Maturing End-to-End Wi-Fi Service Monitoring

By revolutionwifi posted Apr 14, 2016 01:16 PM


Consider this scenario: you’re deploying a brand new shiny BYOD Wi-Fi network. You’ve done all your planning, carefully designed the architecture, and ensured proper security and segmentation. You turn it up, advertise it to your users, and watch at their delight in glorious internet service. A day, a week goes by while you bask in management praise… until a flood of support tickets starts flooding in. Something is wrong. Something is horribly wrong. You scramble to start diagnosing the problem, but you’re not sure what it could be. The end-user reported symptoms are vague and don’t provide many clues. You have little information to work from to narrow the scope so you start looking at RF layer 1 for interference and working your way up the protocol stack. Minutes turn into hours, possibly days… all APs are up, associations look good, client counts seem reasonable. Are VLANs properly trunked to the APs or controllers? Is authentication working properly? Could it be the captive portal? Eventually you’re able to get the wired LAN and server teams engaged to check service status and logs. Low and behold, several IP subnets have run out of available DHCP leases. Subnet sizes appear too small, DHCP lease times too long. Adoptance was greater than anticipated. Visibility and logging of DHCP related issues non-existent in your organizations operations processes.


How long did it take you to track down the problem? Did it expose lack of visibility into your Wi-Fi environment? How well are you able to narrow down the problem scope quickly and efficiently to minimize service disruptions?


Similar examples exist for a myriad of scenarios involving different aspects of wireless LANs. Modern WLANs involve the integration of multiple systems to provide service to the end-user or device. Monitoring and troubleshooting those systems can be difficult when tackled individually, possibly being owned by different teams within an enterprise. Wi-Fi admins would benefit from visibility into each and every service in a cohesive fashion.


AirWave version 8.2 introduces Clarity Live, which provides proactive analysis of end-user quality of experience by monitoring critical network services.



AirWave 8.2 Clarity Live Dashboard


Clarity Live service monitoring provides a comprehensive view into the services critical to Wi-Fi operation in a single dashboard. Metrics are gathered by the Wi-Fi infrastructure in real-time as it serves clients and are reported back to AirWave. Services monitored include:

  • Association
  • Authentication, broken down by server and method:
    • 1X
    • PSK
    • Captive Portal
    • MAC Authentication
  • DHCP Addressing
  • DNS Queries


Clarity Live measures these services in two ways: success vs. failure rates and response times (performance). These metrics can be monitored in real time and are capture for historical analysis (services can be tested on-demand or scheduled for predictive insight as well with Clarity Synthetic, see below). This provides IT organizations with the ability to proactively monitor end-to-end services that are critical to Wi-Fi operation as well as quickly narrow and identify root causes to minimize service impact to end-users.


Visibility into service metrics is provided in a hierarchical fashion, with the global dashboard providing an organization-wide view and drill-down capabilities into service metrics within individual network locations through AirWave device folders.


Clarity Live Service Failure Rates


Clarity Live Service Response Times


Building on top of Clarity Live, Aruba will be adding a second component, Clarity Synthetic by leveraging Aruba APs and Air Monitor or the previously released Aruba Sensor, which currently provides Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) proximity services, to test end-to-end Wi-Fi service availability from a client’s perspective. Historically, Wi-Fi systems have had to rely on a purely network infrastructure perspective to monitor and diagnose wireless performance with no client device insight being reported back into management systems. Therefore, in situations where RF issues are suspected, Wi-Fi engineers have to travel on-site and rely on portable troubleshooting tools to gather information, test, and analyze potential issues that the infrastructure alone is not capable of reporting. Using the Aruba Sensor acting as a Wi-Fi client, engineers will soon have the ability to proactively deploy them as agents to continually monitor end-to-end service availability and performance from a client’s perspective. This will provide greater insight into RF performance characteristics (association, signal quality, interference, data rate distribution, errors and retransmissions, channel utilization) as well as the ability to proactively test all upstream services for proper operation (authentication, DHCP, DNS, captive portal, and synthetic application layer tests such as HTTP and others).


Keerti Melkote Introducing Clarity at Atmosphere 2016


Clarity Live and Clarity Synthetic usher in the beginning of end-to-end Wi-Fi service monitoring by both the infrastructure and client agents to provide Wi-Fi administrators with greater network visibility, proactive monitoring, and synthetic testing in order to minimize Wi-Fi service disruptions. Knowing is half the battle, and quickly narrowing scope and diagnosing problems is one problem the industry has faced since inception. I embrace the move toward more mature service monitoring.


Watch for more developments in this space!



Andrew von Nagy

1 comment


Apr 18, 2016 09:20 PM

Sounds cool as an alternative to our all Cisco network. Not sure how much this is different from PRIME though. Prime does debug and give good metrics. It doesn't add the latency tracking for free though. I would be curious to know what the cost of this solution would be. Cisco's new licensing has us considering other vendors. The Clarity Synthetic really sounds neat, without knowing the specifics it sounds like it has some elements that Cisco hasn't implemented yet.

We will have to see...