Wi-Fi Controller-less AP Managed On-premises or in the Cloud: The Choice is Yours

By Biju Oommen  |  August 16, 2019
Fig. A Grandstream Networks’ (News - Alert) GWN7630 AP

There is one maxim that applies to Wi-Fi access point (AP) network deployments:  “deliver reliable and optimal wireless connectivity, which is affordable, easy to deploy and manage.”  Nowadays, APs are equipped with an embedded controller.  Cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Wi-Fi controller solutions are also available to deploy and manage secure Wi-Fi networks across disparate locations using a web browser and mobile apps.  This means, with either of the approaches, you can setup and manage your Wi-Fi networks, clients and APs without any additional or separate on-premises hardware controller infrastructure.  Clients can roam seamlessly and efficiently from AP to AP residing on the same network thanks to Wi-Fi network standards and features like 802.11k. 802.11r, 802.11v, pairwise master key (PMK) caching and opportunistic key caching (OKC).

AP security should not be an afterthought – at the minimum, it should support Wi-Fi and system security features such as digitally signed firmware for anti-hacking secure boot, randomly generated default password, unique security certificate, WEP, WPA/WPA2-PSK and WPA/WPA2 Enterprise.  AP support for dual-2.4GHz and 5GHz radio bands, multiple service set identifiers (SSIDs), band steering, air time fairness, MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input, multiple output) based spatial streams, mesh networking, redundancy and backup via master controller failover function are vital to meeting our stated maxim of delivering reliable and optimal wireless connectivity.

We decided to check out Grandstream Networks’ GWN7630, a controller-less AP, which comes natively equipped with support for the above-mentioned standards and features.  You can also choose to configure and manage it with Grandstream Networks’ GWN.cloud, a cloud-based SaaS AP controller functionality (see Fig.B). These will be the focus of our discussion, and the ensuing functional and interoperability testing.   

You can access these links for the Grandstream Networks GWN7630 product data sheet and the Grandstream Networks GWN.Cloud brochure.

Fig. B Grandstream Networks GWN.Cloud-Wi-Fi-Cloud Controller

 

The GWN7630 802.11ac Wave-2 dual band AP highlights include:

  • Range & Client access: up to 175m range and 200 concurrent clients.
  • Controller-less management: The embedded controller can auto-discover/auto-provision/manage 50 other GWN76xx APs without a separate controller.
  • Network Speeds/interfaces and SSID support: up to 2.33 Gbps wireless throughput, 2X1Gbps Ethernet ports and 15 SSID per AP.
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE) support: 802.3af/802.3at.
  • Antennas and MIMO support: 4 dual band internal -2.4 GHz-4dBi gain/5 GHz-5dBi gain, 4X4:4 2.4G (MIMO), 4X4:4 5G (MU-MIMO).
  • LEDs: 3 tri-color LEDs for device tracking/status indication.
  • System and Wi-Fi security: Digital signatures for anti-hacking secure boot and critical data/control lockdown, unique security certificate and random default password per device, WEP, WPA/WPA2-PSK, WPA/WPA2 enterprise, etc.
  • Wi-Fi data rates and channel bandwidth offered: IEEE 802.11ac: 6.5 Mbps to 1733Mbps, IEEE 802.11a: 6, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, 54 Mbps, IEEE 802.11n: 6.5Mbps to 600Mbps, IEEE 802.11b: 1, 2, 5.5, 11 Mbps, IEEE 802.11g: 6, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, 54 Mbps,  2.4Ghz: 20 and 40 MHz, 5Ghz: 20,40 and 80 MHz.
  • Advanced QoS features for real time, low latency applications: 802.11e/WMM, VLAN, TOS.

Grandstream Networks GWN.Cloud, monitoring and management, a cloud Wi-Fi controller functionality that supports:

  • Hosted platform: Amazon web services (AWS), 99.9% uptime, with no limits on number of sites or AP.
  • Mobile app: available for iOS and Android (News - Alert).
  • Access and access policy: available via mobile app and or web with TLS encryption end to end and X.509 certificate-based authentication. Access policy configuration (blacklist, whitelist, time policy etc.) and bandwidth rules for client access.
  • Security modes: WPA, WPA2. •Network management and alerts: monitoring, maintenance and reporting on unlimited APs and sites. Real-time status/alerts and report information on the APs and clients.
  • SSIDs: 16 per access point. •Captive portals: Facebook (News - Alert), Twitter integration, customizable splash pages and multiple captive portal authentications.

Let us move on to the functional and interoperability testing of the GWN7630 AP and the GWN.cloud.  During the testing we will field real-time streaming media, video traffic, place inbound and outbound voice and video calls on our test Wi-Fi network.

FUNCTIONAL TESTING

Grandstream Networks’ GWN7630, running the main software release version:1.0.9.12 and Grandstream Networks GWN.cloudsoftware release version: 1.0.9.16, along with the following systems and subsystems (Refer to Fig. C) was used for our test setup:

  • Grandstream Networks GXV3370 IP video phone main software release version: 1.0.1.55
  • Public SIP trunk services/UCaaS
  • Grandstream Networks WP820 Wi-Fi phone main software release version: 1.0.5.5
  • Patton (News - Alert) Networks Virtual SmartNode (vSN) running software version: Trinity 3.15.3-19061 on Oracle VM VirtualBox hypervisor version: 6.0.8. It provides SIP registrar services and SIP demarcation from the public SIP trunk/UCaaS provider in the cloud while maintaining interoperability and inter-connectivity
  • Grandstream Networks GWN7600 802.11ac Wave-2 Wi-Fi access point running software version: 1.0.9.12
  • Microsemi PDS-208G Digital Ceiling PoE switch-software release version: 2.53 for network connectivity and PoE delivery
  • Grandstream Networks GWN7610 802.11ac  Wi-Fi access point running software version: 1.0.9.12
  • Grandstream Networks GRP2614 carrier grade IP phone running software version: 1.0.0.31
Fig. C: Functional and interoperability testing of Grandstream Networks’ GWN7630 AP

 

PoE and network connectivity for the GWN7630, GWN7600 and GWN7610 APs were provided by Microsemi’s PDS-208G Digital Ceiling PoE switch.  Patton networks Virtual SmartNode (vSN) as a Virtual Network Function (VNF) Session Border Controller (SBC), provided SIP registrar services and SIP demarcation from the public SIP trunk/UCaaS provider in the cloud, while maintaining interoperability and interconnectivity.  Its provisioning and management were accomplished using the Patton Cloud, a single portal network orchestration tool.

We logged into the GWN7630 using a browser, clicked on the SSID tab to set up two dual-band SSIDs (7600 and 7630).  We edited/selected the required values for: SSID name, SSID dual-band, input values for security mode, WPA key mode, WPA encryption type, WPA pre-shared key, enableMinimum RSSI, minimum RSSI (dBm (News - Alert)), beacon interval, DTIM Period, multicast to unicast, enable Voice Enterprise, enable 802.11r, enable 802.11k, enable 802.11v etc.

We then rechecked to ensure that the changes made were saved and applied. We steered to the next item on the menu, listed as access points. Here we edited/added/selected the correct values and configurations for our APs in the test Wi-Fi network setup, starting with the GWN7630’s Device name, fixed IP, IPv4 address, IPv4 subnet mask, IPv4 gateway, preferred IPv4 DNS, alternate IPv4 DNS, band Steering.2.4GHz/5GHz, mode, channel width, active spatial streams, radio power, etc.

We clicked on discover AP, paired APs GWN7600, GWN7610 and configured them with the appropriate values.

During our testing, we used the GWN7630’s embedded controller function to manage the other Wi-Fi network GWN APs. The GWN7630 was the mastercontroller managing the GWN7600 and the GWN7610 APs (Refer to Fig. D) and it was also a member of the dual-band SSIDs 7600 and 7630 that were created (Refer to Fig. E).

Fig. D: GWN7630 MasterController overview screen

 

Fig. E: Wi-Fi scan showing the dual band SSIDs7600 & 7630

At different instances, by clicking on the Transfer to Master icon, we designated the GWN7630 and the GWN7600 as the master controller for the Wi-Fi network. To avoid a single point of failure on our Wi-Fi network, for redundancy and as abackup, we  went a step further and designated the GWN7600, which is one of the slave APs, as the failover master controller to the primary master controller GWN7630.  We then took the GWN7630 offline (powered down the unit).  The GWN7600 detected that the primary master controller had gone down and automatically promoted itself as the failover master controller.  Subsequently, when we turned the GWN7630 back on, it became the primary master controller again.  The GWN7600 detected the recovery of the primary master controller and automatically went back into slave mode. (Refer to Fig. F& Fig. G)

Fig. F:  GWN7630 Status- Primary Master Controller offline & GWN7600 Status- Failover Master Controller

 

Fig. G:  GWN7630 Status-Primary Master Controller online& GWN7600Status-Designated Failover master

We then tested the client bridge feature, where an AP is deployed as a bridge to link the remote Ethernet network segment.  For this, the GWN7610 AP was set up in client bridge mode (bridged AP status showed client bridge mode = isolated).  Now a full Ethernet segment was bridged over the Wi-Fi connection (Refer to Fig. H)

Fig. H:  GWN7630- Web GUI interface

 

We tested the SIP registration and connectivity of the Grandstream Networks GXV3370 IP video phone, Grandstream Networks WP820 SIP Wi-Fi phone and Grandstream Networks GRP2614 carrier grade IP phone over the dual band Wi-Fi network.  We were successful in registering and placing inbound/outbound voice calls with the ITSP’s external SIP trunk/UCaaS platform in the cloud through the Patton networks Virtual SmartNode(vSN) as a Virtual Network Function (VNF) Session Border Controller (SBC).  In fact, over the Wi-Fi network, we were able to run applications that required high bandwidth and low latency, such as real-time voice, video calls, streaming media and video-on-demand.  Now it was time to transfer the APs to GWN.cloud. For that we clicked on  the Transfer AP button and were presented with the screens shown in Fig. I.

Fig. I:   Transfer AP to GWN.cloud

After successfully transferring to GWN.cloud, we were still able to manage, monitor and report on the Wi-Fi network, access points and the clients (Refer to Fig. J and Fig. K).  We were impressed with the true ease and speed of the setup.  All we needed was a browser to access the real-time data, status/alerts and report information on our Wi-Fi network, clients and APs.  We concluded our testing by turning on the captive portal for SSID 7630 with an associated captive portal policy.  When a Wi-Fi user connected, our configured web page prompted the user for authentication and to accept the terms of use.  As the test, GWN units were ceiling mounted and we used the tri-color LEDs to locate the intended unit (click on locate device and they blink white).

Fig. J:  GWN.cloud Dashboard view
Fig. K:  GWN.cloud Access Points Status view

All complex features and functions supported on the GWN7630 are neatly tucked away behind the web-based management interface and we found that a simple deployment is just a few clicks away.  The well laid out screens meant we just needed to follow the intuitive onscreen menu layout for a setup that was simple and straight-forward.  We could configure and modify all of GWN7630’s features using the web-based Grandstream management interface, giving complete control over all of the Wi-Fi network, access points and clients.  The browser interface gave us access to the GWN7630 unit’s administration, monitoring, reporting and alerting functions.  At this stage, I should say that the GWN7630 won my admiration for the embedded controller and the GWN.cloud management support.

Conclusion

During our extensive testing, Grandstream Networks’ GWN7630 controller-less Wi-Fi access point delivered reliable and optimal wireless connectivity, and it was easy to deploy and manage.  It is cost effective, due to its embedded controller functionality, as you do not require additional controller licenses, software or hardware and works well with the GWN.cloud Wi-Fi controller.




Edited by Erik Linask

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