ECSE Bootcamp – A personal view

For those readers that don’t know, ECSE stands for Ekahau Certified Survey Engineer. It is designed to teach the use of the Ekahau Site Survey (ESS) software. More information on the program can be found here: Ekahau ECSE.

I attended a Pre-conference bootcamp at the Wireless LAN Professionals Conference (WLPC) in Phoenix the weekend of February 16 – 18, 2019. I had a fantastic instructor, Ferney Munoz (Twitter: @Ferney_Munoz) which definitely influenced my experience; however, this isn’t a review of his instruction. Sorry Ferney!
DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with Ekahau in any way other than a consumer of their products and I am not receiving any compensation for this post. The opinions expressed herein are completely my own and do not reflect any opinions by my employer or any of their employees.

Until very recently, the company I work for had used AirMagnet Surveyor (AM) for all of our survey and validation work. Being part of the industry for a long time, AM was at one point the market leader in the survey software space. I was peripherally aware of Ekahau from its early forays into Site Survey software but really couldn’t justify a reason to switch software packages. We just added Ekahau to our portfolio and are intending to use it for our work as often as we can moving forward. We do support clients that are focused on the AM suite so, for now we support both products. But the winds are changing!

My expectations upon arrival were that the class would be covering the software and its intricacies – more of a how-to on just the software itself. What I received was more than that. As a CWNE, I am very familiar with things like antenna patterns, beacon frames, and scan intervals, among others. What I didn’t expect is that a software developer company such as Ekahau would ensure that their certification attendees did as well. As part of the class there is an expectation that the attendees have or are currently studying for the CWNA (awesome program and training of its own right, but I’m not biased <grin>) and Ekahau could have easily just left it at that; however, they didn’t. The curriculum’s creators wanted to ensure that their trainees had the basics down as it pertains to the use and understanding for their software – a seriously important aspect that sometimes goes overlooked by other organizations and programs.

Now, I understand, and expected, the class to be geared toward attendees with little experience in Wi-Fi – this is, after all, an introductory level course to the product. But another pleasant surprise was the way Ferney explained the complex methodology of how wireless clients gain access to the RF medium – he called it “The Game”. This was a highlight for me as it took a very complex algorithm of how client devices use the Distributed Coordination Function (DCF) and CSMA/CA to access the RF for transmission. I had never seen it explained in such a succinct and visual method by using members of the class and a 6-sided die. Whether part of the curriculum or one of Ferney’s ingenious ways of instructing, either way it was definitely something memorable for me and I will likely use it in the future to illustrate that same process to others.

I really can’t mention ESS without adding the Ekahau Sidekick, a complimentary hardware component to take the place of USB Wi-Fi NICs for use with ESS. It includes a Spectrum analysis chip whose resolution exceeds other laptop designed USB spectrum chips and the ECSE class includes demonstrations of the Sidekick’s abilities. If you use ESS and don’t have a Sidekick, you are missing out. Get one, period.

For my money I recommend purchasing ESS and a Sidekick if you are doing anything with Wi-Fi Site Surveys and Design. I knew all the positive comments from the various groups I am part of and this ECSE experience just cemented my advocating the products. From what I hear and know, Ekahau has a great team of people and seem to be very responsive to the community at large. Plus, they have Jussi (Twitter: @JussiKiviniemi). Side Note: you have to experience Jussi to understand.

I am now an ECSE. For that, I thank Ferney, Ekahau, Wireless LAN Professionals, and my employer for giving me the opportunity to attend this class. For those that are thinking of attending – do it. Just like the Sidekick, you are missing out. and if you happen to have Ferney as your instructor, tell him I said hello.

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