What do Katy Perry and Aruba Networks have in common?

Aruba Networks' new LAN solutions address the connectivity problems that Katy Perry has so perfectly described in the past.

One of Katy Perry’s first hits was a song called “Hot N Cold” where she sings “Cause you’re hot then you’re cold, you’re yes then you’re no, you’re in there you’re out you’re up and you’re down…” The video actually shows her going through different waves of emotion from joy at her wedding to confusion when they break up, and to anger later. I contend that the wedding was a mere analogy for her frustrations with wireless LAN technology.

Ever been at a conference, airport, Starbucks working away on the local hotspot where everything is “Hot” then, all of a sudden, performance of the network falls away and it goes “Cold”? You then disconnect and you keep getting errors and you can’t get back in? One minute you’re in and then you’re out. Or you’ve been in a place that offers “free” Wi-Fi but it’s so unreliable that you would be willing to pay big bucks just to send that one email? Unfortunately, this problem of “you’re up and you’re down” is all too common a problem with Wi-Fi networks today. It was also one of the drivers of me writing the blog “It’s time for Wireless LAN to evolve” earlier this month and, I’m sure it was Katy Perry’s inspiration for her big hit.

Well, earlier this week Aruba Networks rolled out a new software release (ArubaOS –seriously, they couldn’t just make this 6.2?) for it’s mobility controllers that addresses a number of issues that cause these erratic performance issues with wireless LAN, with the hopes of creating a very “predictable” wireless environment. This has been difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in the past, and with the impending tsunami of consumer devices dropping into the corporate network, the problem is only going to get worse.

There were a few key points in the release that I thought were notable, including:

  • High-density client support. With legacy Wi-Fi networks, one of the biggest factors that govern performance is the overall number of mobile devices on the networks. The more devices connected to the network, the less bandwidth there is for everyone. The new ArubaOS protects against this by ensuring that no device, or group of devices, can use the majority of the network bandwidth. The test results I saw had the Aruba network loaded up with mobile devices, and there was almost no performance degradation.
  • Resilient infrastructure and clients. The industry has improved significantly in the area of resilient infrastructure. Access points and controllers can fail over to alternate devices, keeping the environment up and running. However, when this happens, there is a lag and real-time applications such as VoIP and video sessions will drop and need to be reconnected. Aruba appears to have built fast failover combined with an element of session management to ensure that applications such as Microsoft Lync and Apple’s Facetime maintain connectivity in the event of a failure.
  • Application relevancy. One of the things I pointed out in my blog was that the wireless infrastructure vendors should try and include some level of application support. The last OS release Aruba became the first Wi-Fi vendor to achieve qualification for Microsoft Lync. This release they improved on that by adding the capability to prioritize and optimize Lync UC traffic when faced with congestion or other issues. I’d like to think this is just the start for Aruba and they’ll roll out support for other applications (VDI, video, etc) as we move forward.  

Overall, I like the OS upgrade by Aruba as it focuses on the unpredictable nature of wireless LAN. I’ve often said that users would prefer a mediocre user experience all the time versus one that’s “Hot and Cold.” The Aruba wireless LAN brings some much needed predictability to corporate mobile networking. With so much focus on BYOD and mobile computing today, this product release should be well received.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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