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Deploying the Wi-Fi Community at Cisco Stay EMEA 2023

It’s now the fourth time in a row that I had the possibility to be a part of the Cisco NOC crew for Cisco Stay EMEA.

If we go even additional again in time, I had the possibility to go to Cisco Stay for the Technical Design Clinics again in London and Berlin.  The strain was on the shoulders of the NOC crew who needed to ship a working Wi-Fi community with so many random shopper units related. I didn’t envy their place (though I admired it). I notably bear in mind a bug from smartphone distributors in Cisco Stay London that was repeating the occasion SSID as a private hotspot, inflicting a variety of hassle to different shopper connectivity. This was the 12 months the CiscoLive SSID went from absolutely open to a pre-shared key SSID to stop that sort of downside.

Finish of 2017, the NOC crew invited me to be a part of the Wi-fi Controller crew for Cisco Stay Barcelona 2018. I accepted rapidly principally for the sake of being a part of the Cisco Stay occasion, which I take into account a privilege. I found since then how organising a big occasions community is such a singular endeavor and can attempt to give some insights into sure decisions and choices.

The Planning

Round summer season the 12 months earlier than the occasion, the primary conferences begin. We arrange a crew and ensure we have now the very best folks for the job at each place. That is the accountability of Remco Kamerman, the Cisco Stay NOC crew lead and just about the one mounted crew member since he recruits the remainder of us. Some folks from the software program engineering groups, some salespeople, and a few CX folks (TAC, Buyer Success, and Skilled Providers): crew members should not picked for his or her job position however for his or her experience. In case you are one of many prime folks in your know-how, chances are high that you simply already know a part of the NOC crew for having labored with them all year long since they’re the highest folks too.

Mapping Insanity

We obtain the venue plans and occasion blueprints early on however they maintain altering till the final day (much less and fewer as time goes by after all). That is the problem of the design people within the crew (Skilled Providers and System Engineers principally) who should do a wi-fi design principally by taking a look at often altering plans. A number of website visits had been organized to get a sense of the venue. I used to be there on the primary day the constructing crew began constructing for the occasion and may testify that the variety of bodily modifications the venue goes by in simply a few days is unthinkable if you’re not used to such occasions.

Maps are an essential a part of managing a wi-fi community. We might leverage the interoperability between the venue maps on the RAI Prime Infrastructure equipment, the Cisco DNA Heart we used for the occasion, and the Ekahau design software program we used for the design. Maps had been cross-imported between these 3 locations in order that we might have the correct maps for design and day-to-day administration.

Keynote Design

A particular problem was the keynote space which consisted of 4500 chairs round a central stage in an empty corridor. 50 9104 stadium antennas had been used to supply protection from the trusses. Mounting these APs/antennas required very shut collaboration with the keynote space construct crew as there are particular moments the place the truss is down and accessible after which introduced up (after which you want a scissor raise to entry it and also you wish to keep away from that as a lot as potential for effectivity)

The Construct Up

Nearly all of the NOC crew consists of individuals really bodily build up the community. That requires deploying lots of of switches all through the venue and the cabling that goes with that with out something seen to the bare eye. It additionally requires deploying lots of of wi-fi entry factors in varied locations. They are often on poles, partitions, or ceilings, and mounting elegantly and effectively turns into an artwork.

APs mounted on the structure
Determine 1: Mounting APs and antennas on the construction

Just like the Fira Barcelona, we inherited round 400 Wi-Fi entry factors from the RAI Amsterdam venue. They had been good sufficient to allow us to management their entry factors throughout the occasion. This fashion, we don’t should take care of two separate wi-fi networks. A superb a part of the venue APs had been Cisco 9120s with directional antennas mounted on the very excessive ceiling (in addition to some 9104s in a single Corridor) that are good for offering normal protection.

Certainly the RAI hosts a variety of completely different reveals that don’t have anything in frequent (Cisco Stay was between a horse present and a pregnancy-related present) and their Wi-Fi community wants to remain steady between occasions. Nevertheless, since we’re Cisco and we’re prepared to deploy a community only for our personal occasion, we might add entry factors on the floor degree and be higher oriented for particular purposes (basically, the shut the AP is to the shoppers, the higher, in case you can afford it). We knew the high-density areas and extra sophisticated floor areas the place further protection could be welcome and that’s what our design consisted of.

9104 stadium antennas mounted on a truss that will go up in the Keynote area
Determine 2: 9104 stadium antennas mounted on a truss that may go up within the Keynote space

Occasion Wi-Fi Selections

Traditionally, the primary SSID is WPA2 PSK SSID and the group prints the important thing on the occasion badge everybody wears. We added EduRoam assist for our schooling clients to have an SSID their system already is aware of and may hook up with, utilizing their schooling credentials. We additionally added OpenRoaming, the place your system robotically connects to the Wi-Fi as quickly as you enter the venue in case you already had an OpenRoaming profile put in in your system. In the event you didn’t you may set up one from the CiscoLive occasion app. Personally, I put in an OpenRoaming profile on my iPhone after my native grocery store created a profile for me from their app. My cellphone robotically related, in a safe and clear method, to the venue as quickly as I arrived with my profile from my native grocery store due to the RAI additionally having an OpenRoaming SSID even earlier than Cisco arrived onsite.

We positively needed to maintain the variety of SSIDs supplied as little as potential to keep away from confusion and to maintain the wifi community effectivity to the utmost potential, however the comfort (and the safety!) of OpenRoaming and Eduroam satisfied us to supply these as additional companies.

Wi-Fi 6E

This 12 months, we needed to supply 6ghz Wi-Fi as 6E is the most recent coolest factor. The problem is that offering this throughout the entire occasion would have meant buying lots of of 9166 entry factors. This isn’t potential as we prioritize buyer deliveries for the primary time on a brand new system. It might even have meant changing all of the venue APs which is impractical for us. We then lined all the Assembly Village corridor with the 40 9166 we had. The problem with this hybrid strategy is that Wi-Fi 6E requires WPA3 and we didn’t wish to make the primary SSID WPA3 but.

Even when the CiscoLive inhabitants is usually nerdy (it’s a praise these days I feel) and nicely geared up, you wouldn’t imagine among the older units that hook up with the community and WPA3 assist is simply not at 100% but we imagine. We needed to create a separate WPA3 SSID which was broadcasted each in 5Ghz and 6Ghz (however 6ghz being solely accessible within the Assembly Village) for compatibility causes.

Legacy and “Bells and Whistles” SSIDs

As a normal rule, is nice observe to have some form of legacy SSID and a few form of extra performing SSIDs with extra bells and whistles. Some years in the past, it meant we supplied a Cisco Stay Legacy SSID which existed on 2.4ghz, whereas the 5Ghz was the primary and “cool” SSID.

In Cisco Stay 2023, we fully gave up on 2.4ghz and the CiscoLive SSID was solely accessible on 5Ghz.  This meant the primary CiscoLive SSID wanted to have essentially the most suitable settings to make sure all of the shoppers might join and that meant giving up on some nice Cisco options (like System Analytics) for the sake of most compatibility. I predict that very quickly, the WPA3/6Ghz SSID will turn into the primary SSID and the 5Ghz-only/WPA2 SSID  would be the legacy one. Possibly too early for that to occur subsequent 12 months however why not 2025?

How the Occasion Went

Keynote and 6ghz

The occasion went very nicely total. In the course of the keynote or the get together, throughput exams returned surprisingly good outcomes. The 9104 antennas had been actually shocked by their well-defined protection space with very small leakage exterior of the protection route. This actually helps with channel reuse in a big venue corridor.

It was shock to see greater than 60% of the Wi-fi shoppers utilizing Wi-Fi 6. Nevertheless, only some dozen supported 6E. We count on a pointy enhance by subsequent 12 months, however it can keep a minority of shoppers. There have been a few 802.11n shoppers however actually not many.

The highest simultaneous shopper depend was round 13 500. It’s barely decrease than the final occasion in Barcelona. We count on the occasion to develop by subsequent 12 months since this was the primary one post-Covid.

telemetry graph
Determine 3: Our customized telemetry graph

{Hardware} and Software program Issues

It was the primary Cisco Stay we ran 100% on the Catalyst 9800 in EMEA and 100% on Cisco DNA Heart. Certainly in 2020, they had been there however we nonetheless had 8540 WLCs within the community. We ran the 17.9.2 CCO software program and solely had minor points to report. As is changing into increasingly more commonplace, more often than not we spent troubleshooting was on interoperability points with particular system varieties and options. Utterly disabling 2.4Ghz was an amazing thought as a result of we observed an elevated utilization of Bluetooth among the many attendees and the Wi-Fi community would have disturbed all these Bluetooth units.

Not every part was good although, it could possibly by no means be in such a big occasion with so many new applied sciences. However I’m glad we maintain enhancing 12 months after 12 months. There are all the time areas of criticism when the shopper density is increased than what we anticipated: there have been some very profitable periods in Devnet theater or World of Options and connectivity was subpar throughout these occasions. We’ll be certain to provide you with an enchancment plan for subsequent 12 months to make that higher.


The large accountability to run such a community is made bearable by the very fact the NOC crew is stuffed with superior folks. In that crew,  each opinion to make issues higher and smoother is welcome and the target is to all the time enhance 12 months over 12 months. It’s all the time sophisticated to juggle between monitoring the community from the NOC and going to a location for some bodily Wi-Fi troubleshooting. Cisco DNA Heart was positively an enormous enchancment on this level the place Assurance helps us triage points rapidly. It additionally helped us slender down troublesome areas instantly and dispatch engineers accordingly.

2023 was the 12 months the place we automated a variety of the deployment however that’s an entire story to inform.





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