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Mist, Wi-Fi, Nobody Got Fired For Buying

Brown’s Bytes – Nobody Got Fired For Buying…

Welcome to Brown’s Bytes! Your weekly insight from Mobliciti’s CTO Andy Brown. Follow #brownsbytes

4th February 2019

In 2018, I brought in a new technology partner for Mobliciti in the Enterprise Wireless space – Mist Systems. Out in a meeting with a customer, I was asked to explain why I thought Mist was needed when there are a number of wireless providers already in the Enterprise. I thought it would be useful to expand on my answer here.

At the heart of all this is the killer question for any new provider… why go with the new guy when there are established providers already in place? You can summarise it with the well-worn phrase, “nobody got fired for buying (insert large incumbent)”. In the networking space, this is usually Cisco.

In my opinion, there are usually two reasons that sit behind the answer to this:

Large companies are, by definition, built around selling the product available today.

Someone has a bright idea and a business gets built around a product. People are hired to make the underlying product as good as it can be and to keep customers satisfied. Over time, it becomes necessary to improve the product (bigger, better, faster, slicker) to ensure the product stays competitive.

Note the company isn’t really innovating the core product any more. It is usually iterative change at best. The product is stable and solid and relied upon by many.

This is the nobody got fired moment, however…

True Innovation then happens again.

Someone has a bright idea… this is disruptive. It’s a genuinely different solution to the problem – and a new company springs up around the idea. This is the purest form of how technological innovation works.

This is the real danger for the large incumbent. They now have a competitor that has moved the market.

The large incumbent has a challenge. Its product (and indeed its people) are built around a certain way of doing things. Ideally, they need to change their product to keep up with the challenger, but often this isn’t simple.

Trying to radically change an existing product without breaking it is hard!

Suddenly the large incumbent is looking slow and out of date.

So, why the long ramble? Well, simply put, I had a wow moment when I first saw Mist in action. It is a wireless solution that has been built from the ground up with the power of AI and cloud computing built in.

This will be transformational, and I use one scenario to describe it.

Everyone who is a network admin will know that troubleshooting a wireless issue is actually a PITA. Often the issue is being reported by a user despite your dashboard saying everything is up and running normally. To further compound this you will have other users in the same area working fine. Meanwhile, your user is saying I can’t connect and not giving you anything to go on to troubleshoot it.

Getting to the root cause is almost impossible. Is it a Wi-Fi issue, a client issue, user error, DHCP issue, DNS issue, etc? So, being a good engineer, you set up traces to see what is happening… and then the problem goes away!

You can’t run a trace for very long as the data produced is massive and slows everything down. Sod’s law is that the problem will only return once traces are turned off again.

Meanwhile, the users are increasingly slagging off the wireless…

Sound familiar?

Of course, it does, it happens on every network.

If only you had a PCAP (network packet capture) for when the issue happened!

Cue Mist demo – because this is one just one of the areas where it’s different.

For every user on the network (and not on it) it’s keeping data about success and failure. Not just metadata – actual ‘this is what happened when it went wrong’ data (even a small PCAP of it). The scenario above becomes:

  1. Ask the user what time it happened
  2. Check dashboard for the user
  3. Go to the error event
  4. (Often optional) Look at data

You’d most likely fix it with the user still on the phone logging the fault, or you can even turn the issue on its head. All this data means you can be proactive and contact the users before they complain!

This is just one area that I’ve chosen to highlight. Mist is just genuinely a better way of running a network – I’d strongly suggest getting in touch to see the art of the possible.

By the way – turns out the user had typed the password in wrong!!