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Hp to Buy Aruba?! No, Frakking Way!

Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 58 seconds. Contains 396 words

It's late. When I wake up I'll formulate a proper response.  

For now...

An accurate depiction of me at the hearing the news of the HP/Aruba "merger".


THE NEXT MORNING...

Ok, I'm up. And I've been on the Twitters twittering away about this. The video above pretty much sums up what I feel about the HP/Aruba acquisition.

I have strong feelings about this because I've been an Aruba partner for a long time. They have been a fantastic partner on every level. And even more - I really love their products. To me that's the worst part of this.

HP has a poor history of successful acquisitions. Most of their acquisitions are given up on after they lose interest. Or, decide to leave the market. Or, decide to become a software services company instead of a hardware company. Or, a new CEO comes in. Or, or , or... you get the picture.

I see no plus here at all. Not for HP, because I honestly believe they have no idea what to do with Aruba. And not for Aruba, because they will become, as most other HP acquisitions, irrelevant and forgotten.

They've had 7-8 years to make Colubris Networks something. And they have done nothing, but squandered their opportunity. They are practically invisible in the WLAN community with no contributions, or engagement at all. What will this change?

Aruba is an extremely active member in the WLAN community, but these are two different worlds - two different cultures. HP is the multi-billion dollar giant, and Aruba is the sub-billion dollar kid with the good looks. With the exception of Steve Jobs/NeXT, acquisitions rarely have impact on the culture they're being brought into - there's no way Aruba will influence the way HP does business. It's just not how it works. The smaller, less powerful, acquisition comes and gets absorbed into the corporation. Anyone really thing think a snotty 13 year old is gonna change an 80 year old curmudgeon?

In some cases,such as Aruba itself, acquisitions are strategic and targeted, and incorporated to make improve their products, or empowered to become even better than they were to start. HP is not a company that inspires the confidence that this will happen with Aruba. They have a culture of vain, arrogant, CEOs, that make large, expensive moves to boost their own egos, "legacy", and temporary bottom-line.

So, one could say I'm not happy with this move.


UPDATE: Monday, March 2, 2015 @ 8:03 AM

It happened.

Sad day for Wi-Fi.

 

UPDATE #2: Friday, March 6, 2015 @ 7:03 PM

I got some new thoughts.

So, You Wanna Start a Business?

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes, 8 seconds. Contains 1829 words

I was referred to THIS post, written by Devin Akinon his first 6 months in business by @80211Alan. Really good stuff. I’ve been wanting to write something about my experiences as well, and after reading Devin’s post it spurred to write this one.

Actually, this started as a comment on his blog agreeing with his points, but then I realized it was getting long. So, I’m basically posting the response to his post here. So, here are things I’ve learned in my 5 years with CommunicaONE:

 

FOCUS

CommunicaONE is my 3rd attempt, and I’ve sucked at all of them except this last one. FINALLY realized that you can’t do EVERYTHING, business is NOT the same as engineering, and everyone is NOT your customer. Pick the things you CAN and WANT to do well, and then strive to be better than the rest at those SPECIFIC things.

I dropped voice, I dropped the server stuff, I dropped saying, “Sure, I’ll do that. How hard can it be?”, and FOCUSED on WLAN and networking. They complement each other and I can focus on learning to do them well. I’m not saying don’t learn about other things. I’m saying, as a SMALL business, focus your energies on what you can do quickly, efficiently, and well.

 

REACH OUT TO OTHERS

Devin hit the nail on the head here. No man’s an island. On this 3rd attempt I got a business consultant (who is now my partner). This was NIGHT and DAY different from my previous attempts. I had someone to hold me accountable, and help with areas I knew nothing about. Also, I got involved in the WLAN community and I can tell you that as the Good Book says, “Iron Sharpens Iron”.
 

PROVERBS 27:17
"As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another.”

 

One last thing on this point, I send work to to other companies. It’s true. If a potential customer is not in my actual wheelhouse, or I don’t have the bandwidth to support them at that time, I will hook them up with a competitor. I’m crazy, I know, but I’ve built relationships with other people where we trust each other. I’m not stealing their clients, their not stealing ours, and we help each other out if one can’t do the project. Sometimes, it means referring a customer, other times it means we’ll sub each other out to fill in.

All I’m saying is, I’d rather have a good competitor that helps keep the skill-level up in our region than have a bunch of rinky-dink ones bringing everyone else down. 

 

BE EFFICIENT

DO NOT spend money where it’s not needed, but DO ABSOLUTELY spend money where it will do the most good. For example - DON’T waste money on fancy office furniture (or an office for that matter), especially if no one will ever see it! But, DO SPEND on say a quality office chair. You’ll be working there a lot and it makes a difference. Don’t spend on advertising, or Web designs, or for heaven’s sake don’t wrap your car in fancy graphics (“Kewl Kats Komputing - we’ll fix ANYTHING!”), but do pay for a Sqaurespace account (if like me, you’re no web designer), or another quality web host. You DO NOT want your Web site, or e-mail going down when you’re in the middle of a bid, or RFP. Post relevant content online, use social media, CALL PEOPLE. These are FREE.

Also, take this for what it’s worth, but if you need to learn (as I did/do) SPEND MONEY ON LEARNING! Not only do we need qualified WLAN pros out there, but word gets around. When you specialize, and put time/money/effort into becoming better at what you do - PEOPLE NOTICE.

Money cometh! Or, at least, opportunities will present themselves, because the people with the money (at least the customers you WANT) are looking for the best bang for their buck. Not the cheapest dude around (I ran 2 companies into the ground under that fallacy). But, in order to price yourself well you need to be worth it.

It’s important to understand, however, that you don’t make money by saving money. What I mean is - be frugal, but not stingy. I buy my team the most expensive MacBook I can afford. Not because we need fancy computers, but because they compliment our workflow, are phenomenally stable, are UNIX/BSD based, and the battery lasts forever. I don’t have time to be my own SysAdmin. This saves time AND money. I know this from experience.

 

DON’T FEEL OBLIGATED TO LOOK LIKE OTHER COMPANIES

You’re not IBM. You’re not Accuvant. You’re not Presidio. Be yourself. Your success DOES NOT have to look like theirs. I don’t have 50, 60, 100 people on staff (I don’t ever want to ), but I do have the people I WANT, who are easy to work with, and are passionate about what we do. Also, what works them may not necessarily work for you. Think about what you want your business to look like.

Here’s the nitty-gritty - DECIDE who your customer is. I mean actually THINK about what that looks like. Are they retail? Are they big? Are they small? Do they have multiple locations? Local companies (you hate to travel), or national firms (you love to travel)? Are they companies with strong IT departments, or weak ones? If they’re weak maybe you can be their outsourced IT. If they’re strong you come in as the high-priced specialist.

What I’m saying is everyone DOES NOT have to be your customer. If they are not a fit say no. Just because you ran sound for band in High School  does not mean you should be installing A/V at a Law firm. Focus your energies on finding customers that your company can best compliment.

Believe me, money cannot make up for a horrible customer/vendor experience. It’ll suck for you because you’ll feel slighted and they may tell others not so pleasant things about you. It’ll suck for them because they will not have gotten their money’s worth and feel ripped-off.

Nobody wins.

 

FINANCES

I personally have no interest in doing my own finances. I’m not good at it and I’ve already ruined 2 companies trying to save money here. This is one place I absolutely put money in to. Good bookkeepers are not cheap, but if they are good, they’re fast, and will make sure you’re not screwing yourself.

ABSOLUTELY, get a payroll service. Even if you can’t pay yourself much, or at all in the beginning, this will make sure you are compliant with State, and Federal taxes. This is from painful experience. If you’re not up to the challenge of keeping tabs on this stuff use a payroll service.

Personally, I use Quickbooks Online because it downloads all my transactions automatically, and I can access everything (invoices, payroll, balances) anywhere, even on my smartphone. I don’t have to be on top of making sure my Quickbooks and bank show the same thing. Also, I use their payroll because it’s pretty inexpensive and it integrates with QBO. It’s a monthly expense I’m willing to make because it saves me time and money.

 

SAY NO

When you start out you’re gonna be desperate for work. You have a mortgage to pay, probably kids, a spouse, a car payment, etc. But, hear this: When you start a business alone, YOU are the sales team, YOU are the marketing team, YOU are the support team, YOU are Accounts Payable AND Receivable.

If you are spending all your time doing small projects that suck your time away how will you: Get new clients? Market your company? Support your existing clients? Invoice your customers and pay your vendors? Remember, each of these things takes TIME. If we learned anything from INTERSTELLAR it’s that TIME IS A RESOURCE.

When you start a business you’re going to need time for: Learning/Training, Research, Selling, Marketing, putting together SoWs, Invoicing, Collecting. And how about actually DOING THE WORK? 

The hardest part of starting new is getting work and getting paid. Which brings me to the next bit…

 

CHARGE A LOT

Ok, I’m being a bit facetious here. What I am saying is that your time, your knowledge, your skill, has VALUE. Even if you don’t think so, it does. DO NOT be the guy that’s gonna win the market because you’re cheaper than the incumbent. Be reasonable, but don’t sell yourself short.

Here’s a secret - the customers you want ARE NOT looking at price. At least, not as the primary, or deciding factor. They are looking to see if you can get the project done, on-time, on-budget, with the least friction as possible. I’ve gotten jobs where we were BY FAR the most expensive option they looked at, but they chose us because they believed we brought the skills and expertise they needed. Also, believe it, or not, a higher rate makes you stick out - as in, “why are they so much more than company A?”. They assume (and it’s your job to make it TRUE) that you cost more because you are better. Plain & simple.

 

OWNING A BUSINESS AIN’T NO VACATION

Despite what your friends/family/acquaintances say, you can’t just take time-off whenever you want because “you work for yourself”. I think it’s pretty insulting when people say how nice it must be to work for myself because I can do whatever I want. REALITY CHECK - if you want to be successful, if you want to make money, if you want people to take you seriously, you have to put TIME AND EFFORT into your business. I love what I do. I can’t imagine doing anything else, but I never for a minute forget I’m running a business.

You’ll be working a lot - especially in the beginning. More than a regular job. Why? Remember earlier, ” YOU are the sales team, YOU are the marketing team, YOU are the support team, YOU are Accounts Payable AND Receivable”? When do you think this stuff happens? If you’re working on projects who’s selling? Who’s invoicing? Who’s updating the Web site?

You are, my friend.

Be prepared to kiss your wife/husband, and kids goodnight after dinner so you can go through Quickbooks and make sure that your invoices are up to date, you sales taxes are paid, that the SoW you promised your customer will be in their inbox in the morning - is in their inbox in the morning. That’s all you.

You may be on the couch with a Firefly (the greatest show evar.) marathon playing in the background on the TV, but it’s all you. Unless you’re starting with a crack staff on day one - you will be busy.

Eventually, as your business grows, and you maybe bring on some people, as you figure out the best workflows, you’ll be able to take that month vacation, buy that fancy new car, pay off your kid’s appendectomy. But, in the beginning, you’ll be wearing a lot of ill-fitting hats.

Now, with clear eyes, and full hearts, get out there and make some business!

APs In Hallways - Don't Do It!

APs IN  HALLWAYS - DON’T DO IT!  -from Eddie Forero (@HeyEddie) on Vimeo.

*A caveat on the video:

These APs are using omni-directional antennas. This does not account for using some type of directional antenna, or putting real thought into the design. But, in reality, most hotel “designs” are just drop APs in hallways and crank up the volume.

Also, I recorded this in a coffee shop using a bluetooth headset, because when inspiration hits you move!

Concerns on LTE-U and Wi-Fi Co-Existance

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 22 seconds. Contains 874 words

 

A few days ago Andrew Von Nagy tweeted an article by Patrick Moorhead on Forbes.com, "How LTE-U In Unlicensed Spectrum Helps Carriers Make Money". He was not positive on the article:

After I read the article I replied on Twitter about the apparently one-sided nature of the article and went on to make insinuations of being in the industry's pocket and such. Mr. Moorhead was not amused and replied with his assertion that we were just trolls.

Well, such is the life on the Interwebs. I felt bad and replied assuring him the intent wasn't to troll. We were just venting our frustration that there was no real mention of the concerns regarding LAA-LTE co-existing with Wi-Fi. And that it seems that all we see in the media about LAA-LTE is how it's going to solve all the carriers problems and will even improve everyone's wi-fi. So, after some back and forth - he DM'd me his e-mail and asked me send him my concerns and I took him up on it. I'm thankful the rather than dismissing me he was genuinely interested in my opinion.

So, here is the gist what I put together in the e-mail explaining why as a wireless guy I have serious concerns about the this:


Wi-Fi/802.11 is a "polite", but inefficient protocol. It's half-duplex, only one client can transmit at a time, has inherent overhead that will only be exacerbated by non-wifi interference, etc. Sometimes I'm amazed it works at all! 

Here are the main concerns I have with the introduction of LAA-LTE:

  • Does not play by 802.11 rules.
     
  • LBT (Listen Before Talk/Transmit) is not a given in the US.
     
  • Wi-Fi clients deal with interframe spaces, physical carrier sense (sensing for energy on the medium), Virtual Carrier Sense (NAV timer, based on the duration field in MAC header), and finally let's add a random back off timer to. Unlike 802.11 clients LAA-LTE radios don't know about the timers, random, or otherwise. This can lead to LAA causing delay and decrease in throughput. Carrier sense is not enough.
     
  • In wi-fi, voice and other latency sensitive frames are given weighted opportunity to access the medium. We already have to deal with contention from devices that follow the protocol. Now we add LAA-LTE and we have to deal with devices that don't, and will be deployed on a large scale.
     
  • LTE duty-cycles are an issue as well. CableLabs has done research showing the delay and reduction of throughput cause by varying duty cycles. When duty cycles are small wi-fi clients don't have enough time to contend for the medium. When the duty-cycle increases latency for wi-fi client follows.
     
  • We are already starting to see usage increase in 5GHz and it is difficult enough when 802.11 is contending with itself. Adding another technology that does not follow the rules will only make it more difficult for WLANs to operate effectively. 
     
  • Another issue I wonder about is how will devices choose between LAA-LTE and Wi-Fi? Right now most devices choose wi-fi over cellular for data traffic when available. When LAA and Wi-Fi are co-located how is the decision made?
     
  • Also, why now? More than half of all mobile data is over wi-fi. This will only increase. Where is the benefit for the carriers/users? Because of the power restrictions in 5GHz LAA-LTE will most likely only be deployed using small cells - just like Wi-Fi. So, the most likely places that LAA will be deployed will be areas already served (and probably over-served) by wi-fi. 
     
  • The control plane for LAA-LTE lies in the carriers licensed spectrum where they have full control of the medium. They will now have easy access to unlicensed spectrum for free and also their own licensed spectrum to fall back on. Wi-Fi users don't have that advantage and have nowhere to go. So, LAA starts off with an inherent advantage over wi-fi.
     
  • Healthcare already has a difficult time with wi-fi. Most healthcare WLAN designs do not support DFS channels (UNII-2, UNII-2e) due to the scanning and channel change requirements if RADAR detected. Because of this I'm guessing LAA will not be deployed in those channels. LAA could become even more disruptive in those environments due to the limited number of channels. This, and other dense enterprise deployments may be at risk.

The mobile carriers are looking to grab all the spectrum they can possibly use. There is nothing that will keep them from running over any other users. In the end it's all about making money for the carriers. The same ones that spend billions on licensed spectrum that is theirs alone to use as they please. Nothing wrong with making money, but not at the expense of a useful and expanding technology that is now - even in the nascent stages of 802.11ac - growing rapidly.


04-06-2015 UPDATE:

Tell me again how we can trust the carriers to make LAA-LTE work as a "good neighbor" with Wi-Fi?


Wireless Partners, Learn Your Craft! It's on You.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 18 seconds. Contains 662 words

Cisco sucks! Aruba sucks! Ruckus sucks! [Insert vendor name] sucks!

How many times has good product been pulled because of a bad design? Doesn’t it make sense that bad installs are bad for business?

"Why don’t wireless manufactures require their partners to have a bare minimum of RF knowledge before they are allowed to sell their products?" - Me

It just dawned on me while having a small Twitter conversation with my fellow wireless peeps that the vendors that I’ve partnered with have never even asked about my qualifications to install their stuff. They absolutely insisted that we get “certified” on their particular product to remain in good standing, but I don’t ever remember them asking about what we knew about RF, wireless design, or even switching & routing.

I was installing wireless networks for over a year before I was running into situations where I had no idea what the proper solution, or design was for the customer. By this time I started following various people on Twitter like @KeithRParsons, @DevinAkin, @WiFiKiwi, etc. and started to quickly realize I did not have a clue about what I was doing, or what I was talking about.

Coming from a voice and switching background, and working with large PBXs, Windows Server (Exchange, SharePoint, etc.) I thought I was pretty smart. I mean, just put an AP over there, and over there, and one more over there for good measure! How hard could it be? Yes, I was brilliant.

Thank God for David Westcott (no twitter handle, c’mon, Dave!). I first ran into him when he taught an Aruba training class (don’t remember which one I had him in several) and he just stopped the class one day when he realized how clueless we were and starting teaching us about antennas patterns and the Rule of 10s & 3s.

It was then and there that I realized I had no business being in the wireless business. I was doing my customers a grave disservice in deploying the “wireless design” I had cobbled together on my laptop. And by design I mean floor plans with round circles denoting where the APs should be placed according to whatever whim hit me.

Thanks to Mr. Wescott my shame turned to curiosity, which then turned into a voracious appetite to learn everything I could about wireless. I started following more and more people on Twitter, reading more blogs, buying more books, eventually landing at the CWNP Web site.

It’s been a long road just to get to the first step of the ladder (CWNA in Dec. 2013) with a goal of CWNE. I know I’m still lightyears away from where I need to be, but at least I KNOW IT and doing everything in my power to get there.

The little knowledge I have gleaned so far from the generous wireless community, self-study, and CWNP training has reaped huge rewards. And not just financially, but more importantly for my customers. Not only are my designs better and much more carefully considered, I have even gone back to existing clients and done free “wifi tuneups” where I tried my best to fix there errors I had committed.

Sadly, the one place I haven’t seen any recognition of the huge change in myself and the company I own is from our wireless vendor. The money and time we’ve put in to get our team trained (all CWNAs now), and set aside time for paid study, and with a real plan for continued education isn’t even a blip on their radar.

So, now I’m back to my initial question: “Why don’t wireless manufactures require their partners to have a bare minimum of RF knowledge before they are allowed to sell their products?”

Hell if I know.

UPDATE: Aruba Networks is now encouraging users to get “Mobility Certified” which includes getting a CWNA - via their Airhead Community blog. While not a requirement for partners it’s refreshing to see major manufacturer actively encourage end-users and partners to go through the CWNP program. Way to go Aruba!