Home and lab network upgrade with Ubiquiti gear
Recently one of my lab switches began to fail, since it was the one that did most of the routing in my setup it was time to reevaluate my home networking design. I could just pick up another layer 3 switch, drop it in and continue to do the same thing as I was. But I’m always looking to do things better and my current setup was using gear from multiple vendors. I was using Meraki for my firewall and Access Points (AP), HP was my 1GbE networking and routing and Quanta for 10GbE networking. This setup worked fine, but
I was using Meraki for my firewall and Access Points (AP), HP was my 1GbE networking and routing and Quanta for 10GbE networking. This setup worked fine, but obviously there was many different touch points, I would have loved to replace the HP switch with one from Meraki but they are pretty expensive so that was out of the question. Also, I don’t like paying the yearly licensing costs to Meraki but had been doing for a few years because I really liked the features.
So this led me to take another look at Ubiquiti for networking gear, I have seen lots of others express their happiness with the products after using them. So rather than paying for more Meraki licenses in 6 months, I choose to invest that future money and a little more to replace most of my network with Ubiquiti gear. I ended up replacing everything but the Quanta switch that does 10GbE networking.
The new network now uses the Security Gateway (SG) as my edge firewall and router for all traffic. The SG connects to the new 1GbE network switch with is POE capable so it will power the new AP that was deployed also. I use 1GbE for older lab servers and some IPMI connections and then have a trunked connection to my Quanta switch that newer lab hosts connect to. With this setup I now can control all networking expect the Quanta from the single Ubiquiti controller that I deployed on a Windows VM in the lab.
While I’m losing a few features that Meraki offered and I used they are things that I can deal with. It’s only been a short period of time but so far I’m pretty happy with the Ubiquiti products and hope they live up to their high praise.
I had never used Ubiquiti gear before so there were a few things that I learned while setting up and fighting through some things in the beginning. The first would be to just go ahead and install the Unfi controller software in a VM or an old laptop that will always be on and connected. Install the controller on your laptop is not a great idea if you are not always home and online. The devices hold their configuration but cannot be changed if the controller is not present. You also cannot access the reporting if the controller is not around.
The AP’s are all POE capable which is nice if you do not have power outlets close by where you want to deploy them. They come with an AC adapter or can be powered by a POE capable network switch like the one I purchased. By default the UBNT switch is set to have all ports POE+ enabled, but when I plugged in the AP it would not power up. I tried different cables and nothing worked till I used the AC adapter. After talking to support I found out that you must change the switch port that it’s connected to from POE+ to 24v passive, not sure why this matters but it did the trick. Seems weird that an all Ubiquiti deployment would not power up the AP’s with default settings.
The last weird thing I encountered was that when using my Macbook the performance was not great. It was not obvious when using a browser or even streaming video, but was very obvious when I would RDP to servers in the lab. It would have lots of pauses when click between tabs and apps in the RDP session. If I would keep a ping running to different IPs in the lab I would see random spikes of latency from 15-300ms and a ping that would drop about every 20-30 packets. What was weird is that if I performed the same operations from a PC it worked flawlessly. So off to search the intertubes and I saw that Mac performance on Ubiquiti has been an on and off problem with different firmware versions. There was a bunch of forum posts about the problem and after reading a bunch of them I saw that people were having good luck with running the previous firmware versions on their AP’s.
So I left the controller and switch on the latest firmware versions but downgraded the AP to 3.4.18 and it fixed the Mac performance issues. Immediately after the older firmware was installed and the AP rebooted I had a completely normal experience when performing the same RDP functions.
It’s only been a few days but after working through the issues I’m now pretty happy with my decision to make the switch to Ubqiuti. Now I wish they offered cost-effective 10GbE switches that I could deploy to replace my Quanta and then the setup would be ideal.
About Brian Suhr
Brian is a VCDX5-DCV and a Sr. Tech Marketing Engineer at Nutanix and owner of this website. He is active in the VMware community and helps lead the Chicago VMUG group. Specializing in VDI and Cloud project designs. Awarded VMware vExpert status 6 years for 2016 - 2011. VCP3, VCP5, VCP5-Iaas, VCP-Cloud, VCAP-DTD, VCAP5-DCD, VCAP5-DCA, VCA-DT, VCP5-DT, Cisco UCS Design