Tag Archives: Router

Synology RT1900ac review

For technology enthusiasts the name Synology is, aptly, synonymous with Network Attached Storage. The company has offered a string of well regarded NAS drives for many years. What it’s not known for, however, is routers, but with the RT1900ac it’s clearly looking to change that.

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One of the strengths of Synology’s NAS drives has always been its software, so that’s one area that we hope is carried over into this new arena. As its name suggests, the Synology router offers a maximum theoretical throughput of 1900Mb/s – 1300Mb/s at 802.11ac 5GHz, and up to 600MHz at 802.11n 2GHz. Of course, real-world speeds are much lower than this, but for an AC1900 router the Synology is one of the less expensive in its class. But is it a performance bargain?

See also: Best routers to buy now

Synology RT1900ac review: Price

You can buy the RT1900ac for £125 from Box.co.uk. It’s by no means the cheapest 802.11ac router – try the TP-Link Archer C7 for under £80 – but the RT1900ac isn’t your average router, as we’ll see. Just remember that it doesn’t have a built-in modem, so it won’t connect directly to a phone line for ADSL broadband. 

Synology RT1900ac review: Design

Taking the Synology out of the box, the first thing that we noticed is that it’s quite small, which is a pleasant change. So many routers these days are excessively large and will be conspicuous in many homes, but Synology’s RT1900ac is pleasingly compact. At the rear there are the standard four Ethernet connections and a single WAN socket for hooking up to your modem – this doesn’t have one built in so you’ll need to supply your own. The router supplied by your ISP will normally do.

Synology RT1900ac review

On the right of the Synology there’s a single USB 3.0 port and a SD card slot providing on-board storage for media playback over the network. On the other side there’s a button for enabling WPS – so you can connect to devices such as Wi-Fi enabled printers without having to mess around with passwords and there’s also a switch for turning Wi-Fi on or off, without having to delve into the interface.

There are three small antennas at the rear – a modest number these days, reflecting its specification as a 3×3 MIMO dual-band router. In standard mode it offers up to one single SSID to the user and automatically assigns a device to a band, but you can separate them out if you wish, which is what we did for testing.

Synology RT1900ac review

Synology RT1900ac review: Interface

Set up on the Synology proved straightforward, and when you login you’re rewarded with an interface called the Synology Router Manager (SRM). This is essentially a mini-OS for your router contained within a browser. It’s clean, simple looking but powerful, with many features. It is also very easy to use.

Synology RT1900ac review

The status page on the router displays graphs that let you see your upload and download activity and from here you can perform the regular functions you’d expect such as port forwarding and setting up your SSIDs. These can be separated out into 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, which we did for testing, or combined into one SSD with the router automatically assigning devices to the most suitable frequency depending on their capabilities.

There are parental controls built in that let you set a safe search level providing filtering of web content. You can also set network access times on a per device basis, so you can apply these filters to your children’s devices without it affecting yours. You can also easily ban devices from the network.

Synology RT1900ac review

From the same interface you can enable ‘Beamforming’, an 802.11ac feature that will direct Wi-Fi signals directly from the router to where a device is located, enhancing signal strength and performance, but only to compatible devices over 5GHz.

We also appreciated small touches such as being able to turn off the LEDs should you not wish to be distracted by the many (too many)  lights on the front.

The real power of the SRM is that it enables you to download apps or ‘packages’ – essentially small programs that run directly on the router. These include a Download Station, so you can download P2P files directly to the device and a DLNA compatible Media Server package, so you can store content on USB or SD card and play it over the network without even having to attach an external hard disk or NAS drive. A USB drive connected to the router will appear as a ‘Synologyrouter’ network share in Windows and you can even set privileges for access to files and folders over the network. It all works very well.

Synology RT1900ac review

Other packages available enable you to turn your router into a DNS server, a VPN server or use it to access files remotely using Cloud station.

We were impressed by the Synology’s SRM software and it all ran smoothly thanks to the ARM cortex A9 processor that powers the router.  We would expect functionality to be further enhanced over time, and during our testing there were two firmware updates made available.

Synology RT1900ac review: Performance

Initially we were disappointed by the performance results from the Synology, but fortunately after a firmware update things seemed to sort themselves out and we achieved much better results.

We tested with the network tool Jperf to drive as much traffic as we could through the network using 10 streams at once with a 512Kb buffer. Our first test was from a laptop acting as the server to a desktop PC equipped with a 4×4 MIMO radio in the form of the Asus PCE-AC88.

With this set up at 5 GHz we saw a maximum average of 680 Mb/s, faster than the TP-Link Archer VR2600 and second only to the very expensive, and large, Linksys EA9500, which hit 729Mb/s.  At 2.4 GHz the performance was less impressive  at just 124Mb /s.

With the PC switched to the be server and moving around with a laptop as the client we tested both with the integrated 2×2 Wi-Fi and a D-Link DWA-192 3×3 MIMO USB adaptor, in order to maximise performance. With the latter at 5 GHz achieved 534 MB/s, compared to  317 Mb/s from the integrated chip . This is less however than we’ve seen from other routers to the 2×2 integrated chip.

Surprisingly, when we moved upstairs we saw an improved performance – 259 Mb/s at 2.4GHZ and 408 MHz at 5 GHz. However, when we tested with the D-Link the performance dropped to unexpectedly poor levels.

This was indicative of slightly inconsistent performance we saw from the Synology over our testing time. Most of the time it was very fast, but on occasion it would slow up unexpectedly – and we did find that the 5 GHz network would drop out occasionally so we’d have to manually switch to 2.4 GHz to get back online.

These were untypical however, and most of the time the Synology proved a speedy network tool. Running LAN Speed Test we saw a decent 161 Mb/s to a USB 3.0 drive connected to the router.

Synology RT1900ac: Specs

  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 1900ac router
  • Dual-band 3×3 MIMO
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • 256MB DDR3 RAM
  • External antennae x3
  • 4x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1x USB 3.0, 1x SD card
  • Dimensions: 206 x 160 x 66mm
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 1900ac router
  • Dual-band 3×3 MIMO
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • 256MB DDR3 RAM
  • External antennae x3
  • 4x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1x USB 3.0, 1x SD card
  • Dimensions: 206 x 160 x 66mm

OUR VERDICT

The Synology RT1900ac is a very good router marred slightly by occasionally inconsistent performance and occasional 5 GHz dropouts. That aside, performance is very good, which is impressive considering its compact size. It doesn’t feature cutting-edge tech such as MU-MIMO, but that’s still a work in progress and there are still very few phones and other Wi-Fi devices that can take advantage of it. Its reasonable price also works in its favour. But if you want to share files across the network, and even access them remotely, without forking out on a NAS, then the Synology RT1900ac will do the job. 

Asus RT-AC87U review

This 4×4 MU-MIMO enabled wireless router delivers consistently strong performance. The interface is very good and there are plenty of settings for tinkerers to get their teeth into and – for the money – it’s an impressive router. Here’s our Asus RT-AC87U review. See also: What is MU-MIMO?

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The RT-AC87U has many claims to fame, Asus would be keen to tell you, including that it was the first router to offer a 4×4 antenna capability combined with MU-MIMO technology. What does that all mean? We’ll look at performance later but it indicates that the RT-87U should be fast, and very capable in homes with multiple wireless devices connected.

However, those devices will need MU-MIMO enabled Wi-Fi radios inside to take advantage of the feature. There are several new smartphones that support it, such as the Samsung S7, Nexus 5X, and Lumia 950, and several laptops from Acer, such as the Aspire V15 Nitro. No current Apple device includes it.

See also: Best wireless routers

Asus RT-AC87U review: Price

The fact that it’s been out for a while is good thing too, as it means that it has dropped in price. You can buy the RT-AC87U from Amazon for £159.99. It’s by no means the cheapest router, but this is a decent price for a second-generation 802.11ac router. Just remember that there’s no built-in modem, so you can’t connect it directly to your phone line – it’s best suited for cable broadband packages such as Virgin’s.

Asus RT-AC87U review: Features and design

The Asus RT-AC87U has a sleek angular appearance, thicker at the back before tapering down to a thinner edge at the front, which contains an array of flashing blue LED lights. A large button on the underside turns these off, which is useful if you don’t want the distraction of the disco effect. Be careful when you do, though, as next to this is another button that turns of the radios, thus switching off the Wi-Fi – it’s very easy to accidently press the wrong one – we did a couple of times.

Asus RT-AC87U review

There are four antenna sticking out of the rear (one for each stream of its 4×4 array), which indicates it means business, but subtle it is not. At the back are five Gigabit Ethernet ports, one of which is a WAN port to connect to your modem – there’s no internal modem here.

Overall, it’s a slick, futuristic-looking device which we didn’t mind having on show. The build does have a light, slightly flimsy feel to it, and one of the four antenna refused to stay at an angle and tended to droop, even after tightening.

Two USB ports are present – USB 2.0 on the rear and a USB 3.0 located under a flap at the front and the contents are shared over the network via DHCP. You can also gain remote access to these via Asus’ AiCloud smartphone app.

Asus RT-AC87U review: Interface

Delving into the interface and you’ll find a system that’s really superb. It’s well-featured but also very easy to use. Everything is clearly labelled and the whole thing is responsive – no doubt its 1GHz CPU system processor played its part.

You’ll find a Quality of Service settings, which enables you to give priority to a particular device on your network and it’s easy to order devices by drag and drop. And if you’re the type that likes to keep an eye on the data travelling over your network you’ll appreciate the information in the Traffic Analyzer section.

Asus RT-AC87U review

Enhanced security is provided by Trend Micro and alerts you to potential security vulnerabilities, though turning some of these off, such as DHCP, does mean you’ll limit the functionality of your router and we wouldn’t recommend it.

The advice about weak passwords was welcome. There’s also basic built-in Parental Controls, providing filtering for types of content and the ability to schedule when specific devices can access the network – perfect for stopping late night access to smartphone obsessed teens. Or spouses.

A link for the firmware setting appears at the top so you can go straight there and ensure you have the latest version running on your router. Other routers automatically update their firmware, though.

A supporting app is also available. It has a very different look and feel to the web interface but is easy to use.

Asus RT-AC87U review: Performance

To make sure we could see as much potential from the Asus we tested with a desktop PC equipped with the Asus PCE-AC88 – a PCIe Wi-Fi adaptor card with 4×4 MIMO capability. We used JPerf for Windows to generate data traffic. The Asus delivered with an average performance of 570 Mb/s over 5GHz and 150 Mb/s over 2.4GHz. We’d rate that as very good for real world performance, but we have seen even faster. It did comfortably outperform our standard Virgin Media Superhub 2ac router, which delivered an average of 416 Mb/s over 2.4GHz and 104 Mb/s over 2.4GHz.

We switched to a Macbook Pro Retina to test performance at a distance and saw an average over 5 GHz of 521 Mb/s at three metres – a very impressive figure, besting a much more expensive Linksys EA9500 and a TP-Link Archer VR2600. Moving to a floor upstairs saw average performance drop to 210 Mb/s over 5GHz– not quite as good as the 235 Mb/s we saw from the TP-Link Archer VR2600 but comfortably outperforming the Virgin Superhub 2ac.

At 2.4 GHz its result of 50 Mb/s was very good – if performance at a distance is important then this is a trump card.

To test MU-MIMO we lined up four laptops, each equipped with a MU-MIMO compatible Linksys WUSB6100M Max-Stream adaptor. Using this the most throughput we saw was 263.2Mb/s. For comparison we turned off MU-MIMO in the settings, and achieved 244Mb/s. In our tests then, MU-MIMO only delivered a 7.9 per cent increase. We ran the same test again with two devices connected and saw very similar performance. We got slightly better MU-MIMO from the TP-Link Archer 2600 and far more from the Linksys EA9500, which delivered 475 Mb/s. But it does also cost twice as much.

In the settings page, Asus has indicated that MU-MIMO technology is just in beta, so we’d suggest there is more work that could be done to improve its performance and as more powerful MU-MIMO enabled clients appear and firmware improves, this aspect will hopefully improve.

Asus RT-AC87U review: Benchmark results

Asus RT-AC87U: Specs

  • Model: RT-AC87U
    Type: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac router (dual-band)
    Antenna configuration (802.11ac): 4×4 MU-MIMO
    Modem: None
    Wired networking: 4x Gigabit Ethernet
    USB: 1x USB 3, 1x USB 2
    Antennae: External antennae
    Dimensions (WxHxD): 289.5 x 167.6 x 47.5mm
  • Model: RT-AC87U
    Type: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac router (dual-band)
    Antenna configuration (802.11ac): 4×4 MU-MIMO
    Modem: None
    Wired networking: 4x Gigabit Ethernet
    USB: 1x USB 3, 1x USB 2
    Antennae: External antennae
    Dimensions (WxHxD): 289.5 x 167.6 x 47.5mm

OUR VERDICT

The Asus RT-AC87U combines smart design with a simple to use but featured-packed interface. Performance impresses, especially over 5GHz and also at distance. From our tests the MU-MIMO feature currently only offers a small speed increase but as a package, for the money, this router is an excellent buy.

Devolo WiFi ac Repeater review

Routers are getting better and better when it comes to Wi-Fi coverage and speed, but it’s unlikely you’re going to want to shell out hundreds of pounds on a super router like the Linksys EA9500 if you can buy a Wi-Fi repeater for £50 or less. And that’s the aim of the Devolo WiFi ac Repeater.

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Devolo WiFi ac Repeater review: Price

At £49.99 from Maplin this 802.11ac range extender is expensive. Sure, Devolo says it will support speeds up to a theoretical 1200Mb/s, but TP-Link’s 750Mb/s AC750 costs only £29.99 from Argos.

A basic Wi-Fi repeater can cost less than £20. 

Devolo WiFi ac Repeater review: How does it work?

Here’s the thing about Wi-Fi repeaters, or at least those currently on sale: only one Wi-Fi device can “talk” at one time. It might seem that your router is able to stream YouTube or Netflix to several devices in your home at the same time, but in reality, it’s sending data to each device in turn, and until both router and devices support MU-MIMO, that’s the way it will remain.

Wi-Fi repeaters are also limited in this respect. Because they have to receive the signal from your router, then retransmit it on the same frequency, they start with – at best – a 50 percent loss of speed.

Powerline network adaptors don’t have this limitation because they use your home’s mains wiring to take the signal from your router’s wired network ports to another room. Powerline kits which also include Wi-Fi create a new Wi-Fi network at that point: they’re not retransmitting a Wi-Fi signal from your router.

Devolo WiFi ac Repeater review: Setup

Devolo WiFi ac Repeater review

Like most of its rivals, the Devolo is very easy to set up. In theory, at least. You plug it in somewhere close to your router, and press the WPS button on both devices. On the Devolo, this means holding the button for 3-9 seconds. They automatically pair and you can then turn off the repeater and plug it in further away – ideally half way between the router and the room in which you need a better Wi-Fi signal.

The problem comes if your router doesn’t support WPS, or you can’t get the WPS setup to work, as we couldn’t. Pressing the WPS button for 1-2 seconds allows it to connect to a phone or tablet, although that didn’t work for us either, and we found it impossible to get to the setup page even after connecting to the repeater’s own Wi-Fi network on an iPhone running iOS 10.

In the end, we resorted to connecting to the repeater using a laptop and could at last browse to http://devolo.wifi (don’t forget the http://) to get to the configuration screen. Here you can choose between repeater and access point mode, although the latter creates its own new network and it’s hard to see why you would want this, having bought a Wi-Fi repeater to increase Wi-Fi coverage.

If your router is dual band and has both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, you can choose to repeat one or both of them. You can also opt to repeat with the same network name, or choose a different one. We went for the latter so we knew we were connected to the repeater and not the router for testing purposes.

You’ll need the manual to understand the flashing lights, but once set up, the five LEDs show signal strength. Confusingly, you’re aiming to have only three lit up as this is the “optimal” position for the repeater.

Devolo WiFi ac Repeater review: Performance

We set the repeater to re-broadcast the signal from a BT Smart Hub, positioning it around 10m away from the router in a different room at the back of the house. We then carried out testing a further 20m down the garden to see how the repeater fared.

The Smart Hub is a particularly good router, so it wasn’t too surprising that it outperformed the Devolo repeater, even though it was 10m closer.

Without the repeater, we saw speeds of 16.8Mb/s over 2.4GHz and 59.4Mb/s in the long-range test position. When we turned on and connected to the repeater, we saw a speed of 14.6Mb/s over 2.4GHz, but our laptop was unable to even see the 5GHz network. Understandably, that was very disappointing.

Devolo WiFi ac Repeater: Specs

  • Wi-Fi: 802.11ac/n/g/b dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz
  • Claimed speed: up to 1200Mb/s
  • 1x gigabit Ethernet port
  • Dimensions: WxHxD 59 x 91 x 38 mm
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11ac/n/g/b dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz
  • Claimed speed: up to 1200Mb/s
  • 1x gigabit Ethernet port
  • Dimensions: WxHxD 59 x 91 x 38 mm

OUR VERDICT

By their nature, Wi-Fi repeaters are hobbled on performance. However, they can give you a usable Wi-Fi signal where you previously had none. Should you buy the Devolo WiFi ac Repeater though? It’s hard to justify the £49.99 price when other repeaters will do a similar job for around half this price. So in short, unless you can find it a lot cheaper, go with something like the TP-Link TL-WA860RE which can be found for less than £20.

Netgear, is now on board with their own system: provides some big-time competition for those two companies

One of the market leaders in that space, Netgear, is now on board with their own system, which not only validates the concept provided by eero and Luma, but now provides some big-time competition for those two companies.

The devices come pre-paired together, so there’s no need to go through a setup process indicating which one is used for which scenario (the ‘router’ label connects to the broadband device, and the ‘satellite’ unit goes in the other part of the house – Netgear recommends putting it as close to the ‘center’ of the house as possible).Netgear yesterday announced its Orbi WiFi System ($399.99, available in September), a two-device system consisting of a “router” and “satellite” that customers can connect to their broadband modem (cable, DSL or other connection).

Over the past few weeks I’ve written about Wi-Fi startups eero and Luma and how their new wireless mesh systems are changing the home network wireless market with easier setup and larger coverage than compared with traditional Wi-Fi routers and range extenders.

 

Netgear Orbi router satellite NETGEAR
The Orbi system from Netgear includes a pre-paired and labeled ‘router’ and ‘satellite’ device.

 Netgear officials say this method provides for higher bandwidth (it uses about 1.7Gbps of that frequency band) than other wireless mesh systems, especially when more client devices (tablets, phones, TVs, etc.) are all competing for wireless network access.The Orbi system utilizes so-called “Tri-band Wi-Fi”, taking one of the bands within the 5 GHz frequency to provide a dedicated channel between the router device and the satellite.

Other technical details of the Orbi system include:

* Coverage up to 4,000 square feet

* A single Wi-Fi network name (SSID) for the entire network – 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands (other routers include separate names for those bands)

* Four Gigabit Ethernet ports and a single USB 2.0 port on the back of the ‘router’ and ‘satellite’ units.

* Advanced router features, including  IPv6 support, dynamic DNS, port forwarding and parental controls.

* Security support for 64/128-bit WEP, WPA/WPA-2 PSK and WPA/WPA-2 Enterprise.

Once I get my hands on a couple of the Orbi devices I’ll let you know how it compares with the eero and Luma. When I talked with Netgear about the system, I was encouraged that setup can be done via a browser in addition to the smartphone/tablet app, as old fogies like me still prefer doing setup via their notebook. In addition, the ability to tweak advanced settings is something that older guys like me (or network pros) would appreciate.

Juniper swallows silicon photonics player Aurrion

“We expect that Aurrion’s breakthrough technology will result in fundamental and permanent improvements in cost per bit-per-second, power per bit-per-second, bandwidth density, and flexibility of networking systems,” said Pradeep Sindhu, co-founder and CTO of Juniper Networks wrote in a blog announcing the acquisition.

With an eye towards better handling bandwidth-ravenous video streaming and data center to data center traffic, Juniper today said it would buy fabless photonics manufacturer Aurrion for an undisclosed price.

The end result? Dramatically lower cost per bit-per-second for networking systems, higher capacities for networking interfaces, and greater flexibility in how bandwidth carried on light is processed inside the electronic portions of networking systems,” Sindhu wrote.“Aurrion has invented breakthrough technology that combines the economies of scale pioneered by the silicon industry with the unique properties of light to carry information over long distances at significantly lower cost.

Industry researchers at MarketsandMarkets recently highlighted the hot silicon photonics arena saying that high-bandwidth applications are driving the need for the technology that could see a compound annual growth rate of over 22% between 2016 and 2022 and a market worth over $1,078.9 million by 2022.

“Active components include optical modulators, photo detectors, wavelength-division multiplexing filters, switches, and lasers integrated within a single device, providing a smaller form factor with the help of silicon photonics. The advancements in silicon photonics-based networking services would lead the silicon photonics market. The demand for the installation of silicon as an optical medium in photonics device for high-speed data transmission with low cost is growing,” the researchers wrote in a recent report.

The key players in silicon photonics market are Cisco, Intel, IBM Mellanox Technologies, Hamamatsu Photonics K.K., STMicroelectronics N.V., Infinera, Finisar, Luxtera, DAS Photonics, and Aurrion, the researchers stated.

FCC settlement with Wi-Fi router maker a win for open source advocates

“The Commission’s equipment rules strike a careful balance of spurring innovation while protecting against harmful interference,” said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau, in a statement.  “While manufacturers of Wi-Fi routers must ensure reasonable safeguards to protect radio parameters, users are otherwise free to customize their routers and we support TP-Link’s commitment to work with the open-source community and Wi-Fi chipset manufacturers to enable third-party firmware on TP-Link routers.”

The FCC and TP-Link have agreed to a creative settlement that slaps the home and SMB Wi-Fi router maker with a $200K fine for violating wireless emission rules, but also requires the vendor to work with the open source community and chipset makers to allow modification of TP-Link devices.

UPDATE (8/8/16): It reads in part: “The recently executed Consent Decree between TP-Link and the FCC is strictly related to FCC power-level restrictions. While TP-Link products that were shipped/in market met FCC power levels, there was a potential that customers who changed their router settings could unintentionally manipulate power levels outside of mandated FCC regulations. TP-Link issued an Aug. 5 statement about the consent decree on its website and updated its FAQ for open source firmware. Compliant firmware was made available via the company’s website in late 2015, which we encourage customers to download and update their routers.”

The FCC last year angered those who like to install third-party firmware on their Wi-Fi routers when it proposed a rule requiring vendors to design their 5GHz radio devices in such a way that their power levels would not create interference. In fact, the FCC issued a clarification titled “Clearing the Air on Wi-Fi Software Updates” last November in response to complaints, such as from a Save WiFi campaign that popped up.

While the FCC did not force vendors to completely lock down their devices, some vendors – including TP-Link – decided to do so. Others, such as Linksys and Asus said they would work to support third-party firmware, enabling modders to extend the range of their routers or add other capabilities enabled by technologies such as OpenWrt.

In fining TP-Link, the Enforcement Bureau cited the company for marketing certain Wi-Fi routers in the U.S. with a user setting that violated Section 15.15(b) of the FCC’s rules. TP-Link has agreed to nix sales of noncompliant models and build new models in compliance.

But it’s the requirement that TP-Link work with the open source community and chipset makers that stands out in this settlement.

Amazon Prime Day comes on July 12

You won’t necessarily be able to use Amazon Prime Day on July 12 as an excuse to avoid family, like some do with Black Friday, but Amazon is promising that you’ll get to choose from 100,000 great online shopping deals.

Amazon says that new deals will pop up as frequently as every 5 minutes, and that last year’s Prime Day surpassed Black Friday 2014 for sales volume, with members ordering nearly 400 items per second. Spotlight deals will feature popular brands at deep discounts, and will last until supplies are depleted. Lightning deals will last for short periods, maybe a few hours. Other deals will last throughout the day.

Headphones, diapers, video game consoles, wireless routers, mobile device caseswww.sitewatches.com and toys were among the items on sale last year during Amazon Prime Day.

The second annual Amazon Prime Day is available only to those who have subscribed to Amazon Prime, which gets you free shipping, access to entertainment content and more for $99 a year (though you can also go the free trial route if you just want to dip in for Amazon Prime Day).

amazon prime day Amazon

 

Prime Day will be available to shoppers in the United States as well as 9 other countries. Brexit be damned — even the U.K. gets to play, along with Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, Belgium and Austria.

Amazon is encouraging members to sign up for its app to make parting with your money even easier.

 

But you have to figure Amazon will have learned a few things from the first time around, so here’s hoping this event goes off smoothly.

Like with Black Friday, Amazon Prime Day actually starts before the big day. Amazon will count down to July 12 starting on July 5, with exclusive deals for members. Among the deals revealed: a 32-inch TV bundle with a Fire TV Stick for $120. Prime Music Experiences will give customers a chance to win special trips and tickets to see performers such as Norah Jones and The Lumineers. There will also be a $5K photo sweepstakes.

Last year, while Amazon did sell a boatload of stuff, some said the shopping event amounted to little more than a garage sale and they took to social media to give Amazon the business. Hashtags such as #PrimeDayFail took off, as people complained about many deals closing almost as soon as they opened.

A ThousandEyes Can Help You To Understand Your Apps Better

Cisco Live, the world’s largest network event, kicks off next week in Las Vegas. Every year at the conference, Cisco and many of its technology partners announce new products or features that hopefully capture the attention of Cisco’s customers.

ThousandEyes put some news out ahead of the event by announcing it uses Linux containers to run its network performance monitoring (NPM) software to track Cisco Integrated Services Routers (ISR) and Aggregation Service Routers (ASR).

In today’s cloud-first, mobile-centric digital world, almost all applications are highly distributed and are likely to pass through a Cisco router. In the late 1990s, Cisco touted that 90 percent of the world’s Internet traffic passed through Cisco routers. Today it’s likely that ALL traffic, internet and application, pass through these devices.

It’s often said that you can’t manage or secure what you can’t see. ThousandEyes addresses that by letting customers see what’s happening at a granular level by tapping into the network. The router is an outstanding platform for this, as all traffic that goes into and out of a branch office must go through the router. So, it’s the one platform that can be used to “see all.”

Last year, Cisco made it possible to run a container on its routers, which have long become a de facto standard for enterprise routing. ThousandEyes is taking advantage of this capability by deploying its software agent as a container on top of Cisco router operating systems. Customers can now get increased visibility and insight into the router, as well as the applications that pass through the router. This can be particularly useful for branch offices where it’s often difficult to deploy a probe or other type of monitoring tool.

 

Containers lighter than virtual machines

Cisco has supported virtual machines on its routers for a few years, but containers are a much lighter-weight alternative that requires fewer resources and can be deployed quickly without the complexity of requiring new hardware.

 

Given the rise of the cloud and distributed organizations, this increased visibility is critical in enabling organizations to deploy new applications in branches quickly and have a clear understanding of what impact that is having on the network and other applications.

ThousandEyes gathers data from two sources, the enterprise agents deployed on products like the ISRs and ASRs and cloud agents that are deployed in over 120 data centers located at various points around the world. The data is then aggregated and analyzed in the ThousandEyes console. Network managers can use this information to look for congestion points that cause a degraded experience, misconfigured devices, chronic problems or other factors that can hurt application performance.

The shift to containers should enable ThousandEyes and other monitoring vendors that rely on agents to deploy more agents in more places because containers are lighter than virtual machines.

Over the past few years, Cisco has made comments about becoming more open and embracing third-party solutions. The ThousandEyes partnership is an excellent example of how becoming more open will benefit Cisco’s customers. The increased visibility will help network teams see application traffic all the way to the branch office, a historical blind spot for network engineers.

Plea to Cisco: ‘CCIE routing and switching written exam needs to be fixed’

“The discontent is palpable,” according to Hollingsworth. “From what I’ve heard around Las Vegas this week, it’s time to fix the CCIE Written Exam.”

Tom Hollingsworth, a CCIE and author of a popular blog called “The Networking Nerd,” used that forum last week  – smack in the middle of Cisco’s annual user conference — to issue a blistering critique of the CCIE routing and switching written exam.

Hollingsworth has three main beefs: He says the test questions are poorly written, focus too much on Cisco proprietary technologies, and that the exam study guide is lacking. As a result, he says, some CCIEs are choosing alternatives to the routing and switching exam when they need to recertify.

That contention has received broad though not unanimous support on Twitter and comments on the post itself. As for Cisco, it tells me they’re always open to suggestions.

“The most resounding critique of the exam is that it is a poorly constructed and executed test. The question quality is subpar,” he contends. “The editing and test mechanics errors must be rectified quickly in order to restore confidence to the people taking the test.”

“The test has never been confused for being a vendor-neutral exam,” he acknowledges. “Any look at the blueprint will tell you that there a plenty of proprietary protocols and implementation methods there. But the older versions of the exam did do a good job of teaching you how to build a network that could behave itself with other non-Cisco sections. … The other problem is that, by the admission of most test takers, the current CCIE Written Exam study guide doesn’t cover the areas of the blueprint that are potentially on the test.”

I asked Cisco to reply to Hollingsworth’s post and here is the statement the company offered:

“Cisco is continuously evolving our certification program to keep networks and networkers at the forefront of innovation and keep customers digital-ready,” says Tejas Vashi, senior director, product strategy and marketing at Learning@Cisco, Cisco Services.  “We are constantly monitoring the performance of our exams to ensure we are providing best-in-class skills training for all of our certification holders and test takers. That said, we are always open to feedback and looking for ways to improve and evolve our programs so they remain at the forefront of the industry.”

Hollingsworth tells me via email that the response to his post has been positive.

“I echoed a lot of the sentiments that engineers and CCIEs have been talking about here,” he says. “Almost every tweet I’ve seen or person I’ve talked to has said that this was something that needed to be said.”

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As for those who might suggest these complaints are sour grapes from those unwilling to put in the work necessary to pass the test?

“I would ask that anyone thinking the test is fair and well written to take it using official sources and write a rebuttal post telling the community why our views are in error. I’m willing to admit I might be wrong and biased, but the overwhelming number of people agreeing with my statements leads me to think there may be issues with the test.”

(UPDATE: Hollingsworth has a new post up discussing his talk with a Cisco executive and some ideas for improving the test.)

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