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Ask Slashdot: 802.11n Bake-Off Test Plans? 125

First time accepted submitter Richard_13 writes "I am seeking a bake-off test plan for an enterprise size deployment of 802.11n wireless. We are about to go to tender for a large scale deployment of 802.11n controllers and APs — and I need a bake-off (benchmarking) test plan that is focused on testing the *maximum number* of clients that an AP can handle before it falls over, in addition to the throughput for each client. We intend to test the latest products from the major vendors, Aruba, Cisco, HP, Xirrus, Ruckus, etc.; not consumer products like Linksys, D-Link or Netgear. Any bake-off test plans or useful links to multi-vendor wireless focused web sites would be greatly appreciated."
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Ask Slashdot: 802.11n Bake-Off Test Plans?

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  • one more time~

  • "Bake-off" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PeanutButterBreath ( 1224570 ) on Friday September 16, 2011 @07:48PM (#37425614)

    Just say "benchmarking" and you won't need to explain that "bake-off" means "benchmarking". Wait, what was the question?

    • I'm not sure, but I think that "peanut butter cookies" may be the answer.
    • A bake-off and a benchmark aren't exactly the same things. Price, ease of configuration and deployment, general vendor responsiveness, and other things may come into play, besides the raw performance numbers.

      It's a term the sales droids and CTOs seem to use a lot; not so much other people.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blair1q ( 305137 )

        If I hear a CTO say "bake off" instead of "trade study," I'm talking to the CEO about making the CTO a CUO (completely unemployed oaf).

      • Re:"Bake-off" (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sjames ( 1099 ) on Friday September 16, 2011 @10:32PM (#37426500) Homepage Journal

        The correct meaning of bake-off is when many different makes of a device that are supposed to support a standard are paired off to see if they actually inter-operate.

        As usual, the sales droids and CTOs (that didn't come up through the ranks) abuse the term to try to sound like engineers.

        • The correct meaning of bake-off is when many different makes of a device that are supposed to support a standard are paired off to see if they actually inter-operate.

          Nah, that's called a "hoedown".

          Once you've identified the interoperable parties, you can then invite them to a "barn raising".

          Remember to provide lots of lemonade.

    • by Motor ( 104119 )
      I've been around on slashdot long enough to remember this bit of idiocy from way back []. The top comment still makes me chuckle every time I hear "bake off"... even 10 years later.
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Except that a bake-off and benchmarking are not at all the same thing, but can happen in the same event.

    • I thought I was the naive guy who didn't know and didn't want to say anything.
      What the hell does bake off mean? I know he explained it but that's not good enough, who the hell calls it a bakeoff?

      • who the hell calls it a bakeoff?

        The Amish, mostly.

        But they typically shun computers in general, let alone 802.11n deployments.

        It's possible that the OP is an Amish youth in his "rumspringa" wilding phase. His clueless use of buzzwords (eg "enterprise size") supports this theory.

        On the other hand, he might just be another brainless corporate shmuck who is way out of his depth in a technical decision-making role. A prime candidate for immediate firing.

  • by RedLeg ( 22564 ) on Friday September 16, 2011 @07:52PM (#37425640) Journal

    Call a meeting of the competitors engineers. It's important you get them all in the room at one time with not too much advance warning of the topic.

    Tell them what you think you want. Ask them as a group what you're missing. Then make them as a group come up with an eval plan and cook 'em off according to the plan they come up with.

    If you need an independent judge, go to one of the labs that does independent third-party assurance and contract them to provide oversight.

    Disclaimer: I've worked for one of those labs for the past 15 years.

    Stand back and watch the fun......


    • Yes. Absolutely. You need to tell them what you want, and it's their job to prove to you that they are capable of providing it.

      If the gear falls over, then you can say 'we're not paying for it, because it has to meet this specification before we do, and it obviously isn't', rather than 'we tested it ourselves, and it should be working'. You want to reduce the risk that this project isn't going to meet expectations.

    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      Sounds like a Texas Faraday Cage Death Match.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 16, 2011 @08:06PM (#37425728)

    We have a box that can emulate up to 128 stations, including wpa, wpa2, etc. It can do
    DHCP or static IPs and generate Ethernet, udp, tcp, http, and other higher level protocols,
    including IPv6. Multiple systems can be clustered together for additional throughput and
    radios. Each system can run on only one channel at once, but can talk to multiple APs
    on that channel.

    One of our systems can saturate any of the consumer grade APs we have, and some folks have
    used it to stress very big systems (conference centers, etc).

    Runs on Linux of course!

    Ben Greear

  • Unless you're going to deploy like 100 APs or more i an skeptical that the vendors will work with you for such an effort.

    Actually doing this correctly is going to be hard and expensive. Anyway, i'd read up on smalnetbuilder's methods and just run, say 10 or 20 concurrent client machines o a 3 or 4 AP set-up. make some of those clients mobile and walk around the space to see that hand-offs happen ok.

    graph it all and look for major priods of drop-out etc. Again, though, unless you're doing a massive de

    • Lmao..he said he needs to test a big deployment with non-consumer grade gear. Your approach outlines the least of his worries.

      What is the building(s) architecture, power and existing cable plant like? (concrete and steel, stick; adequate/sub adequate/surplus power; CAT-3, CAT-5, CAT-5e, CAT-6, fiber, thin-net, coaxial) Access points need power and users need to be able to connect to something worth connecting to wirelessly

      How is he doing authentication? (802.1x with cert?, challenge response?)

      Is it again

    • Doesn't sound like you're familiar with Xirrus which was one of the manufacturers in the list. Their product is an array of access points, up to 64 APs in a UFO shaped container with controllers and everything built in, just give it a network connection consistent with the performance level you're expecting and go, it even has built in radius.

      I only priced out their 16 AP option but it comes out to about a grand an AP so it's quite affordable for enterprise offerings that need lots of connections in a smal

  • Can I has? (Score:1, Funny)

    by ttong ( 2459466 )
    I will gladly accept all cookies created in the process.
  • If you're running a bake-off with access points, you're probably running just a bit too much power into the radios.

    On-topic, I do like my redundant-controller, centrally-managed 160+ AP Aruba system.

  • Im not sure what you mean by no consumer stuff.but netgear has started offering small biz gear.including wifi setups supporting up to 150 APs. So not sure how big you thing big is, but they are one of the few mid size deployment shops. While my prior opinion of netgear was low they seem to be trying to break into the enterprise markets. Of course if you need mor APs than that, they are still too small.

  • by viking80 ( 697716 ) on Friday September 16, 2011 @08:28PM (#37425862) Journal

    The (not so big) secret is that most WiFi AP rolls over with 8 or so clients. Only a few manufacturers themselves test their products beyond that, and those work all the way to over 100.
    The company selling the test equipment you need is called [] You can buy the equipment from them and test all the vendors, or even better, just ask them.

    They do of course know, since that is how they test their own test equipment. Problem is that they can/will not tell you because then 1. you would not need to buy their product, and 2. AP mfg would fix their products, and Veriwave would not have a market for their products.

    Maybe just do some social hacking to get it out of them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by postbigbang ( 761081 )

      There have been large tests, and it can be done by using Linux boxen that allow one to change out the raw socket to emulate numerous concurrent IP/MAC address pairs concurrently.

      Then you decide what kind of duty cycle of transactions will be typical. All surfers checking Facebook? Or are their apps with sockets?

      The biggest part of this is the backhaul; what's behind the AP in terms of next hop to a thick layer 2/3 switch/router. How skilled is the person that programmed it?

      Are you going to use bi-freq N? If

  • In my experience, the more expensive Aruba AP's perform closest to their manufacturer's claims.

    They may not be selling the cheap one anymore, which would be good, because it was vastly inadequate for any real N-style usage.

  • Don't forget about Juniper's new wireless solutions, from their Trapeze acquisition.

    I've heard a lot of good things about Aruba and Xirrus.

    Having actually done Cisco wireless support and new deployments, I would highly recommend against Cisco. They call it a "Cisco caveat" for a reason. Sure that feature works... you know... under the right conditions which will never be met.

  • I looked at equipment recently for wireless using the 'n' protocl - but noticed no mention of IPv\6.

    No point of gertting new communications equipment, if it cannot be suicessfully usec with IPv6!

    So make IPv6 part of the requirments.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Hint: don't use the access point he's using, it can lead to strange character corruption.

    • I completely support this - I want to see where each one is w/ IPv6 support. If something can't support IPv6 both in & out, it's worthless. Has to be part of the requirements.

      One advantage of supporting IPv6 is that router vendors can then have a range of n routers supporting IPv6 for different ends of the market - @ one end for the home user, just 1 SSID, and @ the other end, support up to 4 SSIDs if possible (beyond that, I'm thinking they'd have to go wired to avoid too much congestion here). In

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Here are the results:
    Vendors were tested with 30 then 60 wireless clients and 1 then 2 access points. So, 1 AP with 30 clients, 1 AP with 60 clients, 2 APs with 30 clients and 2 APs with 60 clients.

    1: Cisco - Somewhat surprising. Great client density/bandwidth. Good load balancing between APs. Good management interface.
    2: Trapeze (now Juniper) - Great client density/bandwidth (just a little slower (read less bandwidth to client, and just slightly less) than Cisco). Good load balancing between APs. Buy

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday September 16, 2011 @08:42PM (#37425976) Journal
    In my somewhat limited(but rather painful) experience with attempting to use wifi as a serious connection, one of the issues that cropped up a lot was less with throughput, or with number of clients; but with client software behavior in the face of a glitch.

    Dicking around at home and the wifi cuts out for a second? Reload the webpage and quit your whining.

    Running your basic "enterprise" client configuration(documents directory is actually on a fileserver, authentication through AD, etc, etc.) and the wifi cuts out? Be prepared for frustratingly erratic appearances of apparently disappearing documents, authentication fails, not automatically reconnecting to the fileserver, Finder just twiddling its thumbs and thinking about infinity until that server either times out or comes back, etc, etc.

    Even before any APs show up, you can start identifying the likely areas of sheer pain by using netem, switch jiggery-pokery, or just a $20 consumer AP and flicking your laptop's RF power switch: If your environment has client applications that don't play nicely if the network goes all to suck for a second or two from time to time, wifi deployment is going to be Fun.

    Honestly, for most applications where wifi isn't a totally terrible idea(ie. heavily throughput dependent stuff), that would be the big focus of my testing(along with how useful the management tools and interfaces are). High throughput is far less valuable than stable connections.
  • The only thing that matters is the bean counters and any ELA you have with existing vendors. Cisco might be good, or it might be crap, but if you have a pimp contract with them and good support, they're getting the contract. Live with it.

  • by rcpitt ( 711863 ) on Friday September 16, 2011 @09:24PM (#37426210) Homepage Journal
    One of the major effects of bufferbloat on wireless is reduced ability to usefully deal with lots of clients connecting to the same AP.

    All the major vendors should be aware of what is going on at and have something in place to ensure that their products will reflect new updates soonest when things get fixed. This is an ongoing problem that crept up on the internet tech community and there is work in progress to deal with it but it will take time.

    See (for example) Bufferbloat - Dark Buffers in the Internet, 1/20/2011 []

  • Plenty of companies out there make tools for testing this sort of thing. Spirent, Ixxia, and Agilent, to name a few all have layer 4-7 traffic generation appliance type products for stress testing. []

  • Netgear makes enterprise grade equipment -- we have Netgear equipment all through our manufacturing facility and IT center. having said that... We used Xirrus wifi hwardware and it works quite well.
  • What does enterprise size mean?

    What class of construction is the
    building? Straw, sticks, bricks... this wolf wants to know

    Are regions RF isolated from each other
    do you have multiple floors and multiple
    buildings? Can RF pass between these
    odds and ends.

    First you need to wire the building and also decide if
    your WiFi boxes will get power from the ethernet wire
    links or from the wall.

    Do you need secure access for all or is this install
    wide open and plan to let VPN do the security.
    i.e. guests will always want W

  • You can call in all the experts and engineers to figure this out but never underestimate the importance of common sense and understanding of basics concepts involved. A couple of articles on Tom's explain it well. One story has some testing and benchmarking. May not be exactly what you need but may go a long way in ensuring good wi-fi.,2985.html [] []
    • I was going to reference the same article from Tom's - they basically have already done what OP is asking for, using hardware including Cisco, Aruba, Meraki, Ruckus, Apple, and HP. The second and third pages "Hardware And Methodology, Explained" might especially be of interest.
  • by slimjim8094 ( 941042 ) <> on Friday September 16, 2011 @11:10PM (#37426652)

    We run a thousand or so Aruba 125s at school here, covering all 600 or so acres of campus. Those are probably overkill for you (at about $750 a pop), but AFAIK even the lowest-end ones have the same essential features.

    Basically, the network architecture puts the whole wireless network on a separate segment, all the way back to the aggregation points. They're gigabit wired into the building routers, but placed on a separate VLAN all the way back to one of the three aggregation points. Each AP is assigned to a controller, and will fail over to a second one if needed. The controllers pass the traffic to the rest of the network.

    The controller architecture means you can do some pretty interesting things. Particularly, it means new APs are trivial to install - stick them into the controller's DB and plug it in to an Ethernet cable (it's PoE); it'll go and find the controller and pull down the config and any upgrades to the software. It also allows IP roaming between APs, even if they're in different netblocks. I can walk from one end of campus to the other (7 city blocks) while keeping the same IP and getting all my traffic, through about 150 different APs - much like a cell network. You can also do spectrum analysis through their management console - I once saw them find a broken microwave from all the interference they were seeing across the 10 APs in range a la Dark Knight.

    The APs we have will band-steer clients over to the 5GHz spectrum if possible, which can support a huge number of clients, but you need the density for it to make a big difference. If you do, though, you can easily get 30 people per AP, with a few doing massive downloads/uploads and no hiccups. They don't recommend more than that, and in any case it's difficult to fit people densely enough that you wouldn't need a new one for signal purposes.

    No, I don't work for them. I don't even work for the Networking department. I just really like the toys - though I suspect I might feel differently if I had to make the purchase! Quality isn't cheap...

    • If you spoof a controller. One of the first lessons I've learned is to never use dynamically configured devices on a campus. There will always be a geek that will find a way to tell your equipment what the best route for traffic is.
      • Management traffic goes out-of-band, in part for this reason. You can't spoof a controller on our network. Active defense mechanisms mean you can't even spoof an access point. The clients you attempt to lure away will be sent disassociation messages.
      • I knew a guy who did that once. He spoofed one of their Internet gateways with his Linux box. Two minutes later, they shut the port down because it threw up a flag on their NOC screen in 30 seconds, and it took them another 90 to find the port on his nearest switch. Then he got an email suggesting that he not do that again (they knew it was intentional) and reminding him of their TOS, and that they'd turn it back on after he acknowledged that he'd read and understood it. Total downtime was a few minutes, fo

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The result was Cisco but this was 3 years ago. The Aruba gear is poorly made and it took about 70% more APs for the same coverage. We used 900 Cisco APs as opposed to over 1500 Aruba. That being said we also like the Ruckus Gear which also feels flimsy compared to the Cisco 1042 APs but the beamflex technology is second to none especially if your trying to carry a voice or video signal.

  • Be sure to add them to the list. Their virtual cell technology is pretty slick, and works well for busy environments. Just add more access points to a busy area or for an event, and the controller will take care of balancing the clients between the radios. No, I don't work for them, but I am a happy customer. We have over 250 access points installed across our campus.
  • For those fixated on the term bake-off, you obviously have never worked for a networking vendor or a major IT shop, or you would understand what the term means. And some of you demonstrated a level of intelligence that has me picturing you entering "snow white and the seven dwarfs" when prompted for an eight character password.
  • Don't forget to check out Aerohive [], another decent option.
  • While I understand that in the world of Enterprise IT it is standard to use a package from one of the large vendors complete with controller, I very much disagree with philosophy of setting things up that way. Please note that my network is not to the scale of yours, only about 75 APs on a small campus, but I've had great luck using small-business/high-end consumer grade equipment, clever setups on "Fat" APs, and some powerful controller software. For example, my current design just uses off-the shelf EnG
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