Everyone has a tool case of some sort at home. Every once in a while I need to tighten up a screw, cut something in half or just smash something. And I do not use one tool to do all of the tasks. I would not choose a hammer to cut something in half, for example. While some might use a knife to cut a paper I would probably choose scissors for the job, right?
Choosing the Wi-Fi equipment is similar.
As an independent WLAN professional, I have the opportunity to choose the best Wi-Fi equipment for the job at hand. I have hands-on experience with limited professional Wi-Fi equipment, therefore, please free to comment. So here is my “tool box” (in no particular order):
Ruckus has made great steps in terms of making deployments easy and fuss-free. Their biggest advantage over other vendors is utilizing beam forming on the antenna side. They implement a number of vertically and horizontally polarized antennas in an AP casing (the number of antennas and thus antenna patterns varies in different models). Once the client is connected to AP, the AP chooses the best possible pattern by activating three antennas and directing the RF to the client. The rest of the antennas form the RF shield by blocking RF noise in the opposite direction of the client.
Together with the optimized RF Ruckus uses great multicast to unicast translation method so you can stream up to two full HD streams through wireless in somewhat polluted RF environment. Very easy and efficient for IPTV via wireless!
I mostly choose Ruckus for hotel environments, libraries, public hotspots and similar because they are really easy to set up and manage at affordable price.
Ruckus is the OLFA blade in my tool case. Affordable, precise tool. Easy to work with and easy to manage.
Xirrus products integrate up to 16 APs (twelve a/n radios and four a/b/g/n) into one single enclosure. For a layman this sounds nothing special, but for more RF literate professionals this is amazing. Stacking more Wi-Fi chipsets close to each other is an accident waiting to happen. Xirrus manages to bypass the laws of physics by utilizing a combination of great material, great design and not least, a proprietary SW that controls all of the integrated APs. This way, Xirrus nodes can provide access to a great number of clients in a small space. Integrated directional antennas also provide an extended reach.
I have very little experience with Xirrus nodes, but this will be my tool of choice for seminars, large gatherings, fairs and similar.
Xirrus is the sledgehammer in my tool case. It brings a punch when I need it.
Now, there is a name that every network professional is familiar with. Cisco uses good HW components, familiar management and (important!) the best documentation in the business. They are also making progress in development. One of my favorite new features is their utilization of the RF analyzer. Along with the Wi-Fi chipset of choice they use a dedicated HW for constant monitoring of the RF range the AP is operating in. If the budget allows for it, Cisco is (almost) always a good choice.
I use Cisco in enterprise environments, especially if there is VoIP or RFID involved.
With Cisco, the person wielding the tool is as important as the tool itself. Once it gets tough, it is extremely easy to get support from experienced Cisco wireless professionals.
Definitely one of my favorite wireless vendors. Strix Systems is the only product for big outdoor mesh (proper, layer 2, low latency) deployments I currently know of. They do not use WDS, but a proprietary L2 protocol for mesh connections while using up to 6 radios to keep the throughput high and latency low trough multiple hops (10 hops is no problem for Strix Systems network). They also have a product that allows fast roaming (up to 120 km/h in city environments and more than 300 km/h with trains) while maintaining the performance. There are only a handful of other vendors that successfully use multiple radios for mesh, but Strix is by far the most robust, easy to manage and even easier to scale solution.
Strix Systems is the scaffold in my tool box (yes, I carry a big tool box). Robust, scalable and up in no time.
Now, here is an interesting product. Mikrotik produces its own RouterOS installed on a series ofRouterBoards. RouterOS is a full blown router with some additional features like a captive portal and accounting while RouterBoards are a series of HW products preloaded with RouterOS. You can build yourself a router, wireless router or an AP to suit your exact need. And the best thing is they are dirty cheap. If the project is not to big (demanding) but you still need a full range of functionality, Mikrotik is a good choice.
Mikrotik is also a good choice for hospitality sector, especially small to medium sized businesses with limited budget. Added feature captive portal and accounting integrated helps, too.
Mikrotik is a Letterman tool in my toolbox. I can do practically anything with it, but I would not count on it for heavy lifting.
So what is in your tool box? Please share, comment.