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Wireless Networking Hardware

Duke Wireless Problem Caused by Cisco, not iPhone 195

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the egg-on-someone's-face dept.
jpallas writes "Following up to a previous Slashdot story, it now turns out that the widely reported problems with Duke University's wireless network were not caused by Apple's iPhone. The problem was actually with their Cisco network. Duke's Chief Information Officer praises the work of their technical staff. Does that include the assistant director for communications infrastructure who was quoted as saying, "I don't believe it's a Cisco problem in any way, shape, or form?""
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Duke Wireless Problem Caused by Cisco, not iPhone

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  • deficient (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Still others seem to imply that Duke's network was deficient in some way because the problem had not been encountered more broadly.

    I would say that the network was deficient until the patch was applied. For him to say otherwise implies that there was no problem to begin with.
  • by CCFreak2K (930973) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @09:06AM (#19937371) Homepage Journal
    ...for the poor guy who said it wasn't a Cisco problem when he starts getting those Apple fanboy death threats.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by samkass (174571)
      when he starts getting those Apple fanboy death threats.

      You mean when hack journalists start reporting unsubstantiated rumors of death threats.
  • More information? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by physicsnick (1031656) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @09:07AM (#19937381)
    I'm curious to find more information on this. TFA just says "Cisco has provided a fix". What nature of fix was this? Was it actually a flaw in the routers, or did someone just configure them wrong?

    Given the widespread use of Cisco routers compared to the isolated nature of the problem, it sounds a bit like Duke is just trying to save face.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They did this for my university too. And then made us sign an NDA so we wouldn't talk about their hardware sucking. Not me, though, so I don't care...I was just the guy that couldn't do my job until the techies figured out a solution.

      http://hardware.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=25112 9&cid=19886053 [slashdot.org]

      Our other routers and access points work perfectly. For instance, I have a dozen PCs with Intel network cards that when set to autonegotiate, they get pretty much crippled speeds (feels like dialup)...I hav
      • by mikkelm (1000451)
        So because a handful of identical NICs didn't play well together with whatever Cisco equipment they were interfacing with, instead of investigating the problem and finding out whether the NICs were too liberal in their interpretation of the autonegotiation specifications of 802.3u, or the Cisco equipment somehow messed up a process that should be identical for all NICs with -only- those specific NICs, you chose to just blame Cisco and call their products sub-standard.

        I don't know about anyone else, but I'm
    • Re:More information? (Score:4, Informative)

      by ZWithaPGGB (608529) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @11:20AM (#19938211)
      "Given the widespread use of Cisco". So Windows must be pretty good too, right?

      Cisco is the Microsoft of networking gear. Their stuff is complete crap compared to the alternatives in every category. It's also overpriced.

      People buy Cisco for the same reason Chambers used to be able to get them to buy IBM Front End Processors (where he cut his teeth as an exec), because No-one gets fired for buying what everyone else buys. They SHOULD be, because they are just buying on inertia, but they don't.
      • by physicsnick (1031656) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @11:39AM (#19938323)

        "Given the widespread use of Cisco". So Windows must be pretty good too, right?
        You misunderstood. I wasn't implying anything about the quality of Cisco routers.

        Suppose Duke University (and only Duke university) suddenly has problems with all of their Windows boxes. Do you think it's a Windows problem? Given the widespread use of Windows compared to the isolated nature of the problem, it's far more likely that they themselves configured something incorrectly, otherwise all universities should be encountering similar problems.

        This isn't to say that there aren't such problems; just as you said, both Cisco and Windows have widespread flaws that affect all universities. But for THIS particular problem, it's more likely to be just a misconfiguration, simply because of the fact that it's localized to Duke.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ZWithaPGGB (608529)
          But it isn't Duke, and only Duke, or even iPhones, and only iPhones, that have been having problems with Cisco APs. It's anything other than Windows clients. Cisco has just done a good job of hushing it up by requiring that people sign NDAs to get the fix.
        • by hxnwix (652290)
          Yes, the "you're the only one having this problem" defense.

          Tell me, do you work for Oracle's support dept? Seriously, I think we've spoken...
      • by bryan1945 (301828)
        I've been out of the networking world for a while. Could you tell me which companies are better in the different categories? (such as home, small business, large business, really big ass deployment)

        Or even some sites that do these kind of comparisons?

        Thanks in advance.
      • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @01:12PM (#19938947)

        Cisco is the Microsoft of networking gear. Their stuff is complete crap compared to the alternatives in every category. It's also overpriced.
        I think you hit the nail on the head. Alternatives in every catagory. Which means you have 500 different vendors. From core routers, to access switches to firewall appliances, to Content/Caching engines to telephony to wireless, heck Cisco even makes storage switches. If there's a nework problem, you call up ONE company. You sign one large support contract, makes it very easy to have 'one neck to choke' when there's an issue.

        When you build a server (not a hobbiest linux box at home) would you rather buy all the parts (cpu, ram, disk, etc..) from ONE vendor, or would you rather buy each component from someone else? You'd call up IBM/hp/dell/sun and order a server, so when the ram breaks you call the same vendor as when the CPU breaks.

        While cisco gear may not be the best in every catagory, the solution as a whole is pretty good and there's not a networking vendor that can provide an 'end to end' solution. Plus there's something to be said for being able to put firewall/content/PoE/WAN modules in a single chassis.

        Integration and consolidation does save power.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by profplump (309017)
          There are benefits to having only one provider -- like consolidated support and supposed interoperability.

          There are also costs, like lock-in -- not only are in a position to be taken advantage of by your single provider in terms of price, but you're actually likely to dimiss technically superior solutions if they don't come from your provider, and your solutions will be inflexible outside the bounds set by your provider.

          Take Exchange email as an example. It's not a terrible way to do mail folders, and the i
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by amper (33785) *
          You sign one large support contract, makes it very easy to have 'one neck to choke' when there's an issue.

          Unfortunately, the "one neck" often turns out to be yours, rather than the vendor's...

          The reason Cisco's gear is dominant in the networking marketplace has nothing to do with superior hardware, software, or service. It does, however, have quite a lot to do with the fact that Cisco was one of the first players in the IP router market, with products that frequently failed to interoperate with other brands
  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @09:10AM (#19937391)
    This is unfortunately a common issue with people. When two events happen at about the same time, people assume they're somehow connected. The autism and vaccine link, for example, is one of those things where they get their shots and soon afterwards, they notice their child is acting strangely. Then there's the old "this coincidence must be a sign of the divine" theory.

    We run into this all the time when doing server administration. For example, one of our developers found that web pages were slower on our new virtual servers. The obvious thought is that virtualization=slow. It turns out that compression hadn't been turned on for those servers. Since he was going over a slow VPN connection, it made a fairly significant difference. Once switched on, they worked about the same as real servers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kevorkian (142533)

      We run into this all the time when doing server administration. For example, one of our developers found that web pages were slower on our new virtual servers. The obvious thought is that virtualization=slow. It turns out that compression hadn't been turned on for those servers. Since he was going over a slow VPN connection, it made a fairly significant difference. Once switched on, they worked about the same as real servers.

      Yea , but it was still 'something' related to the change that was made.

      The dev may

    • by Zebra_X (13249)
      In your virtualization example - there are mnay more varibales to isolate before you can declare "virtualization is slow". To conclude this based on a remote employee on a new server with a configuration that may or may not be the same is a bit of reach.

      If there is an exisiting network that "works" and then a new device is put into use on the network - and then the network breaks... it is reasonable to conclude either the device is a potential source for the issue.

      While details are sparse I suspect the Appl
    • by trb (8509)
      Speaking of correlation, if I were at Duke, before blaming Apple or Cisco, I'd ask myself the question - is this problem happening anywhere else? If not, why not? Then how likely is it that the problem is with my basic system rather than with the way I've configured it?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by farker haiku (883529)
      For example, one of our developers found that web pages were slower on our new virtual servers. The obvious thought is that virtualization=slow. It turns out that compression hadn't been turned on for those servers.

      So how was he wrong? The virtual servers were slower.
      • by sholden (12227)
        Because "virtualization=slow" is completely different than "The virtual servers were slower".
        • actually, you'll notice that the original poster's word choice didn't indicate what the dev said exactly. He said "The obvious thought is that virtualization=slow. " That may be how they interpreted the dev's complaint, but since he didn't quote the dev exactly, we can't know for sure.

          But, what we know now is that there is a definite correlation between pointing out someone's mistake, and them flaming you on slashdot. Oh, and modding you troll. That's also much more likely to happen apparently.
          • by sholden (12227)
            The other bit I can't see that you seem to is where the dev was declared to be "wrong"?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mercury83 (759116)
      I get this all the time from my software engineer coworkers trying to resolve problems. They notice something that seems unusual and they also note a decrease in performance. They assume that the one caused the other immediately without any other reason and then spend hours trying to resolve the unusual condition that they first saw. It's amazing how often the unusual condition is completely unrelated. In fact, it seems like when something goes wrong, it's easy to spot a whole bunch of problems in your conf
  • So it wasn't Apple's iPhone but Cisco's Linksys iPhone [wikipedia.org] that was causing problems, am I right?
  • by henryhbk (645948) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @09:21AM (#19937457) Homepage
    Many network IT folks just understand how to change settings on routers (what you learn to do in a "certification" course on a router) and understanding networking. Networking is more than just some router settings, and understanding the organic interdependent flowing nature of a network is critical to debugging problems. Just knowing something is causing a problem, and blaming the most recent change as the cause (as opposed to some underlying problem that this change simply brings to light). A senior IT official should, even if he doesn't know the exact problem, know that weird entworking problems are often way more complex than they seem, and should not jump to knee-jerk conclusions (especially based on some 1994 anti-mac bias about networking)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by TheEmptySet (1060334)
      "weird entworking problems"


      Damn those Ents and their slow decision making. First they nearly refused to act to stop the downfall of middle Earth and now, even worse, they are causing problems with Steve's divine creation. Personally I think we should ban them from having I phones if they are going to do this.

  • by BillGatesLoveChild (1046184) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @09:45AM (#19937575) Journal
    Cool. Cisco screws up, iPhone gets blamed, but nobody minds, because iPhones are so cool.

    Boss: "Did you get those reports done?"
    Underling: "Sorry Boss, I Couldn't. iPhone Congestion."
    Boss: "iPhone? ... (smiles) iPhones are cool aren't they!"
    Underling: "They sure are boss!"

    Boss wanders off feeling good.
    Underling returns to screwing around with his iPhone.
  • by CRC'99 (96526) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @09:46AM (#19937585) Homepage
    I think that after spending a number of years working in Cisco only networks, I'm constantly amazed at the generally poor compatibility and functionality of Cisco equipment.

    This ranges from critical recovery steps being removed from the 7200 series G2 NPE (NEVER make one of these crash to ROMMON on boot. The fix is to RMA the NPE) for Xmodem recovery of bootloaders - something a basic 827 router has to their latest 7961 VoIP SIP phones that are apparently RFC compliant for SIP communications - but aren't.

    There are MANY things that make Cisco equipment worse and worse as the years go by. Part of it I believe is the outsourcing of the people who write the software for these things now. Chances are that they weren't even around with Xmodem was in use - and I bet a lot of the coders have NEVER admin'ed a network of Cisco gear. This is the only thing I can think behind removing essential recovery procedures for $35,000AU routers.

    There's a whole new direction that Cisco is heading, and with the stupid things missing from their new gear, I'm starting to wonder if it's a direction that will have huge impacts for the worse in the network admin side of life.
    • by jkbull (453632) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @10:13AM (#19937757)

      ...(NEVER make one of these crash to ROMMON on boot. The fix is to RMA the NPE)...
      I understand the ROMMON, RMA, and NPE acronyms, but what's NEVER stand for?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CRC'99 (96526)

        ...(NEVER make one of these crash to ROMMON on boot. The fix is to RMA the NPE)...

        I understand the ROMMON, RMA, and NPE acronyms, but what's NEVER stand for?

        The NEVER stands for what I mean when I don't want to sit through 8+ weeks of rubbish from Cisco to get the thing RMA'ed (lucky it was in our testing phase and not live equipment). The TAC closed the case off and refused the warranty and it's been put on the account managers plate to fix. You can think of it as _never_ or never - which ever you like. I still refuse to use the flash tag though ;)

    • by jkrise (535370)

      I think that after spending a number of years working in Cisco only networks, I'm constantly amazed at the generally poor compatibility and functionality of Cisco equipment.

      There's a very simple explanation. Cisco, Oracle and Microsoft are 3 big gorillas who make a business of selling closed-source complicated implementations that are supposed-to-be standards-compliant. Unfortunately they are not truly standards-compliant, besides being overly complicated and obfuscated. Hence such compatibility issues.

      Notice we have no clue in this particular incident, of what exactly triggered this response from Cisco equipment. It is like a Service Pack from Microsoft - we only get vague d

  • To be fair.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vacuous (652107) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @10:17AM (#19937785)
    To be fair, who hasn't had an issue where you were SURE it wasn't one thing, when it actually was. I would imagine most of you, like me, have seen issues where you still can't explain how you fixed it.
  • by smack.addict (116174) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @10:30AM (#19937857)
    The sick thing is that it was OBVIOUS it was a Cisco problem from the start. If you make the assumption that the iPhones are somehow defective, it's still a Cisco problem because any defective behavior from an iPhone would be indistinguishable from malicious behavior from a student. The fact that the iPhone was involved really was a non-issue all along.

    It was terribly irresponsible of them to go off blaming Apple and, worse, absolving Cisco of responsibility.
    • Good point. I agree they shouldn't have exonerated Cisco, but you have to keep in mind the Denial of service angle. You can very well destroy all wireless network activity with enough noise at the right frequency. There really is no defense for that.
  • Everyone knows that Duke's got problems with open access [google.com]. It's the access point's fault, not the new units that play a little rough with seasoned pros.

    Though the expert officials blaming the wrong party should find a new line of work [cnn.com]. I suggest politics.
  • Typical reaction. Something goes wrong, blame the user.

    After all you and your staff would never mess up, your high status, reputation and salaries are at stake. The fact that you have outstanding trouble tickets, perform patches and upgrades without testing are coincidental.

    So something goes wrong, you blame the user, remove them and claim problem solved. In the background you quietly find the problem and fix it (as part of routine maintenance). Your reputation is intact and all is good with the world.
  • by faloi (738831) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @12:37PM (#19938683)
    Seems to be all the rage at Duke. One would think they'd learn from their past mistakes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PM4RK5 (265536)
      There's a reason they have a world-renowned business school. I'm pretty sure Jumping To Conclusions is a senior-level course.

      *ducks*
  • Smelled like a network problem. [slashdot.org]

    rm999, blindbat, Doctor Memory, and Funk_dat69, you all owe me a beer. Go drink it for me and think about what you've done. ;)
  • by lena_10326 (1100441) on Saturday July 21, 2007 @03:58PM (#19940341) Homepage
    In the original article:

    18,000 requests per second from iPhones knocking out dozens of access points at Duke Universit
    I don't understand why no one thinks it's a problem that the iPhone didn't back off. It still generated thousands of requests (or responses) to the broken router. It should have detected that and backed off. But then, I'm not very familiar with how ARP works.

  • It's kind of funny: most posts here complain about the Duke IT staff, either about their lack of competence or that they didn't wait until they had all the facts before claiming that this was an iPhone related problem.

    Some people here who know the IT staff at Duke defended them and objected the claim of lacking competence, and there is no reason not to believe them, since everybody else is just guessing.

    So most posters rushed to explain what happened without having seen the whole picture, didn't look in

  • ... have been sacked.

    As someone in another forum pointed out, and it's a good point...

    Cisco provided a NEW patch, or just finally got Duke's IT staff off their ass and over to a patch set that's been readily available for some time?

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