Exploring Mesh with an AP-205H

Note: All APs used for this are actually IAP units, which can run with either the Aruba Instant controller or a campus controller. Campus APs prior to the more recent unified SKUs cannot connect to an Aruba Instant controller.

After Wireless Field Day 8, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company™, generously provided the delegates with a variety of hardware to take a look it. It was quite the spread and a very impressive sampling of products. One of the devices I particularly like is the AP-205H 802.11ac access point. The AP-205H is intended for both hospitality and remote worker deployments. It can be powered through PoE, has 4 Ethernet ports, and can even provide up to 10W of power to another PoE device. It can be wall mounted, ideally at on a wall plate using the Ethernet port on the rear for uplink, or desk mounted with a stand.

I can see this unit being great in dorms, study rooms, and in hotels, however I decided to try something a bit different and turn it into a wireless bridge for my media devices. I have a home theater PC, a Roku, and a PS3 connected to the living room TV. The PC connects using a flaky 802.11ac USB adapter, the Roku has built-in 802.11n, and the PS3 only supports 802.11g. In my neighborhood, 2.4GHz is typically at 70% or more airtime usage, so performance leaves a bit to be desired. This would make moving everything to 5GHz a big win, as well. By moving all the devices to a mesh connected AP, we can reduce channel contention, move everything to 5GHz, and improve the overall network performance for all the devices. Also of important note, there is both an AP-205H and an AP-205. These have different form factors, so don’t forget the ‘H’! That said, you could also use the AP-205 to make a wireless bridge.

205 vs 205H

Given an existing IAP deployment, the first thing to do is add the AP-205H to the wired network so it can join the virtual controller. This did not work for me at first because the version of code on my VC was older than what the 205H required. I upgraded the firmware on both the 205H and the 225 I’m using as an uplink so they were on the same version. I had to upgrade them anyway, since the 802.11ac APs require 6.4.3.1-4.2.0.0 or later to support mesh operation. Worth noting is that Aruba Instant 4.1 and later default to having Extended SSID enabled, which will disable mesh operation. You may need to disable that feature to use mesh. This comes with the minor caveat that with Extended SSID disabled you are limited to creating six networks, but you weren’t going to do that, anyway.

Disabling Extended SSID

After all the settings are in order and the 205H joins the controller and synchronizes the VC configuration, switching to mesh operation is easy. Just disconnect the wired uplink and wait. After a couple minutes you’ll see that the AP has rejoined the controller using Wi-Fi for the uplink. However, there’s still a couple more changes to make before you connect wired devices to the mesh AP. If you connect a device to Ethernet ports 1-3 at this point, that device will obtain a controller provided IP address and may be stuck behind a nonexistent captive portal. If you connect a device to Ethernet 0, you’ll find the mesh is disabled since the AP will just believe the wired uplink has just returned.
To enable the Ethernet 0 port to be used as a downlink port, select the AP in the virtual controller and edit it. Under the Uplink tab, you want to enable “Eth0 bridging.” You may need to reboot the AP for this to take effect.

Enabling Eth0 Bridging

To make sure your wired ports are bridging to the wireless, you also need to configure the rules for wired ports. This is accessed in the VC under the More menu and selecting the Wired option.

Wired Settings

Now you can either create a new wired network profile or do what I did and just update the “default_wired_port_profile.” The correct settings are dependent on your environment and goals, but for this instance simplicity works fine. You also need to assign the wired ports to use the new/updated profile(s). Notice that the devices I have on my wired ports are listed in the Wired Users window.

Wired Profile Settings

Once your ports are set, you can edit your profiles to operate as you see fit. In the Wired Settings tab, make sure the ports are admin up and that the uplink setting is set to disabled.

Wired Settings

In the VLAN tab, make sure Client IP assignment is set to “Network assigned” unless you are using the VC’s internal DHCP server.

Client IP Assignment

Now you can connect wired clients to the AP’s Ethernet ports and they will connect to the network through the Wi-Fi uplink. In mesh mode, the AP will continue to provide service to wireless clients, so you can also extend coverage in this way.

I hope you find this a useful little guide. This was a fun little project to solve a small problem. It helped me learn a bit about mesh operation in an Instant deployment and challenged me to implement something I’d not done before. That’s a great way to learn new things. Just pick something you haven’t done before and do it!

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My First Aruba Beacon #WFD8

Back at the beginning of October, I had the opportunity to be a delegate to Wireless Field Day 8. The Aruba Networks presentation was very impressive and they also were kind enough to provide all the delegates with a number of nifty items, including some Aruba Networks LS-BT1 BLE location beacons.

If you aren’t familiar with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), it’s an extension to the Bluetooth standard that allows for low power communications. This is the standard that provides the basis to create beacons and allows them to operate for multiple years using standard button cell batteries. Beacons are not the only devices out there that use BLE for communication, but those are outside the scope of the rest of this post, which you can continue reading on the Aruba Airheads Community.

Below is the video of Aruba’s location presentation, featuring Kiyu Kubo, Director of the Meridian Group at Aruba Networks.

Aruba Networks Meridian Stadium Applications with Kiyo Kubo from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

Kiyo Kubo, Director of Meridian Group, discusses the use of Aruba Networks Meridian location technology at Levi's Stadium. Use of beacons is demonstrated and security around the technology is also discussed. Recorded at Wireless Field Day 8 on October 1, 2015. For more information, please visit http://ArubaNetworks.com/ or http://TechFieldDay.com/event/wfd8/.

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Wireless Field Day 8 Preview #WFD8

 

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This week is Wireless Field Day 8! I’m honored and excited to have been invited as a delegate for my first full Tech Field Day event. I’m certain it will be a memorable experience! It’s a packed couple days with six vendors presenting and the opportunity to rub shoulders with the other delegates. I wanted to give a bit of a preview of the vendors and perhaps some ideas about what they’ll be sharing.

Wednesday

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Cambium Networks will present on Wednesday morning. Cambium was formed when Motorola sold their Canopy and Orthogon businesses and they were combined to form Cambium. Cambium has a long history in point-to-point and point-to-multipoint licensed wireless systems for wireless ISP, public safety, and other business/industrial applications. They recently announced cnPilot, a cloud managed Wi-Fi solution, which I presume is what they will be presenting. I don’t know much about them and am looking forward to learning more and hearing what they have to say at their first WFD event.

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Cradlepoint presents early Wednesday afternoon. Cradlepoint is well known for their broadband routers and mobile broadband solutions. Most of these have Wi-Fi built in and use an LTE backhaul. They have solutions that range from small branch routers to rugged units designed to be used in vehicles. Internet of Things / Machine to Machine solutions and broadband failover solutions are all right up their alley. To top it off, all these things can be managed through the cloud. My initial guess is that they will be talking about their IoT solution, but tune in on Wednesday to find out what they really have to say.

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Ruckus Wireless is a major Wi-Fi manufacturer that I’ve heard a lot about, but haven’t done much with. Earlier this year they released some SOHO gear under the Xclaim brand, which seem nifty as easy to configure units. More important, they partnered with Juniper Networks back in June to deliver wired/wireless solutions. Ruckus was also first to market with an 802.11ac wave2 AP. They haven’t been to a TFD event for a couple years, so I’m expecting a refresher on who they are and an update on their products. Of course, you never know. They might just release something new and shiny at the event.

Thursday

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Cisco is the 900 pound gorilla of most segments of the networking industry, and wireless is certainly included here. Cisco wrote the post It’s All About Simplicity to explain that they are focusing on operational simplicity. They will be presenting their 802.11ac Wave 2 AP, Mobility Express (potentially very shiny), the latest on CMX 10.2, and an overview of Meraki System Manager. Cisco is what I work with the most and I’m particularly interested to learn more about Mobility Express and CMX.

 

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Zebra is another newcomer to Tech Field Day events. You may already be familiar with Zebra for their wireless printers, but last year they purchased a chunk of Motorola that included 802.11 products. They’ve continued with the WiNG products and that’s about all I know. It will be interesting to hear what they have to share.

 

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Aruba Networks is a regular at TFD events. This is their first since becoming an HP company and I expect it should be interesting. They are a huge player in Wi-Fi and have been active in promoting the Wi-Fi community and related events. They are promoting their participation in WFD8 with an image that includes a picture of an outdoor AP, an indoor AP, and BLE beacon. One presumes this is a hint as to what they will be talking about, especially since they’ve started embedding BLE beacons in their APs and producing their own standalone beacons. I’m very interested to learn more about Aruba. I’ve dabbled with their Instant products and would like to learn more about their full blown solutions. Jake Snyder, another WFD8 delegate, just earned his Aruba ACMA and it sounds like a pretty easy way to start, so I may go down that road, myself.

Got Questions?

That’s a lot of vendor presentations for two days and it all starts tomorrow. I’m looking forward to learning more about all these companies and their products while sharing the information with you. If you have questions for any of these vendors either before or during the presentations, send myself (@scottm32768 or any of the other delegates a tweet and we’ll be glad to ask on your behalf!

I do not yet know the exact times for the broadcasts, so for the most up to date schedule and to watch the live broadcasts, tune in at http://techfieldday.com/event/wfd8/. There’s a list of all the delegates there, as well.

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