Cisco WLAN Controller - What do I do with this?

So the federal gov't, with their infinite money, has budgeted $10,000 to buy me a new Cisco Wirelss Access Controller to manage 32 access points. We are using Aironet 1242's with A/B/G in about 7 buildings.

Could someone please tell me, in plain english, what the advantage of using the Cisco Wireless LAN controller is? Cisco's official description:
Cisco Wireless LAN controller is ideal for small, mid-sized, enterprise business and service provider wireless LAN deployments and provides system-wide wireless LAN functions, such as security policies, intrusion prevention, RF management, quality of service (QoS), and mobility. It works in conjunction with Cisco lightweight access points and Cisco Wireless Control System (WCS) Software to support business-critical wireless applications.

Ok, since we don't do any "policies" for security, IPS, RF management, or QOS, what good is this thing? We basically have a bunch of APs out there happily running along. I just don't get it. What's the point of this thing?

I don't even log in to manage the access points now, let alone need a centralized controller to help me do it. Can someone please tell me:
1. What i'm supposed to do with this?
2. Is $10,000 even enough money for 32 access points?


  • JDMurrayJDMurray Admin Posts: 12,871 Admin
    Have you contacted your Cisco rep and asked these questions?
  • hypnotoadhypnotoad Banned Posts: 915
    No. I have read through the cisco marketing stuff and have no idea what the point of any of this is.

    This really angers me because my boss, who puts in these purchase orders, has no idea what she buys. She just buys stuff because Cisco tells her to. She isn't even an IT person. She didn't even ask anyone if we need one of these and now what do we do with it once we get it? Who knows?
  • CherperCherper Member Posts: 140 ■■■□□□□□□□
    A Cisco WLAN Controller is a pretty nice device. It will allow you to configure the APs at the controller and then push out the configs, making them lightweight (no authentication on the AP, no config files if they are stolen). If you aren't running LWAPs, then it loses some of its functionality.
    Studying and Reading:

    Whatever strikes my fancy...
  • hypnotoadhypnotoad Banned Posts: 915
    So you're saying instead of buying Aironet 1242's @ $700 each we can buy AP1010's at $160 each? Is that the idea behind this thing?

    Because we already have the 1242's.
  • JDMurrayJDMurray Admin Posts: 12,871 Admin
    Do you have 32 WAPs or are you buying 32 new WAPs? You will need a central management station to provision them.
  • hypnotoadhypnotoad Banned Posts: 915
    We have 32 and might be adding a few. The existing APs are 1242's.
  • JDMurrayJDMurray Admin Posts: 12,871 Admin
    If you really don't need to change the configuration of your WAPs very often, then the WLAN Controller is probably an unnecessary expense. But the first time you need to make a change in all of your WAPs you'll wished that you had it. Why the resistance to getting it? Rather spend the money on certification training? ;)
  • hypnotoadhypnotoad Banned Posts: 915
    We get no raises this year (or any year, from what I've heard from the workers). They are laying people off in other departments. My boss doesn't have any kind of IT degree or certifications. She didn't ask any of us about how a wireless controller would fit in to our existing setup, and now I will be the one supporting this thing. She makes $168,000 (baseline) a year to basically sell as much crap as possible to upper management and keeps piling on crap for us to support (she also has an insane markup on cisco's stuff that she convinces them we need).

    Meanwhile, we can't even keep a help desk person because they won't pay a decent wage. I am so pissed right now. I'm about 5 keystrokes from losing my job.
  • yukkyyukky Member Posts: 98 ■■□□□□□□□□
    The key to the Cisco WLAN Controllers is the split MAC Architecture. Which sounds like a good idea in theory.
    seems like a good document.

    Sorry to hear about the raise situation though.
    Buying hardware for a home lab is addicting-- (Need.. more.. toys...) **(need.. more.. money)
  • LuckycharmsLuckycharms Member Posts: 267
    So I am really not a wireless guy ..( I have to be some times though) ... I am just surprised that no one said anything about the Dynamic Radio Resource Manager part of having the CWAC ( I know you can do it with FatAp's but it is so seamless with the Controller)-- or any of the addons that you are able to use... or how you can pretty much change the way you design WAP Users authentication with it...

    Side note --> I understand why you are mad though... ( wireless controller doesn't compare to havening a good help desk ... )
    The quality of a book is never equated to the number of words it contains. -- And neither should be a man by the number of certifications or degree's he has earned.
  • roswaldroswald Member Posts: 35 ■■□□□□□□□□
    I'm not very well educated in wireless, but lightweight access points are a league apart from autonomous. The 1242s that you have will probably be converted into lightweight mode and use LWAPP (lightweight access point protocol) to communicate with your new controller.

    Once you get the controller and have your APs upgraded, the management functions will come into play. Basically you can control many aspects of the APs from a central solution, such as channel usage, signal power, seamless roaming from AP to AP, and guest networks for example. Read up on LWAPP for all the advantages - there are a lot.

    10grand sounds about right for 32aps. Cisco pricing varies immensely from vendor to vendor, so if you've got a good arrangement worked out, you may be able to get a good deal. You'll be looking at a stand alone controller for that price, probably a 4402-50 that will support up to 50 APs.

    Sorry to hear about the situation, but a controller running LWAPP access points is probably a good idea.
  • rbutturinirbutturini Member Posts: 123
    One thing that's kind of cool is if you have SmartNet, you can download the IOS for the non-controller based APs and flash it onto the lightweight APs, which are a whole heck of a lot cheaper...Not sure how much Cisco approves of this though! icon_smile.gif

    On the original topic, controller based wireless is nice to have...Not overly necessary but with 32 APs you will have some management overhead and the controller will help out a lot. Cisco does a great job with their controllers, much better than Symbol or Meru IMO.
  • APAAPA Member Posts: 959
    I'm not very well educated in wireless, but lightweight access points are a league apart from autonomous. The 1242s that you have will probably be converted into lightweight mode and use LWAPP (lightweight access point protocol) to communicate with your new controller.

    Yes that is correct..... Cisco actually have kit you buy to convert the Autonomous AP's to Lightweight AP's

    Having only one controller would only permit you to do intra-subnetwork roaming (L2) having more than one controller I do believe enables the inter-subnetwork roaming (L3) where you have the anchor controller and the current controller the user is associated to.

    I wish work would buy me a WLAN controller....:D

    There are too many features to explain here....... If you can get your hands on the current BCMSN study guide.... This has a fair bit of information on LWAPP AP's and controllers including how to get them working together and the various modes of configurations\features....

    Hope this helps :D

    CCNA | CCNA:Security | CCNP | CCIP
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