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Catalyst 9800 High Availability: Cisco emerges victorious

Cisco Employee

In today’s world where business needs to be up and available 24X7, one of the major challenges faced by a lot of companies is the seamless uptime of their network infrastructure. Any company’s primary focus is always on keeping its infrastructure ready for the customer round the clock without any service interruptions. This is where High availability comes into play. “High availability” implies that immediate and ongoing access is offered all of the time. It is necessary to provide a true next-gen Wireless solution where the network is prepared for planned or unplanned events and has zero downtime.


Cisco has in its latest offering ‘The Catalyst 9800 Series of Wireless Controllers’ which is by far the best product in the industry, a one stop high availability solution which includes system uptime during both planned downtime like bug fixes, system software upgrades, on-boarding new AP model hardware, software feature upgrades as well as unexpected failure of the wireless controller or network connectivity, without any service interruptions.


Miercom was engaged in conducting an independent competitive analysis of leading wireless infrastructure packages – Wireless Controllers and their corresponding Access Points. Cisco Catalyst 9800 was collated with the latest offerings from HPE-Aruba, Ruckus Networks and Huawei Technologies.


In terms of High availability, Miercom verified and reported that in Cisco’s Catalyst 9800 offering, bug patches (SMU-Software Maintenance Update) can be installed live on Wireless Controller or AP while the wireless infrastructure is still in production environment; there is no impact on wireless service availability or system operation. In the case of Aruba and Ruckus, patching of Access points or wireless controllers is not supported. Rather, bug patches have to be applied as a whole system upgrade, which necessarily involves down time. Also, Bug fixes can be installed on Huawei wireless controllers without down time.


Similar to bug fixes, software changes and/or reconfigurations are applied to activate new features. One such feature enhancement is updating the application signature database. Cisco handles feature enhancements smoothly without down time or interruption to system operation as compared to other vendors. Aruba has “service modules” for applications, which allow for enhancements to be applied and configured with no disruption or downtime. Ruckus and Huawei require a full system upgrade to support feature enhancements. It is a disruptive process, as it involves a wireless controller reboot.


Onboarding a new AP model is an essential part of a wireless network as newer Wi-Fi standards like Wi-Fi 6 offers greater speeds and features. On boarding new AP hardware often requires an entire system software upgrade disrupting services and impacting users.Cisco outperforms its competition on this front as well by Installing new AP device pack on the existing wireless controller software seamlessly. Aruba requires a system reboot to support new AP model hardware. Ruckus, on the other hand offers separate AP images which are de-coupled from the wireless controller software, so a new AP can be added without disrupting wireless service. But all AP images are not available for the latest wireless controller software.


Installation of a new system software releasein a system upgrade is a little bit complicated. To do this without interrupting availability, a secondary standby system is usually first upgraded, then control is shifted from the primary to the standby. The other controller becomes upgraded. With Cisco’s intelligent RRM based rolling AP upgrade, the entire system was upgraded with new software with zero downtime and with automated operation. Aruba requires a second high-level Mobility Master package for the same process, which adds more touchpoints and cost. But the other two vendors have a very disruptive way of doing system upgrades which requires downtime.


When it comes to an unplanned event like controller failover, Cisco can do better than most of the vendors out there. In the event of Active controller failure, the Standby assumes control as the Active within sub-second, with no interruption to AP, clients and services. All the other vendors fail to achieve the same level of uninterrupted transition.


Cisco Sustained high-availability when other vendors couldn’t and claims victory overall. The catalyst 9800 proves that it offers a complete package of features and capabilities when it comes to High availability. For more details click here to download comprehensive Miercom report


For more details click here to download comprehensive Miercom report - no link to click!

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