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After 11 years at the Denver airport, seven of which were spent focused solely on the Wi-Fi network, I realized it was time to take a new step in my career. I needed a new challenge and began looking for something I could sink my teeth into, something that would excite me! I had a couple of different opportunities but the one that piqued my interest was a conversation I had with Heather “Mo” Williams. Mo manages the Solutions Engineering group at Ruckus Networks and I’ve known her a few years through the Wi-Fi community. She is someone that I really respect for her no-nonsense approach and dry humor -- two things that I really appreciate! As the saying goes, “chance favors the prepared mind.” Mo broached the topic of what my next big adventure might be, but I might not have thought further about it except for an experience I had in February 2019 that I would like to share.
I had recently taken the Ekahau Certified Survey Engineer course (now known as ECSE Design) at the Wireless LAN Professionals Conference (WLPC). This was just a formality because I had already taken the Certified Wireless Design Professional course (CWDP), am already a Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE #304), and an Ekahau Master (#31). I know, I did all of that before getting around to taking the entry-level Ekahau course. If you are on the path to becoming a Wi-Fi expert, do as I say, not as I do.
Now, the ECSE Instructors are some of the best folks in the Wi-Fi business, and even with my expertise and experience, it was still a great course. Until we got to the final “exam”. Ever the one for a challenge, I felt the need to prove that I wasn’t just the rabble-rouser sitting in the front row. I freely admit that the exam put my ego in check, but it wasn’t the exam that did it.
My initial goal was to prove that I wasn’t just good enough to pass the test by completing the basic requirements of the exam; I decided to complete a design for the entire building assigned. It defeated me and I was rattled. Me! An Ekahau Master and CWNE, and I couldn’t meet the network requirements for the entire building provided. In defeat, I deleted the extra floors, completed the design for the assigned floors, and turned in my “minimum requirements” exam just as time ran out.
Far from being proud of passing the exam, I slunk back to my hotel room determined to figure out what I had done wrong. For hours I fought with the design, using every trick in the book I knew to complete my self-inflicted task, but always coming up short. The issue I faced is known as Co-Channel Interference or CCI. For the non-Wi-Fi folks, CCI is what happens when you have 2 or more AP’s sharing a channel above a specified signal level. The CCI level had been defined in the exam requirements, and for the life of me, I couldn’t do it.
In desperation, I selected all of the AP’s for the entire building and hit delete, wiping away hours and hours of frustration, and stared at the blank floor plan. Part of the requirements of what had turned into my personal project was I could use any AP that I wanted for my design. Me, I used the AP I knew best (not a Ruckus AP), and for an office building, I used the internal antenna model version. To be fair, I had also tried using external antennas (antennas are my thing) and still came up short in the CCI requirement.
Remembering the two different design classes I had taken, both instructors had used Ruckus Networks R710 AP’s for every demonstration. In what, at the time was desperation, I decided to use that model of AP to try and finish the building. I wish I could say that I had some next-level knowledge that prompted me that way; I didn’t. I was guessing.
I selected the Ruckus Networks R710 AP and placed my first AP on the map.
45 minutes after that first R710 hit the map, ALL the floors of the building were completed, and completed to the rigorous specifications of the exam! Remember when I said it wasn’t the exam that put my ego in check? I knew the subject. I knew the software. My problem was I had selected the wrong AP. Had I selected the R710 at the beginning, I would have been able to complete the entire building faster than anyone else in the class could complete the minimum requirements.
My attempt to be awesome had been thwarted by the hardware I selected. Looking back on what had transpired, and doing some research, I now know why the R710 worked where the AP I had previously tried to use had failed. I’ll let you in on my discovery - it’s called BeamFlex®.
Now, I know I’m not always the brightest bulb in the room, but I do learn from my mistakes. The next time I had the opportunity to select whichever hardware I wanted to work with, I selected Ruckus Networks. Some of the lessons learned from this experience:
- Hope isn't a strategy.
- Guessing isn't science.
- Selecting Ruckus Networks is a sound strategy to eliminate the guessing and build networks that simply WORK.
The question I want to ask you at this point is this:
Did you choose the right hardware?