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Interoperability between Catalyst 9800 and AireOS

Hello Cisco Community,


We are currently in the midst of a project to upgrade our wireless infrastructure from 3500 Series Access Points on AireOS 5520 to the new 91XX Series Access Points on 9800. The issue we face is that we have manufacturing sites to where its impossible to enact a clean cut from old access points to new. High ceilings, washdown, production schedules, and other factors necessitate that we replace these one at a time with manlifts.


Is it possible to somehow peer the 5520 and 9800 together with a mobility group or other means, such that we could replace access points one at a time with sustained roaming capability? Capability aside, does it work well in terms of roaming performance? The alternative is a full plant shutdown and a massive labor effort during a constrained window. We want to avoid this and "rushing the install" at all costs.


Thanks experts for your time and consideration!

Scott Fella
Hall of Fame Master

You might want to read this.

Then get familiar with the 9800 and test prior to moving any aps.
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Cisco Employee

Cisco scheduled a few sessions for the same topic, please resister here

Session 1 will be on Jan 28th (AireOS to Catalyst 9800 Migration Overview and Best Practices) that will be perfect for you.

Now, 802.11n APs are not supported with C9800 and will need to be replaced eventually.

General Notes about the migration between AireOS and 9800:

  • Upgrade the 5520 to (Image Name: AS_7500_8_5_164_216.aes "the image name will be replaced in the future to reduce confusion) this upgrade because of the 3500 Series Access Points. 8.5 code is the last supported release for those APs.
  • Make sure all current APs have primary WLC set to AireOS. (Very important to avoid moving the APs to 9800 at some point without prior plan and schedule)
  • Add the 9800 to the network. (Use 9800 code 17.3.2a or later so clients can have the same VLAN on both SSIDs (on AireOS and 9800) so client will get the same IP no matter where it joins) this same VLAN feature was added to AireOS code and 9800 code 17.2 and above.
  • Create CAPWAP Mobility Group for seamless mobility during migration.
  • You will not be able to use the same RF group name on AireOS and 9800 because this feature is supported on 8.8 code and later.
  • Match the AP Group name on AireOS and the 9800 RF tag and Policy tag.
  • Statically assign policy tag, site tag and RF tag for all APs ETH MAC Addresses on 9800 (this is to make sure when APs move to the 9800 they will start working and not joining the default tags which leads to not broadcasting the WLANs) this can be done by loading the CSV file from Configuration > Tags & Profiles > Tags > AP The CSV file should have the following columns: AP MAC Address, Policy Tag Name, Site Tag Name, RF Tag Name (you can leave the RF Tag name empty and the default one will be assigned to the APs).
  • AP migration should happen in chunks (floor or roaming domain (e.g. building) Don’t “Salt & Pepper” old with new AP model – migrate per “area”, Make sure the AP can join the C9800 (W1/W2/AX APs) this can be done Manually using Web GUI or CLI commands or by Prime infrastructure Templates.

Note: The first time you move an AP from AireOS to C9800 (or vice versa), the AP will download the new image, reboot and join the new controller. If the AP has the image as a backup because had already joined that controller, then there is no download. There is a script (WLAN Poller) that can be used to download the other “backup” image to the APs in case you don’t want them to download it once they join the 9800. The script is here for both Windows and Mac OS:!wlan-poller-wlan-poller/wlan-poller


Hello Grendizer -


In this scenario above, does it matter if the environment is in flexconnect mode?  In reading through the information posted, it seems to be talking about an "Anchor Controller".  Can we utilize an anchor controller in flexconnect mode? 


Thank you for your time.

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