Another Entry in the Neverending Saga of Our Wireless Woes

Since my last post over two weeks ago—they’re coming in slowly thanks to my dissertation, which is taking up all my spare time and energy—we’ve only had one real technical development. Two weeks ago, one of the Aruba engineers helped us upgrade our controller software and create new rules so we could put some of the AP-61s on B/G and some on A with the same SSID. This was to be a stopgap measure until we could get our hands on some AP-65s. The upgrade went well, and seems to have cleared up some problems we were having with some of our access points randomly power cycling. (We honestly don’t know what was causing that, but they stopped doing it after the upgrade—so I assume that it helped.) The down side to this setup is that we found out that Macs will roam from A to B/G, preferring B/G over A, when both bands have the same SSID. Testing since these changes were made has been very difficult, but it seems that we’re running better. A clearly works well, but B/G doesn’t seem to be giving us the same sorts of problems as it previously was I’m still testing, though, to see if these impressions are real or just a fluke brought on by a series of good days. (See the previous post for what happens when we test on a bad day.) When that testing is done, we’ll deploy some loaner AP-65s and AP-70s in place of our AP-61s in our worst-affected locations to see if we find any improvement.

If the problem is environmental, and there’s just too much interference on B/G in our location for consistently good performance, Apple changing their roaming behavior to prefer A over B/G would definitely help, particularly with the new access points. Also, however, Aruba tells me that they have a beta version of their controller software that does “client steering” to move clients from B/G to A when possible; we’ll probably upgrade to this version soon to take advantage of this feature, but I’d like to get some solid testing data before further complicating our setup.

The other interesting development was the long phone call that we had with Apple’s engineering team yesterday. They were very responsive, made some suggestions, and are committed to fixing this for us and the other clients in similar situations. The call also had an Aruba rep online, so they’ve agreed to combine their tickets and bring any software shared between us under a single NDA, which will really help the troubleshooting process. I’m not sure we’re running solidly right now, but if we’re not I feel confident (for the first time since last summer) that the solution is imminent.

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