Lee Badman shares his frustrations with consumer devices on enterprise networks
Are consumer devices wreaking havoc on your network? You are not alone? What are the possible solutions? Are there any? What should the Wi-Fi Alliance do – if anything. Lee Badman shares his opinions on all of these topics and more.
Specialties: Wireless and LAN Networking Design and Administration, Network Security, Situational Analysis and Solutions Development, International Travel For Network and Organizational Support, Instructing/Teaching/Training, RF Systems, Amateur Radio, Professional Writing, Management, Project Management, IT Consulting, IT and Industry Analysis, Hobby Technologies, Finding the Right Solution for Each Situation. FAA-Certificated Remote Pilot.
Check his website: http://www.wirednot.net/
Watch Lee’s original presentation from #WLPC HERE
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Wireless LAN professionals podcast episode 200, but it also goes back.
My point of everybody’s doing it their own way. There is no cohesive approach. There’s no commonality across all of these devices.
And you never know if you’re gonna get until you dig into the dark. Until you set it off and see just how bad it really is.
Wireless LAN professionals is a place to educate, inform, encourage and entertain those involved in wireless LANs. This wireless LAN professionals podcast is an audio manifestation of these goals. Our host is a wireless land veteran consultant, designer and teacher, Keith Parsons.
And now the podcast for wireless LAN professionals by wireless LAN professionals.
We’ll leave. Thanks for joining me again. How are you, sir?
Doing well, Matthew. Thanks for having me.
Absolutely. For those who don’t know, you can explain what you do, where you are in the world of Wi-Fi and what you’re up to these days.
I work for a Syracuse University and the campus architect.
I have been in the networking game for 22 years.
Background as an Air Force avionics radar systems prior to the LAN day one for Wi-Fi.
So I’ve been doing this for quite a while. Wireless is an all I do. But it does consume a lot of my time. And then on the side I do quite a bit of writing for various outwards and so on.
If someone wants to follow up, obviously you’re active on Twitter as well. How do people get in touch with you? Of course, we’ll put links to this in the show, notes Carrizo on Twitter.
I am at Wired. Not all one word, no spaces, monitors or anything at Wired. Not a blog for IEEE toolbox for networking and others. But those are the two primary outlets these days. And my own blog is the Wired, not WordPress dot com Real World Frustrations with consumer gadgets.
What instigated this talk?
What motivated you to share this? Well, this is one of those.
I think it’s a very relatable topic. And I think it’s one of those things where the more enterprising you are, probably the more sensitive you are to us. Like, if you’re doing a lot of SMB where maybe the network equals, you know, a small router with a built in access point or something simple, you’re probably not hit by the affect of the topic.
As far as like the enterprise folks, but you have, you know, business networks and business networks are made of, you know, build on solutions which enforce policies.
And usually policies are arrived at with the intent of business continuity and smooth operation and stability and such.
And it’s really strange on the Internet side of the house, there’s not a lot of mystery ether or not the voice. Generally, they just.
Know they plug in occasionally, they get firmware upgrades every now and then you get one bill kind of wonky, though. By and large, it’s a fairly predictable space.
Whereas on the wired side, give the data to that 11:00.
Even though we have standards. And even though we have the Wi-Fi alliance promising us interoperability, it’s just absolute chaos.
The client, the and, you know, it’s very unpredictable. Once you get away from laptops and smartphones, even then they can they can be their own challenge. But by and large.
You can make them work.
You might have to do a driver update or whatever.
There’s all these other bizarre, weird devices with new wireless networking capabilities to do wonderful, magical things in the living room.
And then people drag them to work expecting this wonderful magic. And it just doesn’t work that way, unfortunately.
How does this issue hit you particularly hard in the university environment? Do you think it’s harder for you? Or is this probably the same for everybody?
I think everybody is going to have their own variation of it.
A lot of it depends on what your strategy is and how much you think you must accommodate all devices and whether you can actually say no to certain devices or whatever.
But are dorms are kind of like the Wild West.
People bring all kinds of stuff and expect that all the work. Everything from smart light bulbs.
So we had some time to look at T.P link or something. It was just crazy. Some consumer grade fan and just everything is the quote unquote smart or smart device or this.
Then the other thing and you know, they want to be connected to one router and the only thing that’s ever going to talk to it are the devices on that one router. The typical living room model, which which forms are not. And then when you leave the dorms every now and then, you’re a faculty member. You know, ev something that they think would be really cool in the classroom and it kind of bumps up against same challenges. So it’s fairly common on the classroom and administrative side of why it’s a little easier to deal with, because typically you’re working with, you know, computing support, people that can help you educate on policy, maybe help find alternative solutions to whatever they’re trying to achieve.
But certainly in the dorms where it’s, you know, unquote, their home conversations, they’re pretty interesting.
What were you hoping to accomplish with this? What kind of needle were you would you wish you could move?
Oh, in a perfect world, if I were Cinderella right up there with World AIDS. Yeah.
Somebody from the Wi-Fi alliance would be sitting in the audience and they would listen to they just go off for 30 minutes and then they’d leave saying, you know, we kind of fail this this whole notion of interoperability.
We’re really not delivering it.
We really are just kind of awash in special sauce. And we need to reform this server space, by golly.
Yeah, I mean that that’s like the perfect world.
But the you know, all of it is insanity, Jack. I can’t be the only one dealing with some, you know, from the audience interaction and all of that. I don’t think I am.
Won’t what some of the feedback you got, I mean, were you hearing, like, a man brother or what are you, a crazy loon conspiracy theorist?
Well, I think there was a lot of a man brother kind of is what it is.
You know, I know now we’re going to change a couple of allusions to magic in the middle, like Cisco has ice and a group that has clear some.
If you’re willing to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on what I call the magic in the middle, these these quote unquote solutions, you can make that 20 dollar streaming device work just fine.
It’s a legacy that is really odd times.
You’re going to spend six figures to make that Wal-Mart 20 dollar gadget.
That’s so important to somebody actually work on a wireless network instead of the company that made that the voice, you know, make them kind of make it work on the network by building it right to begin with.
So, like in your view with the Wi-Fi alliance, if they were doing what you would expect them to do, they would have a stronger gate or a harder way to pass and just get everything approved.
Yeah, that’s a fair summary. I mean, they’re their members are the companies that are making both sides of the wireless equation, and they’re the infrastructure makers and they’re also the client device makers.
So, you know, ideally their members would kind of in my mind, what I don’t think I was doing the right thing.
And that right thing is everybody becomes compatible with Enterprise Wireless or the Wi-Fi alliance comes up with their own. You know, they’re really good at branding and then marketing a lot of their own brands.
So something like this is a consumer certified consumer device.
This is a certified enterprise device. And some pretty simple criteria would be all, hey.
And then at least know wireless LAN professionals will be able to. Take a device and say, well, that’s been certified consumer.
Yeah, we just that along means we’re not going to support it on our enterprise or something like that to me, makes perfect sense.
I’ve heard from other people. Boy, wouldn’t that be nice.
You know, that that would be another way of perhaps addressing, you know, what what wireless people see is a problem where you can at least point to something for your sea levels or whomever you’re answering to and say this doesn’t fit in our environment. Look.
And then if the you know, the consumer folks actually wanted to sell into the enterprise space, that if the rethink their products and you do the fuel lines of code that it would actually take to make them better, what it would have to stop applying their own little twist on things and actually be more adhesive to the standard. The more, you know, embrace more the notion of, you know, there are business networks that are different than whole networks.
You gave a couple examples. We reference to one that we’re had that now don’t use this device where you have wireless set, who doesn’t have wireless.
You also talked about the 36 page configuration guy that was Cisco providing their configuration guide for the Google Chrome OS. And the Chromecast is one of those consumer devices.
There’s a really, really particular pairing thing that has to happen, a prompt that just does not work very well on the enterprise.
Hats off to Cisco for going to the trouble of telling you how to make it work, but it does take thirty six pages of configuration, getting you to do things to your wireless network. Probably ninety five percent of wireless network administrators and engineers look at and say, we can’t do this. This makes no sense. This goes against security policy. This goes against stability.
Nothing about this makes sense. But at least Cisco tells you how to do it in this very complicated world.
So we talked about that the other devices, the Lutron, was actually a lighting system.
They have a couple of different series of lighting system, not bashing Lutron also because they also have some stuff that works out of Wi-Fi frequency, wireless lighting control systems that are fantastic.
They’ve got huge big name customers that you could find that on their Web site.
The particular series I’m talking about is the Veev or Vive BVA VIP.
And as you alluded to in their technical documents, they say, you know, this is a Wi-Fi control system. This system works and modified frequencies don’t use it where you have Wi-Fi and what you already said, who doesn’t have Wi-Fi basically in a building. And that device comes up. Every controller lighting controller is basically a wireless access point and it booms. And it will crush your identity wireless and wire. You point or. And it will stay booming until you plug in any other inactive. There’s no way to disable it until you do that.
It’s just one of those devices that, you know, they completely missed the vote. I’m putting it out there and it’s not like it says it on the packaging.
Don’t use where you have a Wi-Fi network. You have to dig deep into the configuration guides to get to that point. So this kind of thing we’re dealing with. And then the infamous big ass fans, legitimate company name.
Got to be fun to put that and your signature block big ass fans.
But anyhow, they at least had the good sense to kind of do the Lutron thing with with an out for the Wi-Fi people.
They also have a Bluetooth side of their wireless radio.
And from Bluetooth underneath the fan, you can at least disable Wi-Fi.
So that was nice to see, so. But it also goes back to my point of everybody’s doing it their own way.
There is no cohesive approach. There’s no commonality across a lot of these, the voices.
And you never know what you’re gonna get until you dig into the docks or until you set it off and see just how bad it really is.
You mentioned in your talk a few potential solutions are answers people have.
Yes. We talked about the you know, the magic in the middle. Those very expensive system than they they do have more use. These all fall under the heading of Mac Network access control. And you can do more than just, you know, use them as like the magic Harry Potter sorting out for all these crazy devices. But to get there, it’s a lot of money to do these things.
Back to my point where that falls down or where that perhaps is this active, is the money you’re putting into these systems to make these super cheap devices? You’re not even making a bet.
If you’re basically making a nasty workaround, that’s what you’re doing by spending a boatload of money for a lot of us, especially, you know, you think about what’s going on with the pandemic and all the you know, before we started ests you talking a little bit about the economic impact. Budgets are going to be a lot tighter after this.
So, you know, the thought of spending money, that kind of money to accommodate cheap the voices, that’s not going to resonate very well with people.
A lot of cases so that, you know, we’re seeing current events kind of make a bad situation worse.
I think reading the devices properly, recognizing that the consumer space is so much different from the enterprise space and the differences are generally security.
The funky multicast M.D. and asked I’d stuff and DNS by definition is made for small network that multicasting Anastas made for very small networks.
These devices come to very large networks and that doesn’t scale well. It’s hard to implement. And that gets back to Cisco’s trying to give you this code you work on for the Chromecast. That’s one of those examples. If the device makers just acknowledged, you know, we want to you.
We want people to be able to use these devices in these places. They have to adapt to the spaces, not vice versa.
I mean, that would be a very powerful, simple recognition, recognition that’s long overdue in my life.
You had mentioned just do a P.S. network.
The notion of just do, you know, kind of make make a separate US society and then make that SS IEEE just for these devices.
The problem there is some of one of the problems there is updating. These can be terribly clunky. So how do you of the user essentially hundreds of devices with any frequency that can be quite hard.
But then also in the device space, we ran into a particular time clock where one of the things that we were asked to do is not only create a scanner or for the clocks, but can you give each clock its own?
So now, you know, that gets embraced as a solution. If you know anything about wireless, you only want so many S.O.S ideas out there and you can picture the SSI sprawl if every goofy device and every individual device in the goofy device products needs its own. It’s just, you know, it’s not sustainable or real.
You mentioned the open network.
Oh, yeah. Which is actually something we took a chance on doing.
And it’s worked out very well for the last three years now, rather than invest in the expensive magic in the Middle East and fast for this particular purpose.
And we did give it a go and it kind of fell miserably. The first three devices were misclassified and weren’t given the right permissions. So we realized that we couldn’t keep going with with something like that.
So we opted to.
Create an open society in the dorms. And if you can get your device on it, you’ll be allowed to get to the Internet and nothing else. You think back to the important campus resources.
And there are still some devices. That’s not good enough for. But that those capture and enable, you know, a large percentage of the problem, the voices.
That means they can only get the Internet.
So, you know, the whether you call it a DMZ or you call it a, you know, so segregated out, wild, lost or whatever.
It’s the same as society per dorm. But behind it’s much smaller, logical slices. You know, the society appears to be campus wide, but it’s actually jumped up her building in a lot of the streaming devices. Roku and Apple TV is if you know how to hook it up the right way for this paradigm.
You know, we’ve been able to get all kinds of devices that particular using that network. And that’s worked out good for probably seventy five percent of what everybody would use is good, as that sounds. You know, you might be encouraging about the security aspects, but promise we satisfied our security officer and our CIO when we went down this path.
Even there with the open network, there is one particular very popular funky colored light panel thing that the students like to buy.
It only works in two point four gig if it’s C in our society with the same name in five. It’ll give you a warning. So somehow we can hear the five gig. We’ll give you a warning.
We don’t want to be in this environment through the Five Gig Network. We’re only two point four. So, OK, how about just ignore it and use it for it is the goofiest thing I’ve ever seen. But but again, you know, some developer somewhere in some third world country thought that that was a good idea for some reason. And now we’re all stuck trying to deal with that. So just one more example.
So if you could talk with admen sea level, what would be some things that you wish they could change or consider?
So, you know, we will try to find ways to explain, you know, just because it’s wireless, that can mean a whole bunch of different things here. Why it won’t work.
Here’s the particular risk of, you know, bending our own rules and accommodating that. Ideally, we can kind of keep all that minimum and put a positive spin on it. And to come at it from what is it that you’re trying to accomplish? Forget the device. What’s the what’s the operational thing you’re trying to do and find to find an alternative that actually works on the network, usually for every goofy device.
There is one that does the same thing, that you can make work properly, not in all cases, but in most cases.
So a lot of times, again, it’s trying to find a viable alternative that actually those you know, what they were trying to do, even if it doesn’t even if, you know, maybe is a little more expensive or whatever and.
A lot of bad press has been made about wireless security and exploits being done, you know, through, you know, or devices and poorly secured networks, all that, it doesn’t take a lot of persuasion to as long as you’ve got a legitimate case. Explain why the security aspects are really important. And you can’t just, you know, shotgun in goofy stuff because it sounds cool and you could use it at home and.
You know, the the providing of alternative ways, like I said, this is pretty powerful and kind of keeping the peace.
So talk to the engineer, someone who is in the middle of kind of maybe a similar situation. What encouragement or advice maybe would you give them?
Well, first and foremost, make sure that your organization has an up to date wireless policy, not and not a network policy, not a security policy, a wireless specific policy that covers all of these situations and talks about who has final say, etc., and make sure that it is endorsed by the sea levels and that it has speed.
You know, if you can achieve that, then you know why I’m signed to go have these sometimes spirited discussions.
At least you’ve got the closest thing to law. You know, as far as like from within your own little kingdom you’re referred to.
And it’s nothing that you beat people over the head with. It’s just something you refer to to help the discussion along.
On top of that, by all means, don’t make promises. Somebody says, hey, I want to put this on the network.
You know, be thoughtful, be cautious.
So, yeah, we’re going to have to maybe either try it out, just the technical docs, see what it’s all about and possibly call the vendor if that’s OK.
If we can get your rendered out that if you don’t have one, we’ll figure out what to call and talk through it.
Really, it’s just going to be cooperative. Don’t rush into anything. And by you know, by the other side of the coin, you don’t want to just hold up the stop sign every time and say no to everything.
That’s not very enduring either.
It’s just it’s a minefield. And you have to walk it fairly often.
You wrapped up your talk with that. Where is all this going? Summarize it again for us.
Just where you see things are going or what are the potential options that as you see them like I feel this tension between the consumer and the enterprise space.
And it seems almost like the you know, a good analogy would be call it Ross or call it a plague of locusts, whatever something is, just, you know, just kind of swarming over the surface and end. You fight it off. It kind of feels like that with the consumer devices sometimes.
And sooner or later, something is going to have to give.
So will we be dumbing down the enterprise networks to accommodate all the consumer devices? That’s a very viable option.
You know, sooner or later, the balance tips. So we just can’t keep making exceptions and we can’t keep investing money on this expensive stuff at the level. So.
Maybe we’ll go back to just giant CSK environments or something. You know, that is that is certainly one potential outcome I see, having been kind of fatalistic, it just it can’t be both ways forever.
I know that with a number of the voices that are coming.
The other thing is maybe somebody will get wise. As I alluded to before, you realize it’s time to reform the point of voice space. But I just don’t see it coming. The Wi-Fi alliance is the closest thing we have to call it a lobbyist in that regard. And they just don’t seem to care. In their early days, they were all about promoting real interoperability, real quality, universally applied approaches to wireless. And now they just seem to be more interested in marketing themselves. Mark is anything. So I don’t I don’t have a real positive. Hope for any of this actually resolving at the same time, I’m open minded. Maybe sooner or later a strong point to come along and somehow fix it would be wonderful.
Leigh, I do appreciate you. I guess sounding the alarm again and it seems like you’re always on the forefront of at least openly sharing your thoughts and views and giving people something to think and chew on. So we appreciate it.
Oh, my pleasure, Matthew.
I fully realize that even if a lot of people will only find the right way to say no, I tend to grouse a lot. But at the same time, I’m very much know that other people who resigned themselves to it and I just know I don’t want to go down without a fight.
Thank you for joining us for another episode of the wireless LAN professionals podcast. The podcast for wireless LAN professionals by wireless LAN professionals. Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Wireless Landreaux. For all the latest news and updates and also connect directly with Keith on Twitter at Keith Parsons. Head over to w w w w LAN prose dot com. For this episode show notes as well as the latest in all things Wi-Fi.
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