"Glue and Grease" = "System Integration and Performance Improvements"

I spend much of my team thinking and working on innovative information systems for construction. One of my best sources for developing ideas is a construction expert Chris who is passionate about lean construction, industrial engineering, logistics, and OODA Loop.  He has taught me many things about how construction people see things and think. And I have shared ideas on how technology people approach problems, like in order to program things we need to get to a binary condition of is this a "1" or a "0."

In our latest conversation chatting about the efforts to use wireless technology Chris said the application of wireless is the "Glue and Grease" in the process. "Glue" was providing the way to connect and attach things. "Grease" was reducing the friction in processes to make them easier and faster. To my technology friends we would never use these terms we would say "system integration and performance tuning."

On the other hand I like the physical explanation of glue and grease. And I think sometimes it explains the sloppiness in system integration and performance tuning with glue dripping and grease over applied. :-)

My next presentation on construction innovation will use the ideas of "Glue and Grease," because saying words like integration and performance tuning doesn't mean much to non-technology people.

Greening the Local Area Network with Passive Optical LAN

I have been in the world of Wireless Access Points and Mobile for months now, and part of what I started looking at is with 802.11ax coming in 2019-2029 an access point is going to need a 10G connection. Well actually even now there are needs for over 1gigabit connections to access points. The access point I have been playing with for the past week is Xirrus XD2-240 which has a maximum bandwidth of 6.9Gbps. I have two gigabit ethernet connections to the AP which I can set up for failover, aggregate, or load balancing.

An active multimode fiber local area network would be an option to 10gig copper, and scale to higher speeds. Then I found information on passive optical lan (POL). This is the same technology used for FTTH. In researching POL I found information how much greener POL can be. Nokia has this post.

For example, the amount of power consumed by a traditional Ethernet local area network (LAN) is significant. All the active switches and aggregators, not to mention the air conditioning units needed to cool these components, consume a lot of electricity.

A new technology is beginning to gain traction that promises to boost the LAN’s performance and make it much, much greener.

Passive Optical LAN (POL) is to Ethernet LAN what fiber-to-the-home is to copper telephone lines.

POL brings the power of fiber optic broadband technology to enterprises, university campuses, hospitals, hotels or anywhere else that uses a local area network. It is both cheaper and more powerful than Ethernet and, as well as lower energy consumption, holds many other advantages.

Passive technology actively saves 20-40% in energy

CablesThe clue to POL’s energy efficiency is in its name: it is a passive technology. For example, it only needs passive splitters to aggregate data from users and end-points whereas Ethernet relies on active components. Also, POL can be run on a centralized architecture – a rarity in Ethernet LANs larger than a few hundred end-points – and signals can travel up to 30km without needing to be boosted, so there is no need for a server room at the end of every corridor. The performance of a typical POL switch (known as an optical line terminal) is also much greater than an Ethernet switch, so you don’t need as many. In fact, whereas organizations often run separate LANs for different services, POL can handle everything in one. The overall energy savings of POL are therefore substantial.

A comparative study of POL and Ethernet LAN by our Bell Labs Consulting team calculated energy savings of between 20% and 40%, depending on the size and configuration of the LAN. These kinds of figures are invaluable for meeting targets for green initiatives such as LEED certification. And they contribute greatly to POL’s 5-year total cost of ownership being 20%-60% cheaper than active Ethernet solutions.

Cheap and green. Now that’s a good combination. This way to a greener LAN.
— https://blog.networks.nokia.com/optical/2016/04/20/saving-energy-greener-lan/

I'll write more about POL and other fiber technologies in addition to wireless.

Better Wifi Performance with less power, 5ghz is so much better than 2.4ghz

I am sure almost all of you have been frustrated with your wifi. At some point you get fed up and decide it is time to upgrade. You read the reviews. Look on Amazon for buyer reviews. You finally narrow down your choice. You choice is most likely an AP with more power, longer range, and higher speeds. This new AP will have the power to blast the wifi signal to all your mobile devices.

But almost all of you will make the transition and shortly discover things are not that much better.

Why? Because as Arstechnica points out almost everyone identifies the problem incorrectly.

Drowning out the neighbors’ Wi-Fi

Let’s be honest here: an awful lot of us, me included, are pretty much fine with the idea of “drowning out the neighbors” Wi-Fi with a higher powered router of our own. We’re right back to that instinctual model of a conversation: the signal from the neighbors’ Wi-Fi is pretty weak; if ours is strong enough, we can drown it out, and if that makes a problem for them they can either suck it up or go get a higher-powered router of their own, right?

This is a very human approach, but it’s not a very effective one. Consider a conversation at a crowded bar: you’re really intent on what your friend or date is saying, but the two of you are competing with the conversations on either side of you and behind you, as well as the music playing. So, naturally, you speak up! Unfortunately, what happens then is the people all around you get louder, too, resulting in a zero-sum game which ends up with everybody yelling and nobody able to understand anything very well.

— https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2017/03/802-eleventy-what-a-deep-dive-into-why-wi-fi-kind-of-sucks/

The problem is 2.4ghz is crowded and more power does not improve things. This is a digital issue there are too many bits trying to get on the 2.4ghz channels. So move to 5ghz by turning off 2.4ghz. Unfortunately leaving both radios on is going to too many times leave you with the 2.4ghz collision problem.

Wireless networking doesn’t work that way. It’s engineered, not instinctual, and so the standard directly prevents devices “shouting over” one another. Instead of having a crowded-bar-style competition for bandwidth, each device must wait for a chance to “speak,” clearly and without competition from other devices. In technical terms, a Wi-Fi network is a collision domain, and this enforced politeness helps avoid packet collision. This is well worth doing, because if packets do collide, each device then has to stop transmitting, wait a random interval of time, then try again—thereby, hopefully letting one machine start “talking” enough before the other that they don’t drown one another out again. (If they picked the same random number, then they’ll collide again and have to start the whole process over again.)

Most technical people understand this about their own networks, but many don’t realize that it’s not just your Wi-Fi devices that are all on a single collision domain—it’s all Wi-Fi devices on the same channel. Any, repeat, any transmission on the same channel ties up that channel, even if it’s on a different network with a different SSID and different WPA key. The 802.11 wireless network specification uses Clear Channel Assessment to determine whether the channel is “busy” or not, and if CCA says “occupied,” the wireless device has to wait its turn. If your laptop, phone, or tablet can “hear” the preamble of another 802.11 transmission at -82 dBM, whether it’s on your network or not, it has to sit tight, shut up, and wait its turn to speak.

— https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2017/03/802-eleventy-what-a-deep-dive-into-why-wi-fi-kind-of-sucks/

What comes with focusing on mobile, is spending a lot more time on wireless 802.11 technologies, turned off 2.4ghz

I have been slowly making more and more of my time about mobile first.  I now use my iPad Pro more than my MacBook Pro.  It is way more convenient to have the iPad Pro than the MacBook Pro.

As part of focusing on Mobile I spend more time on 802.11.  Latest is to improve me home office network.  I have 5 access points running off one controller. Reading this post on the end of 2.4ghz

On February 3rd, 2016 Cisco released a joint statement (http://bit.ly/1T7Niet) with Apple thatannounced the death of the 2.4GHz spectrum. The 2.4GHz band, often referred as the Universal Band, was the primary spectrum leveraged when initial Wi-Fi standards were first introduced 17 years ago. Over the years, this spectrum has become jammed with traffic; it offers only 3 non-overlapping channels of which many devices and technologies make use.

2.4Ghz was the initial focal point for first to market Wi-Fi deployments. In 1999, the IEEE also created a Wi-Fi standard for operation in 5GHz which supports 24 non-overlapping channels with 8 times the capacity available in 2.4GHz.

What’s surprising about the Apple/Cisco announcement is the timing of this report. Cisco has been shipping access points (AP’s) for years with one fixed 2.4GHz radio and one fixed 5GHz radio. In contrast, for the past decade Xirrus has been shipping products with software programmable radios that enable customers to select 2.4GHz or 5GHz at the click of a mouse on any radio within an AP. (Xirrus is the only Wi-Fi company with a product line that offers a choice of 2-16 radios per AP with customizable spectrum per radio).This capability provides massive flexibility to customers and extends the lifetime of Xirrus customer Wi-Fi products up to 10 years. Not surprisingly, within 2 weeks of the release of this document, Cisco finally announced new AP technology that supports a form of software programmability for 1 radio with their AP.

What does this all mean? Well, Cisco finally has admitted 5GHz-only networks are the way forward. Therefore, it’s challenging to expect a customer to purchase an AP with 2 radios where 50% needs to be turned off! The move to an all-5GHz AP is a logical step, albeit one 10 years after Xirrus first pioneered this Wi-Fi offering. The real question though, is why stop at 2 x 5GHz radios in an AP? Why not 3, 4 or more??

The one device that kept me from going to all 5ghz is my printer on 802.11g.  Switched it to wired. and switched off 2.4ghz for my house.

What's next? I am looking to upgrade my Ubiquiti wireless to Xirrus.  Why?  That is another post.