Xirrus vs. The Red Barron!

Written by Padre @ TheTechStop.net

You may think that this is going to be a blog about the techno-wonderfullness of a piece of network gear — but it’s not….
mostly not…
Xirrus showed up at Interop New York 2006 with more than a little skepticism about their potential performance in the wireless hell that is Interop. The last few years of the conference has been plagued by the inevitable collapse of the b/g spectrum almost as quickly as each show had begun — there were simply too many attendees with wireless cards, too many vendors with APs cranked to their maximum power settings, and not enough spectrum to go around.

While many vendors had been trying to solve the spectrum problem by deploying MANY APs across the show floor and classroom areas, Xirrus instead placed 24 radios within a single AP, gave each radio a slice of the 360 degrees, made them all share 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and had them communicate with one another to dynamically configure their own power levels to maximize coverage and minimize interference. Though many of us secretly wondered if the Xirrus “flying saucers” would last at all in the cacophony of the Javits center, New York 2006 proved the soundness of the Xirrus approach.— The system stayed up throughout the show and wireless problems were kept to a minimum.

Because of their success in New York, Xirrus came to Interop Las Vegas 2007 with high expectations from the Interop team. We wanted to see if their gear, resoundingly successful at the Javits, could stand the much larger wireless tangle of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. But before they did that, they had to contend with a threat they had not previously encountered….
The Red Baron.

You see, unbeknownst to the Xirrus crew, one of our Team Leads has put in several years of service for the CIA, NSA, WSA and several other three-letter government agencies that specialize in blowing things up, covering things over and shooting things down. Seeing the Xirrus “Flying Saucers” evidently brought back some kind of traumatic event or flashback because once Xirrus has setup one of their APs 25 feet in the air the Red Baron wasted no time in blowing that sucka out of the sky…

With a crash and a puff of blue smoke, the mighty wireless donut came crashing down from the heavens. Here you can see the damage done to the saucer after its “unscheduled landing.”

Of course, the rest of the engineers all thought that they gear was toast… after all, the gaping hole in the casing and the familiar smell of ozone told us that this UFO wasn’t going to make it back to the mothership — we all believed that the Red Baron had claimed another victim.

However, it was not to be… once the Xirrus engineers cracked open the case and reinserted a few boards, the UFO lit up and was again serving out wireless goodness. (Minus one Gigabit Ethernet port —- hey, the blue smoke had to come from SOMEWHERE!)

The Xirrus engineers had asked us not to take pictures of the AP with its case off, but they forgot that we had installed an Axis PTZ camera behind their workstation.

So… after this experience, it wasn’t a surprise to any of us that Xirrus did just fine at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center for Interop Las Vegas 2007. Their APs stayed up. The people were connected. The wireless tangle was made a little more neat — Take that Snoopy!