February 08, 2012

Making BYOD Work in Difficult Places


Extreme Networks and the Boulder Valley School District

The consumerization of IT, device proliferation, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or whatever you care to call it, is changing IT, both in terms of technical challenges as well as expectations. While the need to support devices and applications unknown to and unblessed by IT is certainly a challenge, there is another challenge inherent to BYOD that many may not realize and it is one of the secrets of the industry – the relatively low power RF stages of many consumer devices.

Andrew Peters, one of our enterprise solutions marketing guys, had a normal laptop and a tablet on his desk one day and was puzzled by what he was seeing. The laptop had good connectivity to the wireless network, yet the tablet was having trouble finding a signal. He dug into the situation and did some research and work with our wireless partners, Motorola, later blogging about his findings in his post, Snap-on 11n APs can Compensate for Weaker Wi-Fi Radios on Tablets and iPads Key findings included:

But these lightweight tablet devices have a dirty little secret – they have weaker Wi-Fi radio transmitters.  Since they need to be always-on for stretches of 8-10 hours between charges, their Wi-Fi radio transmitters have far less power than a standard laptop, which has around 44dB SNR (decibel signal-to-noise ratio).  iPads have  about 1/6th the power of a laptop with 25dB SNR and the cheap ‘clone’ tablets clock-in at around 15 db or about 1/10th the power of a laptop, according to Motorola Solutions.

This is interesting  for a couple reasons. Many believe BYOD to be something that needs to be addressed primarily with policy, procedure and business rules, but the fact that these devices have weaker radios implies that not only will IT have to cope with additional traffic generated by these devices, but also that IT will likely have to look at wifi infrastructure as well, potentially deploying not only more APs, but also better APs with a more intelligent management infrastructure and network behind them.

Extreme Networks Altitude 4511 Access Point

The Extreme Networks Altitude 4511 Access Point

Fortunately, at Extreme, we understand these challenges and have a solution that may be easier and more painless that you might imagine, the snap-on Altitude™ 4511 wallplate 802.11n access point.   One of the things to keep in mind with any sort of rollout or upgrade is that the install of the access points themselves can be a significant part of the overall cost of a deployment. The Altitude 4511 helps address this concern by making the installation of the access point a fairly trivial task because the access point installs in place of an existing Ethernet cable puck in a literally a couple minutes, a process which you can watch here. A lot easier than ladders and cable pulls!

Of course, power and performance are still concerns, particularly in buildings like schools with a lot of steel. While the Altitude 4511 is small, it is also powerful, with a best in class 26 dBm radio. This is important because while not only do BYOD devices often have less powerful radios, they are also used in more places, making better coverage an absolute priority when upgrading or deploying networks to better cope with consumer device proliferation.

We invite you to read more about the Boulder Valley School District experience with Extreme Networks and how we were able to work together to overcome BYOD challenges in one of the toughest environments, a high school with a steel frame structure (think Farraday cage) and with one of the toughest customer bases (high school students with a brace of consumer devices) – a story told here in our press release and here in the video we made with them.

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Extreme Marketing Team

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