begin reply post

Wow – there is so much FUD in this article, it’s laughable.

Regarding the 1252 comment:

Remember the Cisco 1250 access point? This pre-standard AP offered future-proofing with an upgradable 802.11n radio meeting the ratified standard. It didn’t work out as it was costly and difficult to upgrade, and didn’t meet the promised performance benefits. 

This is flat out untrue. It ‘didn’t work out’ because it didn’t *need* to work out. The 802.11n pre standard was rolled into the final 802.11n spec. This (upgradability) was only there to ensure users that, in the event the specification was not implementable in the 1252 hardware, that they had an option to field upgrade the units. The performance was on par with other first generation 802.11n products and the 1252 was the wifi alliance test bed for compatibility – it was basically *the* reference 802.11n platform for a very long time.

Difficult to deploy: The 3600 11ac module must plug into the base of the access point, exactly where the mounting brackets are located. This means users will need to remove a deployed AP from operation. This is not a simple plug-in but more akin to opening your laptop for a RAM upgrade. 

Have you actually *seen* the 802.11ac module or a 3600? There is a piece of tape on the back of the AP and two thumb screws. This is more like replacing the battery in your laptop instead of opening it up for a RAM upgrade. This upgrade also will not compromise the thermal venting that is required in lesser manufactures Access Points since the main unit remains sealed.

Lack of promised performance: The IEEE 802.11ac standard promises increased performance over 11n technologies, but the 3600 11ac module’s throughput is dependent on its two-year old processor and RAM, which only scales to 11n rates. This means that although you will be able to connect with newer 11ac clients, there will be questionable increase in performance by doing so. Why spend money for increased performance when you won’t notice it? 

Really? You’ve done performance testing to empirically validate your claims? No? I didn’t think so. Cisco knew well in advance that 802.11ac was coming and the CPU and memory in the 3600 is significantly greater than in the 3500 – specifically for this reason. Until you can show us numbers to back up your vapor-stats you have no evidence that the CPU/memory subsystems of the AP will hinder its performance.

Constrained RF: The 3600 11ac module has its own antennas, and since Wi-Fi rates depend a great deal on antenna design, shoe-horning antennas into the small space of the module will yield less than optimal performance to clients. The result will be your 11ac clients will connect to stronger RF signals from 11n radios. 

Have you discussed the RF design characteristics of this module? Do you know how it will integrate with, instead of replace or work against, the (integrated) 802.11n radio? You assume this will be a discreet radio operating independently of the 802.11n radio. Don’t assume – know. Once you can declare the design is somehow faulty and back it up with block diagrams from Cisco on how the module will (or won’t) interoperate with the host AP, you’re basically guessing and spreading FUD.

Inconsistent feature set: The 3600 11ac module will use a new, untried chipset that may be incompatible with existing Cisco WLAN controller code. So if you add the 11ac module, you have the same hardware, but different features. That will lead to a management challenges and increased operational expense. 

The mindset of ‘don’t move because it’s a new chipset’ or ‘it may require new code’ is a completely invalid conversation. When Aruba releases its 802.11ac AP don’t you expect it to be a) a new chipset or b) to require new code? This is going to happen for every infrastructure manufacturer – Aruba included.

More upgrades coming: The 3600 AP itself requires you have the latest 5500 series or WiSM2 controllers as well as NCS management. So if you have older 2400, 4000, WiSM or WCS, it is that time to write your Cisco tax check again. Make it out to, “Cisco Catalog of Compromise”. And consider this- the 3600 11ac module is pre- standard and will not meet promised performance increases, so you will likely be replacing those 3600 APs at some point in the near future. 

You position the requirements for the 3600 as having a very narrow list of supported controllers (which is misleading) – it is also supported on the 7500 controller, the 2504 controller and the SRE controller. Are you telling me that every modern Aruba AP is supported on every past Aruba controller? At some point you have to lifecycle manage your gear – even Aruba. I don’t even know what a 2400 is.

All told, the expectation of having a Cisco 3600 AP + module will a) give you better performance today with 3 spatial streams and the cost of the module plus the 3600 will be far less expensive than purchasing an Aruba 3 SS AP today and replacing it with an Aruba 802.11ac AP tomorrow. There is no upgrade assurance with the Aruba. The message is loud and clear – if you’re an Aruba customer, do *not* purchase the AP-135. You will end up needing to forklift it out when you move to 802.11ac next year. Buy a Cisco 3600 + 802.11ac module and you’ll have spent far less money than buying two Aruba Access Points (1 now, 1 later).

-Sam

End reply post

Now, I realize it’s laughable to infer that Aruba is advocating you not purchasing their flagship Access Points and it’s a leap assume that since Aruba has no upgrade investment protection that this means that you should stick with your old Aruba equipment, but this leap is a small step – more akin to jumping off of the bottom step of your stairs to the ground floor. The leaps that Aruba makes regarding 802.11ac and the module from Cisco are more akin to Arubas entire executive team finding the tallest building in San Jose and jumping off it all the while waving their fists in the general direction of Tasman Drive. Shame on Aruba for not fact checking their article. Shame on Aruba for spreading FUD. Shame on Aruba for picking a fight with baseless facts and accusations – declaring facts about a product that they’ve not even laid hands on.

-Sam

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3 Responses to Aruba wants you to stop buying the AP-134 and AP-135. Offers no alternative.

  1. Stewart says:

    Well said Sam!.

    Stew

  2. Hey Sam,

    It is @ozwifi here. It is not uncommon that we get on each other’s nerves in the Wi-Fi industry and by the tone of your reply I am guessing that’s exactly what we did. But you gotta admit, there are no personal attacks in the blog entry since it is delivering an educated technical opinion. Poking fun at Aruba’s #1 competitor in the WLAN space with a bit of humour. You have to meet with the author, Scott, during the next WFD – he is not that bad of a person as you might think. So there is really not much to be ashamed of since we are not proposing the kidnapping of new born puppies.

    Before we talk tech – please leave your comments on our website. First we do not have many people leaving comments, so we can use some. Second we are not that evil – look at our YouTube channel… anyone can say whatever they want. Unless it is personal attacks of course, cause that’s just not cool.

    Alright, let’s talk tech.

    Here is where Aruba stands:
    1. We believe that dedicated AP hardware is going to provide the best coverage & capacity. Best antenna choices, speeds & feeds optimized for 11ac. If it was such a great thing to install modules on an AP in terms of either of these two, many WLAN vendors including us would have jumped on the bandwagon.
    2. Since we are a WLAN company, you will not be too far off in assuming that we will an 11ac AP available down the road. That’s a given. I cannot tell you when, what, how since the info is still very much confidential and shared under NDA.
    3. We are obviously not going to stop promoting AP-130 series product line. We educate our customers regarding the benefits of first gen 11ac and second gen 11ac all day everyday. We do not hide information or try to corner them into buying 130 series. That will be very wrong. Upgrading to dedicated 11ac AP from Aruba 11n will require same process that folks are used to performing during the last 10 years – climb the ladder, plug out AP, plug in AP. As opposed to Cisco, we are not proposing a change in this process. There are no hidden costs here.

    Here are my comments on your responses for what they are worth. I am guessing that we will agree to disagree at the end of it… although I hope I can provide more color commentary and that you will find them useful. Again, I am trying to talk tech here not disagreeing with the fact that 3600 11ac module is good marketing.

    1250 series: Folks invested in the platform found out later that there was no need for this modular AP since moving from draft 2.0 of the standard to the ratified version did not require an hardware upgrade. Cisco’s predictions were wrong. It was a 5-pound AP with no dual-radio support 802.3af (if you rememeber, Cisco was claiming at the time that 11n APs will not be able to support 802.3af). I believe that 1250 series was mostly about marketing, capturing attention and not so much about delivering best of breed Wi-Fi technology. Given that the product line lived only about a year, on this side of the fence we think that our predictions about those first generation of 11n APs were the right ones.

    Difficult to deploy: Here is the Cisco process… Install 3600 today. Wait 8 months. Buy 11ac modules. Climb up the ladder. Unscrew the mounting bracket. Take the AP down. Install module. Climb up the ladder. Screw back the mounting bracket. Cisco *will* come up with their dedicated 11ac AP hardware that’s based on Marvell chipset, as opposed Broadcom running inside the 11ac module for the 3600. With that upgrade, that’s three trips to the ceiling. And when the 2nd gen 11ac AP comes out, you do it again. That’s four. We cannot call this simple as opposed to difficult.

    CPU speeds: Here is the thought process. Aruba AP-135 beats Cisco 3600 in peak performance. Whether it is pure 3×3:3 MIMO laptops, UDP or TCP traffic flows, or a mix of smartphones, tablets, laptops… that’s what we see using Cisco release 7.2 and Aruba release 6.1.3.2. Aruba product managers prefer not to use AP-135 CPU and memory subsystems for an 11ac AP per our interviews in order to be able to deliver the best peak 11ac performance. This tells me that Cisco product managers have to think the same way since AP-135 outperforms Cisco 3600. Using your argument, although looking at it from a different angle, how can we be sure that Cisco 3600 plus an 11ac module will deliver greater performance than a dedicated 11ac AP hardware?

    Inconsistent RF and feature set: 3600 will run two separate Wi-Fi chipsets from two different vendors: Broadcom and Marvell. Why on earth would I want to do this if I want uniform features and functionality across my 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios? No AP that was built for enterprise WLANs ever had this design. I am sure there was a good reason behind it.

    Upgrades: Cisco 3600 requires 7.2 release, which requires latest generation of Cisco controllers and NCS management instead of WCS management. We are just making it more apparent for those who care, although Cisco release notes clearly state these facts as well. The tradition of having to upgrade something in your network whenever there is a new WLAN product or solution from Cisco is really what gets on our nerves. For instance ISE… BYOD solution that requires me to upgrade from ISR to ISR G2… why would I want to touch my branch router if there is an employee owned iPad connecting to my network? Some of this stuff just does not make sense to us and we have just watched this episode way too many times … hence it is a reflex motion… we do not miss an opportunity to remind folks of what they need to be careful about.

    Alright my apologies for the long comment post, tried to do my best to keep it short. I hope you can give me a chance to respond by accepting my comments.

    See you at WFD3.

  3. Kanat says:

    Hi Ozer, Can you elaborate on this statement?
    “For instance ISE… BYOD solution that requires me to upgrade from ISR to ISR G2”
    can you link
    Thank you.

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