tec Tip Videos

Cisco Catalyst 3850 Wireless Capabilities

Nate explains some of the wireless capabilities of the Cisco Catalyst 3850 switch.


Hi, I'm Nathan. Today we're talking about the Cisco 3850. As many customers are aware, the Cisco 3850 includes a built-in wireless controller and a lot of people have questions on that. Can I get wireless from it? What can it do? How does it compare to the wireless controllers that we already have deployed in our network?

Can we do wireless? Yes, we can. How do we do that? There's actually two modes. There's the mobility agent and the mobility controller that the switch can run in with regards to the wireless. What does that mean to you? By default, it's in the mobility agent mode and what that means is that in this mode, the switch with the built-in controller will offload wireless duties from your primary controller. Things like QoS and maintaining AP-to-controller connectivity will be done by this switch rather than going all the way back to your primary controller. I'll give you a demonstration, sort of, or at least a diagram of how that works in a second.

Also, there's the mobility controller mode, which is more of what you're used to, that is, your actual controller. The switch will act as a physical full-blown controller. In this mode you do need to have licenses. It can be licensed up to 50 APs, so it's not necessarily a good replacement for your 5508. Don't run right out and grab one, because sizing, of course, is an issue. That licensing is bought on a per-AP basis. That limitation of the 50 APs also, just as a caution, is stack-wide, so you can't have a stack with every controller having a 50-AP limit. It is for an entire stack.

How does the mobility agent mode work? That is kind of the new feature and more, I guess, of what the 3850 wireless controller is intended for. I'll show you over here. Say you have a home office here. That's where your 5508 normally resides. If you have a satellite office and you put a 3850 out here, and then you have wireless clients. In the old way of doing things -- old, I realize, isn't really old -- but traditionally what we would do is we would send all of our wireless signals back to home base, where our home controller would be.

Now, with the 3850 deployed, we offload from that so that this wireless network can just use the 3850 controller there without having to bother the 5508 for everything. We're taking some of the stress off of that, not going across the WAN link if we don't have to and keeping everything down here for a lot, if not most of, the functionality of the wireless network. Again, you can also run it in that mobility controller mode and kind of keep this as its own separate wireless network, where the 3850 acts as just the primary controller.

Hopefully, that clears up some questions for you. As always, you can always contact a member of our tech support department and we'd be happy to go through the details with you in how it applies to your own individual wireless needs.