Our client commissioned us to build a new low-cost, entry-level wireless LAN controller to complete the product portfolio targeting branch office and small to medium sized businesses. Starting with a PRD and ODM hardware based on a customer-selected chipset and reference design, a team of only five engineers brought this product to FCS in 14 months. After porting existing controller software from other platforms, we optimized and verified data-plane performance to match new specifications, and took the new platform thru SQA.
Our deep experience with chipsets and reference designs from all leading wireless chipset vendors, was a key factor that enabled us to ramp up quickly, and get the product to market quickly, without the client needing to take engineers off other projects. Now shipping in the thousands of units per month, this product replaced its more costly, and less scalable predecessor, and has paid for itself many times over.
Worldwide maturity of wireless is driving wireless equipment vendors to think differently about the long term. The introduction of 11ac marks an important inflection point, where several vendors are now realizing the importance of having RFC-compliant CAPWAP, in order to support multi-vendor wireless networks in future.
Our client had reached that turning point, and asked us to apply our unique knowledge of CAPWAP and proven expertise in Wi-Fi access point software to integrate 11ac to an existing 11n AP platform, and upgrade it with an RFC 5415-compliant CAPWAP stack.
Like the 11n APs from many vendors, the existing platform had a modular design, specifically intended to provide forward compatibility for 11ac and potentially other future Wi-Fi standards. Our mission was to integrate the new 11ac radio module into the platform, by porting new chipset drivers and forwarding code to the client's operating system, and integrating it with the existing code that needed to support the existing radios.
We enhanced multi-vendor interoperability, by porting an open source CAPWAP stack to the platform, and fixing its deficiencies. And in addition to functional testing of the 11ac module, we also carried out extensive AP to Controller interoperability testing. The complete project took 70 man weeks over a seven month period.
A leading player in Enterprise wireless networks, commissioned us to build a next generation wireless LAN controller blade to replace an existing product available for a chassis-based Enterprise switch family. Based on new client-designed hardware using the latest multi-core processors, the new product was expected to have dramatically improved throughput performance and more than double the AP and client capacity of its predecessor.
Our unique experience porting software to multi-core CPUs and optimizing control and data plane performance plus a deep understanding of the WLAN Controller software, contributed to Vatt Systems Private Limited winning this complex project. Our job was to validate the board, bring it up, design and implement diagnostic software including data path verification, and port the clients' operating system, drivers and controller software from the existing blade to the new platform. This meant porting the software to run on a completely different multi-processor architecture than before, and this required extensive regression testing.
Beyond the porting efforts, significant control plane and data plane optimizations were required, accounting for almost 30% of engineering time. We needed to optimize the control plane to massively scale AP and client capacity. And it was also necessary to dramatically improve data plane performance to take advantage of higher I/O capacity between the blade and the host system data bus, in order to achieve desired forwarding rates. We completed this project within 9 months from receiving first samples to FCS.
Due to increased competition for 802.11n access points in the Enterprise wireless LAN market, our client faced price erosion in their high volume AP line. In order to remain competitive and maximize profits, they needed a new high-performance platform with at least 20% lower COGs, for the next generation Enterprise AP line. But embedded software engineering and test engineers were already committed to other projects. Vatt Systems Private Limited was brought in to alleviate the shortfall on this time-critical project. Vatt Systems Private Limited was selected because of our proven expertise in wireless, combined with a deep understanding of Wi-Fi chipsets and MIPS/ARM/PowerPC multi-core processors from chip vendors Cavium, Atheros, Broadcom, Marvell, Netlogic, RMI and others.
Our mission was to evaluate the viability and performance of different multi-core CPUs on a proposed reference design AP from an ODM. To achieve this we needed to port boot loaders and the customers operating system to work on several different processor architectures. We developed and installed drivers, ported the OS and core customer-specific Wi-Fi applications for sufficient AP functionality to allow benchmarking. We conducted a series of packet tests on our in-house Veriwave test bed, to measure performance under different conditions.
Several Enterprise WLAN vendors have "remote" access point products targeted at the telecommuter and corporate road warrior which are designed to give the user the benefits of a secure "corporate" Wi-Fi experience at home or on the road. The device is connected to the Internet, in say your hotel room, and sets up a secure tunnel back to corporate using IPSec, CAPWAP or a propriety tunneling protocol. But carrying this extra piece of equipment has issues in its own right.
Our client commissioned Vatt Systems Private Limited to investigate the feasibility of porting this sophisticated functionality, to Android devices, so someone could turn on a secure "corporate" Wi-Fi extension using their phone or tablet, and using 4G as the backhaul. To add to the complexity, the goal was to do this on an unrooted device. In other words, it needed to work in such a way that any user could simply download an app to their phone, configure it with corporate-issued security credentials, and it would just work.
This project involved porting the vendors' CAPWAP WTP stack to the Android platform, and establishing encrypted tunnels over the 3G/4G internet connection. Then we needed to broadcast an SSID that is defined on a controller at corporate, over the Wi-Fi radio on the Android device, and process association and authentication requests from clients. We encountered and overcame numerous architectural obstacles related to gaining sufficient control of Android radio resources, battery management, and authentication latency. Within three months we had the Android AP communicating with a WLAN controller at corporate, and we reported back our findings on product viability to the client.
Our client has an elegant in-building 3G base station solution, comprising Radio Nodes and a Radio Node Controller which hands off 3G/4G sessions to the mobile operator's network. They wanted to add Wi-Fi access to Radio Nodes to give their clients a more competitive converged mobile access solution. They originally came to Vatt Systems Private Limited because of our known expertise in end-to-end wireless networking, but discovered our skills in software porting and control-plane optimization were crucial to the success of the project.
To add Wi-Fi to the Radio Nodes, 11n radio modules from a customer-selected chipset vendor was used. Our job was to port boot loader, OS and access point software stack, from the vendor's wireless SDK to the new hardware. We then carried out extensive interoperability testing, performance benchmarking and Wi-Fi pre-certification testing.
For the Radio Node Controller, for speed to market, we ported controller software from the same chipset vendor's SDK to carry out the Wi-Fi controller functions. But this time, we needed to port the software to run on a switch platform, from a completely different chipset vendor. This switch was already an integral part of the Radio Node Controller architecture. Our job was to port the controller software, provide boot loader, diagnostics and design and execute a comprehensive test plan to fully validate functionality. Porting the controller software across different chipsets i.e working with one chipset vendors SDK to migrate the API's to support a different chipset vendor's platform, required designing a shim or OS abstraction layer which would map over 100 different API calls to the switch chipsets. This project was completed in just over 6 months requiring 2 man years of expert embedded engineering resources.
Our first engagement with this client began in 2006 as a humble sustaining engineering effort on a few products in their WLAN portfolio. Over the last seven years, the Vatt Systems Private Limited engagement has grown and evolved to the point where Vatt Systems Private Limited is now the engineering support for TAC. We are responsible for diagnosing, fixing and verifying all customer-found issues, and a high percentage of system test and feature test issues for the client's Wireless LAN Controllers and Access Points.
You might think that partnering with Vatt Systems Private Limited for sustaining engineering would introduce inefficiencies and extend Mean Time to Repair (MTTR). In fact, the outcome has been quite the contrary. Our team is so mature and experienced with Wi-Fi that in just over five years, we have resolved more than 1200 defects including some of most hard to reproduce issues found in large-scale deployment scenarios. We have cut MTTR from a peak of 150 days to under 35 days. This has improved customer satisfaction, and rendered massive savings and competitive advantage to the client, by ensuring top engineers stay focused on new features and new product introduction.