Controller-Based Wireless LAN Fundamentals: An end-to-end reference guide to design, deploy, manage, and secure 802.11 wireless networks

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Controller-Based Wireless LAN Fundamentals

An end-to-end reference guide to design, deploy, manage, and secure 802.11 wireless networks

Jeff Smith
Jake Woodhams
Robert Marg

As wired networks are increasingly replaced with 802.11n wireless connections, enterprise users are shifting to centralized, next-generation architectures built around Wireless LAN Controllers (WLC). These networks will increasingly run business-critical voice, data, and video applications that once required wired Ethernet.

In Controller-Based Wireless LAN Fundamentals, three senior Cisco wireless experts bring together all the practical and conceptual knowledge professionals need to confidently design, configure, deploy, manage, and troubleshoot 802.11n networks with Cisco Unified Wireless Network (CUWN) technologies.

The authors first introduce the core principles, components, and advantages of next-generation wireless networks built with Cisco offerings. Drawing on their pioneering experience, the authors present tips, insights, and best practices for network design and implementation as well as detailed configuration examples.

Next, they illuminate key technologies ranging from WLCs to Lightweight Access Point Protocol (LWAPP) and Control and Provisioning of Wireless Access Points (CAPWAP), Fixed Mobile Convergence to WiFi Voice. They also show how to take advantage of the CUWN’s end-to-end security, automatic configuration, self-healing, and integrated management capabilities.

This book serves as a practical, hands-on reference for all network administrators, designers, and engineers through the entire project lifecycle, and an authoritative learning tool for new wireless certification programs. This is the only book that

  • Fully covers the principles and components of next-generation wireless networks built with Cisco WLCs and Cisco 802.11n AP
  • Brings together real-world tips, insights, and best practices for designing and implementing next-generation wireless networks
  • Presents start-to-finish configuration examples for common deployment scenarios
  • Reflects the extensive first-hand experience of Cisco experts
  • Gain an operational and design-level understanding of WLAN Controller (WLC) architectures, related technologies, and the problems they solve
  • Understand 802.11n, MIMO, and protocols developed to support WLC architecture
  • Use Cisco technologies to enhance wireless network reliability, resilience, and scalability while reducing operating expenses
  • Safeguard your assets using Cisco Unified Wireless Network’s advanced security features
  • Design wireless networks capable of serving as an enterprise’s primary or only access network and supporting advanced mobility services
  • Utilize Cisco Wireless Control System (WCS) to plan, deploy, monitor, troubleshoot, and report on wireless networks throughout their lifecycles
  • Configure Cisco wireless LANs for multicasting
  • Quickly troubleshoot problems with Cisco controller-based wireless LANs

This book is part of the Cisco Press® Fundamentals Series. Books in this series introduce networking professionals to new networking technologies, covering network topologies, sample deployment concepts, protocols, and management techniques.

Category: Wireless

Covers: Cisco Controller-Based Wireless LANs

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587058257
  • Publisher: Cisco Press
  • Publication date: 11/12/2010
  • Series: Fundamentals Series
  • Pages: 294
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Smith is a wireless consulting systems engineer in the Cisco Systems Borderless Networking Organization. His 25 years of experience include the planning, analysis, design, implementation, installation, and support of numerous wireless network-based solutions for enterprises, municipalities, hospitals, universities, airports, warehouses, mines, and product manufacturers worldwide. He has developed and instructed dozens of training courses on wireless networking topics. Prior to joining Cisco Systems, Jeff was an early employee at several wireless and security startup companies. Jeff’s education includes a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in telecommunications with emphasis on wireless communications. Jeff’s certifications include CWNE (Certified Wireless Network Expert), IEEE WCET (Wireless Communications Engineering Technology Certification), and CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional).

Jake Woodhams is a senior manager of technical marketing in the Cisco Wireless Networking Business Unit. In this role, he is responsible for technical product definition and systems architecture, focusing on Cisco Unified Wireless LAN architecture. He hass been working with wireless technology at Cisco for seven years and has an intimate knowledge of the protocols and products in the Cisco wireless portfolio. As a writer, he’s the author of numerous white papers and design and deployment guides as well as several contributed articles.

Robert Marg is a wireless consulting systems engineer in the Cisco Systems Borderless Networks Organization. As a technical leader in wireless, Robert is responsible for planning, designing, and supporting numerous wireless network–based solutions for enterprises, hospitals, universities, manufacturers, and K–12 customers. Prior to his role as a wireless consulting systems engineer, Robert spent time as a member of the federal, public sector, enterprise, and commercial sales organizations as a systems engineer, helping customers solve business challenges with technical solutions. Mr. Marg holds a bachelor’s degree in bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. As a writer, Robert has been the author of numerous white papers and a technical editor for the Cisco Press CCNA Exam Certification Guide.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1 The Need for Controller-Based Wireless Networks

Why Wireless LAN Controllers Were Created

Why You Need to Use a Wireless LAN Controller

Controller-Based WLAN Functional and Elemental Architecture

Autonomous AP Issues and the WLC Remedy

Problem: WLAN APs Are Difficult to Deploy

Problem: WLANs Are Not Secure

Problem: Infrastructure Device Configuration and Scaling

Problem: Autonomous AP Costs for Configuring Each AP

Problem: Autonomous AP Costs for Keeping Each AP’s Software Up to Date

Problem: RF Expertise and Configuration Challenges

Mobility Applications Enabled by Controller-Based WLANs

WLANs Do Not Provide the Performance and Robustness Needed for Use as a Primary Access Network


Chapter 2 Wireless LAN Protocols

Understanding the Relevant Standards

Wi-Fi Alliance

Cisco Compatible Extensions


The Physical Layer

Physical Layer Concepts



CAPWAP Protocol Fundamentals

CAPWAP Terminology

CAPWAP Control Messages

CAPWAP Data Messages

CAPWAP State Machine

CUWN Implementation of the CAPWAP Discovery

CAPWAP Transport


Split MAC Mode

Local MAC Mode

Summary of CAPWAP

Packet Flow in the Cisco Unified Wireless Network

CAPWAP Control

CAPWAP Data Path: Centrally Bridged Traffic

CAPWAP Data Path: Locally Bridged Traffic

Summary of Packet Flow



Chapter 3 802.11n

IEEE 802.11n Standard

802.11n MAC

Other 802.11 Standards Used with 802.11n

Frequency Bands Supported by 802.11n

Antenna Arrays

Transmit Beam Forming (TxBF)

Beam Steering

Spatial Multiplexing

Transmit Diversity

Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO)


MIMO Nomenclature

Receiver Diversity

Branch Selection Diversity

Branch-Combining Diversity

Diversity Antenna Array, Type, Orientation, and Spacing

Transmit Beam-Forming Types

Legacy Beam Forming

Implicit Beam Forming

Explicit Beam Forming

MIMO Antenna Array Coverage and Placement


Binary Convolutional Coding (BCC)

Low-Density Parity Checking (LDPC)

HT PHY and Operation

HT Mixed

HT-Greenfield Format

Channel Bonding/40-MHz-Wide Channels


Power Management

Packet Aggregation

Bursting/Block ACK (BACK)

Short Guard Interval (GI)

Reduced Inter-Frame Spacing (RIFS)

Reverse Direction Protocol (RDP)

Modulation and Coding Schemes (MCS)

Configuration Requirements to Obtain HT Rates

Predicting 802.11 Link Performance


Chapter 4 Cisco Unified Wireless LAN Security Fundamentals

Understanding WLAN Security Challenges

Vulnerabilities Inherent to the Radio Transmission Medium

Physical Containment Problem

Unlicensed Radio Spectrum Problem

Vulnerabilities Inherent to the Standards Definitions

Authentication and Encryption Weaknesses

Unauthenticated Management Frames

Vulnerabilities Inherent to Mobility

Misconfigured Wireless Devices and Clients

Rogue Access Points and Devices

Readily Available Profiling and Attack Tools

Addressing the WLAN Security Challenges

Background on Strong Authentication and Privacy

How WEP Encryption Works

How WEP Is Broken

802.11 Authentication

Addressing the Strong Authentication and Privacy Challenges

Authentication Framework

Authentication Algorithm

Data Privacy and Integrity

Alternative Approaches to Authentication and Data Privacy

Rogue Access Point Detection and Wireless Intrusion Prevention

Secure Management and Security Policies



Chapter 5 Design Considerations

100 Percent Wireless Access Layer

Client Device Power

RF Vulnerability

Volume of Network Traffic

Increased and Difficult WLAN Coverage Requirements


External Bleed-Through

Elevator Shaft Coverage

Access Point Installed in Elevator Car

Continuous Availability and Outage Planning

Power Loss

Equipment Failures: APs, WLCs, and Backhaul Network

RF Interference

Denial of Service Attacks

Business Operation Continuity in the WLAN Era

Power Conservation


WLAN Capacity


Chapter 6 Cisco Unified Wireless LAN Architectures

Cisco Unified Wireless LAN Architecture Review

Architectural Flexibility, Scalability, and Resiliency

Architectural Flexibility

Architectural Resiliency

N:1 WLC Redundancy

N:N WLC Redundancy

N:N:1 WLC Redundancy

Architectural Scalability


Mobility Domains

Campus Architectures

Enterprise Wiring Closet Deployment

Enterprise Distribution Layer Deployment

Data Center or Services Block Deployments

Campus HREAP

Branch Architectures

Distributed Branch Controller Placement

Centralized Controller Placement with HREAP

Office Extend AP (OEAP)


Chapter 7 Troubleshooting

Tools for Troubleshooting 802.11 Wireless Networks

Wireless LAN Controller Command-Line Interface

Wireless Control System (WCS)

Wireless Protocol Analyzer

Spectrum Analyzers

Isolating Issues on the Cisco Unified Wireless Network

Protocol/Network Issues

LWAPP/CAPWAP Discovery Process

Troubleshooting the LWAPP CAPWAP Discovery Process

Network Considerations

Client Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting Client Issues Using the WLC CLI

Troubleshooting Client Issues Using WCS

Common Client Problems and Solutions

The Wireless Medium: Troubleshooting Performance-Related Issues

Coverage and Interference Issues

Detecting, Isolating, and Solving Coverage Issues

Detecting, Isolating, and Solving Interference Issues

Troubleshooting Advanced Wireless LAN Services

Voice over WLAN

Voice over WLAN Challenges

Troubleshooting VoWLAN

Location Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting Location Accuracy


Chapter 8 Introduction to WCS

Designing Wireless Networks with WCS

WCS Requirements

WCS Interface

WCS Monitoring


Controllers and AP Monitor

Client Monitoring

WCS Reporting

WCS Configuration

Controller Configuration Templates

WCS Configuration and Template Auditing

AP Configuration Templates

WCS Services

WCS Administration

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

WCS Virtual Domains

WCS License Center

Additional Benefits of WCS: Planning and Calibration Tools

WCS Planning

WCS Calibration


Chapter 9 Next-Generation Advanced Topics: Multicast


Multicast Definition

Multicast Addressing

Multicast Forwarding

Multicast Distribution Trees

Protocol Independent Multicasting (PIM)


Multicast Configuration in the CUWN

Access Point–to–Client Delivery

Client–to–Access Point Delivery

Enabling Multicast on a Cisco WLAN Controller


Multicast Mobility Messaging

Enabling Multicast on a Cisco Router or Layer 3 Switch


Principles of VideoStream

Multicast Reliability


Configuring VideoStream on the WLC

Additional Design Recommendations

Wireless Multicast Roaming

Wireless CAPWAP Fragmentation

All WLCs Have the Same CAPWAP Multicast Group Address

WLC Placement


9781587058257 TOC 10/11/2010

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  • Posted November 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    802.11n and better wireless security

    There are several nice features about this book. The first is a chapter that gives a high level explanation of 802.11n, which is the latest and highest bandwidth wireless standard. The chapter refers to some 500 pages of the actual formal standard, but only hard core people in the wireless field will ever directly use the standard. Instead, we see that 802.11n can give 100Mb/s wireless bandwidth. Which is pretty fantastic, compared to the earlier 802.11a/b/g standards. So how is this possible? In short, thru the use of multiple antennas for transmission and receiving. The catchy acronym MIMO summarises this idea. The chapter has several neat diagrams that illustrate the antenna configurations. Typically, the diagrams have boxes that say DSP [digital signal processor], that are hooked to the antennas. As you might expect, even if you are not an electrical engineer, these conceal a vast amount of rapid and complex number crunching. The ongoing march of Moore's Law is what enables the building in silicon of these new DSPs that can handle multiple antennas. The chapter also refers to various antenna parameters that can be tweaked, but does not go into any details.

    Perhaps only a few readers will actually need to adjust those parameters. I suspect that the typical network sysadmin does not do much or know much about antenna design. So the chapter's level of discussion is adequate for most readers.

    Another chapter looks at Cisco's implementation of wireless LAN security. This is at a more detailed pace than the 802.11n chapter. The algorithms are covered in some depth, and take as their starting point and motivation the inadequacies of Wired Equivalent Privacy [WEP]. (The book cautions you to never use WEP.)

    The difference between these 2 chapters is telling. As a network sysadmin, you are far more likely to be involved in maintaining security than optimising bandwidth access. So you need a strong understanding of the overall security mechanisms in Cisco's protocols and hardware. The narrative shows that Cisco has put much effort into making a formidable security apparatus.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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