Wireless Field Day 8 – Game of Roams Edition

In the mythical land of San Jose, 12 noble Wi-Fi professionals fight for control of the RF airtime. Technical and marketing intrigue is pervasive. Stephen Foskett, King of Field Days, asks his old friend Tom Hollingsworth to serve as Hand of the King and supervise the assembled Wi-Fi lords. Secretly warned that the previous Hand was assassinated by an out of control wireless drone, Tom accepts in order to investigate further. Meanwhile, Jennifer Huber, the Queen of Wireless Field Days, may be hatching a plot to distribute more I heart Wi-Fi buttons at the event. Across the sea, Peter Paul Engelen, has been scheming to be invited once again to Wireless Field Day and has finally succeeded! He believes that cunningly distributing stroopwafels to attendees will make him one of the favored attendees in the eyes of the King.

Lee Badman has been running in circles to outwit the Hand’s investigations, by having top secret meetings with the black mages called ‘Mark-et-ers’ about new product releases so he can stay as one of the top story tellers of the Wireless Field Days. He runs the orange kingdom in the cold north, which enables him to wield much power for the King and sends regular messages through his blog to his fanatical followers. To the south, Sam Clements attempts to match Lee’s power through the use of the ‘Bour-bon’ which is a magical potion that makes its users drunk with power enough to sit through two hour podcasts. He entrances his victims with a special magical Whiskey and Wireless podcast that encourages the imbibing of the Bour-bon to fully participate and gain the secret information that high level Wi-Fi wizards possess. The coming together of these two powerful lords of Wi-Fi has been a must seen event ever since the King began showing their powers at his Wireless Field Days and has left many a ‘Mark-et-er’ quaking in their boots.

In a remote cold northern location, close to the great Canadian wall, Blake Krone plots the downfall of the other lords by seeking to prove that he knows the mysterious methods of the ‘Eka-hau’ weapon better than anyone else. He has wielded this weapon to fight the beast known as the Cisco and tame its many minions throughout the land. These minions are tricky white beasts that hide in buildings and radiate their power to many in the land. Little does he know, that another, smaller beast is also on the prowl called the Aruba which has co-opted many of the Cisco’s dark places in its fight for RF supremacy. This could challenge Blake’s plan and eventually lead to his downfall, if he doesn’t gain understanding of the Aruba as well. Blake has found favor with the Queen of Wireless Field Days and can be often seen laughing and joking with her during parties at the San Jose Palace of the Double Tree.

The Wi-Fi lord Keith Parsons has been studying the RF magic for much longer than many of the other Wi-Fi wizards and has come to the realization that the battle is not won by fighting the white minions, but by fighting to make sure that the white minions are properly placed to co-operate with each other. He tells all that will listen that Wi-Fi should be free and fast, though he often adds ‘easy’ to the spell to enhance it’s potency. Acting against him are the black mages who use easy spells such as the ‘one AP per classroom’ spell to spread bad white minion placement. If only the other Wi-Fi lords would turn from their own interests and support him in his desire to ban the dragon known as the captive portal, then he would be well on his way to making the world a better place. There are many ‘Mark-et-er’ mages who believe in the power of monetizing through using the captive portal and they hold other wizards in their thrall! Keith, however sees the evil of monetization and fights with Lee to stop it’s spread.

Meanwhile, Jake Snyder has been quietly working on his own plan for RF magic supremacy through the use of his weapon the ‘Pine-apple’. This weapon is so powerful, it’s enabled him to gain secret entry into many other lords WLAN domains without detection and gain much information about their magical intrigues that he can reveal when the time is right to devastating effect. It has already enabled him to win many followers throughout the land who secretly support him, even though they live in other lord’s lands. Jake has also spent countless hours using a device called a ‘3D-Prin-ter’ to create weapons for other Wi-Fi lords. As these weapons help the lords to tame the white minions, he is seen as one of the main weapons suppliers throughout the land. Indeed many a Wi-Fi battle throughout the land has been won by his use of this dark device.

Finally, there is myself, Chris Lyttle, the narrator of this tale, who goes with the other lords to battle the Wi-Fi beasts in their lairs. I use the power of the ‘Kiwi Haka’ to do battle, although many times the other lords cannot understand the words when I use my battlecry to ask tough questions at the Wireless Field Days. I seek to bring security to the Wi-Fi magic of the land and foil those who would use the Wi-Fi magic for evil purposes.

Tune in as all the lords meet in the battle to control RF airtime at Wireless Field Day 8 San Jose on September 30th to October 2nd. We’ll be confronting the daemon ‘Mark-et-ers’ in the lairs of Aruba Networks, Cisco, Cradlepoint and Zebra!

Apologies to those attending that I didn’t write stories for, hopefully I’ll get to know you there well enough to write about you in the future

Thoughts on the HP acquisition of Aruba Networks

Twitter has been abuzz since last week with the leaked news, now official, that HP has entered an agreement to acquire Aruba Networks. As such there are plenty of people both for and against this in the WLAN community. I wanted to put some immediate thoughts up here on this transaction;

  • First congratulations to Aruba, I’m happy for all my friends there who have worked hard over the years to build a great company.
  • As much as can be read from this from press announcements, it seems like Dom & Keerti will be heading up what will be the new subsidiary of HP which seems to be a combination of the HP Networking division and Aruba.
  • There has been much consternation online about HP’s previous missteps acquiring companies and that it could ‘ruin’ Aruba. I understand the worry, but I believe it to be overstated. We don’t really know how things will turn out and knowing what strong leaders Dom & Keerti are and the smart way they have got to where they are in the industry, I don’t believe for a second they would let things go badly for Aruba without a fight.
  • Having HP, a _much_ larger company, giving Aruba backing, plus that HP’s switching is fairly well regarded in a lot of customers, gives Aruba some serious ammo to go after Cisco, the market leader. It could also turn out that it gives Aruba capital it needs to expand into area’s of the market they have not played a lot in as well. Expansion of a company is always limited by the amount of capital it has available.
  • The flip side of this is that HP could overwhelm Aruba. I know a few good people currently working in HP and I know that they have been working hard to change some of the negative perceptions HP has. This is a smart move by HP as they are not only buying a good company, but also a lot of goodwill Aruba has built already.
  • This also marks for the WLAN industry in general that we are moving from a phase of rapid growth and startup like mentality to one of more established businesses that are dominant forces in IT. It’s actually a good thing that WLANs have become so central to doing business and no longer are just a ‘nice to have’.
  • Like all changes, there will be people who won’t like it and will move on just because of the uncertainty. I hope my friends at Aruba will see the great opportunity this gives them and will stay on to help grow the future there. I know some of the leadership may be looking to just move on to new ventures and I can understand that.

As others have mentioned, this could be the start of some major buyouts in the industry. Aerohive, Ruckus, Meru and others all could be targets for others to gain an advantage. This is a big one for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some other moves by HP’s competitors to gain a team of smart WLAN guys. As a WLAN professional I am looking forward to more exciting things to come!

Dating, Identity and IoT

As I lie in bed some nights, I sometimes am awake with a gazillion ideas revolving around in my brain. One of the things that jumped out at me the other night was how online dating was similar to the Internet of Things (IoT). Bear with me a bit while I explain what I mean. Online dating has changed a lot since it first surfaced in the late 1990’s and has now become almost the de facto goto for those looking for a relationship. Well apart from bars, they are still doing very well as meeting up places. The problem a lot of people have is one of identity with online dating. How to know that person who’s picture you are looking at is the person for you? To fix this information asymmetry most dating sites require you to fill out in some level of detail identifying information about yourself that others can use to assess if they wish to begin a relationship with you.

In the early days of the Internet, we used simple mechanisms to identify people. Passwords worked fine for most people to represent who they are and most importantly if they were allowed access to data. As time has gone on, the limitations of passwords have become apparent. Especially with multiple different places on the Internet holding differing levels of information about us. Dating sites have this issue also, not only in that they need to regulate who can alter the data they have that describes an individual, but also how to verify that the information about that individual is correct, so that potential relationships can establish a level of trust. As more and more people use dating sites, it’s getting much harder to have that verification happen. If we think about how we as human beings establish trust in another individual, it’s built on a series of relationships that we have, both in that we ‘get to know’ someone through our observations over time but also in that we talk to others who know that individual in order to get some third party information about them. Of course I’m oversimplifying a bit here, but my point is that we use many different pieces of information to build a matrix of trust and we judge how much we trust that person based on how we assess and verify that information about them.

So now we have this mass of new devices coming along in the Internet of Things. As they will be so integrated into our everyday lives and performing many individual functions for us how do we verify them even on a very simple level of ‘that one belongs to me, the other one doesn’t’ and then trust it to perform it’s function. I think the only realistic way of doing this without having to remember a huge number of different passwords is for us to build a matrix of trust based on relationships but have this be performed by our devices in an automated way. Let me describe a simple example. How does your intelligent door lock know that you are the owner of this house and it should unlock the door to let you in? First it sees you drove up in a car that it is able to communicate with to verify that you are the owner of that car, based on the car having previously verified you. Next it communicates with your phone and compares your fingerprint you used to access the phone. Finally it uses a small camera to do facial recognition to images previously captured of you to provide a third data point. Each one of these exchanges of data is also verified by using cryptographic communication to also validate the relationship of each device to each other.

So we see that in a similar way to online dating, the IoT needs to establish relationships to be able to verify trust. As more and more data points are added, it becomes possible for our devices to establish higher levels of trust based on the quality of the information and the relationships involved. Identity then and the relationships formed by being able to trust someone’s identity becomes a key enabler of the IoT. We are starting to see this with devices such as smartphones beginning to use fingerprint readers but this is about more than the simple test of ‘is this the correct fingerprint’. What is being built here is a way for our machines to identify us individually using the same methods that we ourselves as humans use to establish trust. In a way I find it comforting that this is so, as it shows that one of the most human behaviors we have, that of relating to each other, applies equally in how we build our machines.