I was reading my twitter feed on the way home tonight and it was abuzz about a new Miercom report that Cisco had paid for that showed their new Aironet 3702i AP vs. an Aruba Networks AP-225. Miercom is well known by most WLAN pros that I know in that they generally give you paid results, pay enough and you product will look wonderful vs. the competition! Once I got off the train and into my car, one of my favorite Metallica tracks began blasting. ‘So f*cking what! … Well who cares, who cares what you do…’ I began thinking about this report and AP speed tests in general and that I really didn’t care about them. The song really was just what I felt about this and the previous Miercom report that Aruba themselves had commissioned.
Lets be honest here. There’s always gonna be someone claiming their AP is the fastest thing since butter. There are very few good wireless engineers who I know that take speed alone as the single biggest factor in selecting an AP for their customers. In my experience what matters the most is the budget of the customer. Every time I discuss with people in detail what they are really looking for it comes down to what the main use case is. I carefully explain to them that the report they’ve been reading about vendor X’s super fast APs really doesn’t relate to their environment. The reason for this is pretty much everyone’s environment is different and it also changes from day to day as things change when RF interacts with all the different objects and people in that environment. The top speed of vendor X’s AP is also going to vary, sometimes wildly.
I’ve used an Aruba AP-225 for several months in my office and it works really fantastically well for me. I’m pretty sure that my friends who have Cisco APs that they use daily in their offices also have the same experience (or any other vendor’s AP for that matter). What 802.11ac brings for folks and why it’s important is that it increases capacity overall. That won’t matter a dime to someone who has a low number of clients and who’s users are generally not doing a lot on the wireless network. So what’s my advice to you who is looking at potentially upgrading and trying to choose between all these vendor’s products? Start with what your needs are today, do an honest extrapolation of how many more clients and what version of 802.11 they will potentially be using then use that as your basic metric. Oh, and hire a good WLAN engineer to help you sort it all out if it just seems confusing to you. They will save you money in the long run because you will buy what you need and they will design it so it works properly for your environment.