A few months ago, I was able to acquire a Meraki MR12 AP. I deployed it at a facility that wanted to use airplay between a few iphones and ipads to an appleTV. I figured this would be a great test, as most of the devices would be using bandwidth intense applications. One of the cool features that Meraki has is the ability to detect up to layer 7 applications.
This graph makes it really easy to see which applications are being used the most. Now you may ask yourself, what can I do with this information, besides create nice graphs and charts for upper management? Well, now that you know what applications are being utilized, you can now create custom policies that can deny or allow certain applications. You can even block certain hostnames or domains. You can also create and apply different bandwidth rate limits based on user or application. Maybe Jonny is trying to stream his favorite you tube video and you have someone else on the same access point who’s trying to do a presentation via airplay. You can decide who gets the highest priority and bandwidth. I like this solution because its an all-in-one setup. You don’t need separate boxes to get the job done. You don’t need a wireless controller or a bandwidth shaper. Now I’m not saying that this is going to work for every solution. Sometimes there is a need for wireless controllers and standalone bandwidth management shapers, but for this type of deployment Meraki fits the bill.
The aerohive HiveManager maps feature is pretty powerful. You start off by dropping your wireless access point down on an aerial view map. This allows for exact geocode positioning. You can outline your building with a perimeter in order to get a good floor layout. After you have drawn your perimeter, you can start laying out walls, doors, windows, elevator shafts, and cubicles. Each item represents different amounts of attenuation. To my surprise, the receive signal strength on my wireless devices matched pretty close to the predicted signal strength of the aerohive map. For instance, I was getting a weak signal in the outer N.E. room. I have a brick fireplace that’s in the corner of the room that’s next to the outer N.E. room. I drew that brick wall in the map and now you can see why I have a weak signal back there. The brick fireplace definitively impacts signal strength.
The map feature lets you set the minimum db rate. I have mine set to -80 and the strongest value is -35. You can also change what view you would like to see from the AP. I have mine set to Channel/Power view. You can also change it to hostname, node ID, IP address, or client count. Client count would be nice to see where your AP’s may be saturated with users in a large environment. Overall I’m pretty impressed with the areohive HiveManager maps tool.
I’m finally at a point where I can share my experience with the aerohive AP121 dual radio access point I acquired. When I first received the access point I placed it in my office which is in the northeast corner of my 1600 square foot ranch home. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to test the AP with all of my mobile devices because I wasn’t able to receive a strong enough signal on the other site of the house. I was only picking up at best a receive signal strenght of -78 to -80. This wasn’t good. The connection on my nexus 4, apple first gen IPad, and galaxy S3 would lag and drop connection constantly. I was using a dd-wrt extender AP in my living room which is in the center of my house prior to the aerohive AP. This type of signal penetration is to be expected when you’re working with mobile devices and with an AP that can only pump out a max of 20dbm.
I wanted to get the aerohive AP into the center of the house, so I picked up a pair of netgear powerline 200’s. This worked perfectly. I really wanted to dig into the aerohive cloud based dashboard, “hiveManager” with some client stats and placing the AP in the center of the house allowed all my devices to stay connected without a hitch.
I couldn’t help it. The first place I went to was the spectrum analysis utility.
This is a real-time spectrum analysis using the 2.4 Ghz radio. You get a nice waterfall view as well. The time it takes to refresh is instantaneous and this is going through their online cloud management system over a Comcast connection. I was able to test the speed by firing my dd-wrt repeater up in AP mode on channel 6. I instantly started to see the interference on channel 6. You also can see an FFT duty cycle graph as well, but I left that out on the screen shot.
Here’s another article on the Aerohive Hivemanager maps tool
Here are some pics of the Cisco Meraki MR12.
Quick rundown on the MR12 single radio AP spec’s:
1 – 802.11 b/g/n 2×2 mimo radio
1 – 10/100/1000 Ethernet POE plus another 10/100 Ethernet
Internal 3dBi omni-directional antennas
Built in spectrum analyzer to assist with wireless channel planning
We are currently working on increasing AP density at work in order to keep up with the increasing amount of wireless client devices. It’s always nice to revisit what other product vendors have available, so I was able to get my hands on a few test AP’s.
I will be unboxing and testing these at home. They are lower end AP’s, but this will give me an opportunity at looking into the config user interface, performing some wireless site surveys, and playing with wireless channel planning tools. Stay tuned!