Today a post which is a bit off-topic. I want to introduce the Unifi, a wireless solution by Ubiquiti. Ubiquiti is a San Jose based company that offers high performance network technology solutions. Their solutions are easily deployable, highly advanced with a disruptive price-performance characteristic. Ubiquiti offers a broad range of wireless-, routing & switching-, VOIP- and surveillance solutions.
The Unifi product-line consists of Access Points (different models, indoor and outdoor), Unifi switches & routers and the heart of the solution: the Unifi Controller Software. The Unifi Controller Software (UCS, this time not from Cisco) is required for the configuration of the solution and capable of managing different sites, with one or more switches and one or more access points. In this environment I am running one 24 port Unify switch and 10 access points. I’m not using the Unify security gateway; the gateway works fine but the features provided are rather basic. As an alternative I deployed a DrayTek Vigor router, which works fine in combination with the Unify solution.
A few characteristics of the WiFi network to deploy are:
- 3-4 different SSID’s;
- PoE access points;
- SSID’s are on different segment, using VLAN technology;
- No routing between segments, all VLAN’s share the same internet connection;
- Roaming between the access points;
- Simple management.
Unifi Controller Software
As stated before, the Unifi Controller Software (UCS) is the heart of the WiFi solution. It’s available for Windows, Linux and Mac. You can also choose to use the Unifi cloud key, which is a PoE device that contains the controller software. It this scenario you don’t need a separate server/pc for your network, because the cloud key provides all required functionality.
After the initial setup you can adopt your devices in the UCS, and you can start with the configuration of your (wireless) network. Ubiquity’s approach is a unified approach, which allows you to create a centralized configuration for your sites which is automatically pushed to your (Unifi) access points, switches, routers and firewalls.
Initial network configuration
During the initial configuration of the network your define your networks: both wired and wireless.
After a simple save, wired and wireless networks are deployed to the devices that are in the infrastructure. For the wired network you can configure the subnet, VLAN, IGMP and DHCP settings (although you will need the Unify firewall for this last setting to work). For the wireless network settings you can set SSID, authentication method (WEP, WPA2, Radius), encryption type etc. You can create 4 different wireless networks, in a mix of guest and/or corporate networks.
Again, your network configuration is centrally managed through the UCS interface (control plane) and pushed to the network devices that are in your environment (data plane).
Operating the network
The Unify interface will provide you with an overview of the current status of the network.
In this example the WAN and WWW status is not displayed, because I’m not using a Unify router/firewall.
On top of this you also get information on the utilization of APs, which clients are connected to which AP and what is the amount of used bandwidth.
You can of course drill down on the items that are displayed in the dashboard, the get additional details on what is happening in your network. Wireless roaming is supported, your device will automatically roam between the different APs. Ubiquiti also supports seamless roaming using “zero handoff”. This means your wireless device will automatically switch between AP’s without incurring any latency penalty as a result of the roam. In this scenario the wireless network appears as one access point to the client. The requirement is that (of course) all APs are in the same L2 network and that all APs are on the same channel. The latter requirement will put a limitation on the capacity of your wireless network, so this option might not be suitable for high density network. More information on this feature is here.
I’m pretty impressed in what Ubiquiti offers: a centralized unified wireless network solution for a competitive price. The configuration is pretty straight forward, you will up and running in a couple of hours. For more information (including documentation) I would like to refer to the Ubiquiti website.
Hope this post was helpful!