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ECSE: Advanced

by Michael Lester

Posted on at 12:36pm

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend the ECSE:Advanced training session, run by Dicker Data in Melbourne. This course was the first of it’s kind in Australia, and represented an extension of the ECSE:Design course that until recently was the primary in-person training offering by Ekahau. For the uninitiated, ECSE stands for Ekahau Certified Systems Engineer, and this course represents an extension to the ECSE, looking at advanced workflows, team-surveying, scripting and report templating using the industry standard Ekahau toolset.

For those interested, the agenda is outlined below:

On this course our instructor was François Vergès, the owner of SemFio Networks (https://www.semfionetworks.com) and co-host of the Clear-To-Send Wi-Fi podcast. François is an experienced trainer, CWNE (Certified Wireless Network Expert), and all-round Wi-Fi guru, so it’s fair to say we had access to one of the industry’s best in our training session, which was sensational.  Dicker Data hosted the event, and as usual took excellent care of all attendees, from ensuring we had a chance to get out and have dinner with other attendees to little things like making sure attendees were well caffeinated.  If you do get an opportunity to attend an event hosted by Dicker Data, I’d highly recommend you take the opportunity, as they’ll take good care of you.

As for the course itself, it was very well paced, and very hands-on giving attendees an opportunity to practically apply the skills they were learning, then & there. The ECSE:Design felt quite “jam packed” as there was a need to cover a good level of wireless fundamentals, before getting onto the use of the tool.  The Advanced has clearly allowed instructors to assume a reasonable level of knowledge prior, and this frees them up to deliver more in-depth content, without needing to spend too much time on the building blocks required prior. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the “hunt the interferer” game, a great practical application of using the SideKick to identify potential causes of interference in a production wireless network.  It was quite the sight, as around 16 wireless engineers armed with laptops and sidekicks roamed the lobby and training facilities of the ibis Hotel looking in corners and rotating to hunt the source. Trying to find some of the devices without these kind of tools was going to be like hunting for a needle in a haystack!

François spent plenty of time with us on the second day covering off some great tips for throughput testing, once again demonstrating the great value in tools such as the wlanpi (https://www.wlanpi.com). We got a little deep with packet captures, and I learned we could do some basic visualisations in WireShark – which was kind of cool. And finally he covered off some great tips for measuring attenuation.  In hindsight it seems so simple, but who’d have thought using a continuous survey on either side of a wall would be a rock solid way of getting an attenuation average?  Much more data than simply choosing a couple of points either side to grab those measurements – a great tip.

Finally the last day was for me the pièce de résistance within the course, as we touched on scripting using python for the ESS files.  What a lifesaver this could be in larger projects, and what a great inspiration point, as you start to consider all the possibilities that come from this. I walked away from this part of the course with loads of ideas about areas we could consider scripting and improving our workflows.  The scripts that were supplied were just enough to spark that curiosity, but leave you wanting to learn and experiment more. 

The reporting templates were great, and practical – however I’m glad we didn’t need to build the full template from scratch like earlier Advanced attendees – I can see that would have chewed up plenty of time. However, again you can see how this could save you significant time when generating customer-facing reports, and ensuring consistency of delivery. 

All in all, the ECSE Advanced was a fantastic addition to the Ekahau training suite, and a worthy successor to the ECSE:Design. For those of you who are serious about ensuring you’re as efficient as possible in your use of this professional toolset, I’d highly recommend you attend. You will walk away with practical skills, and a clear blueprint for how you can improve your (or your company’s) workflows, better leveraging the strengths of this software suite.