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Cisco has published initial release ( of AireOS 8.1 code. In this post we will look at what it brings & points you need to consider before jump into this code. Here is the release notes of code.

Main purpose of this code release is  to support two new controller platforms (CT5520 & CT8540). These two platform has largely increased scalability compare to its predecessor  CT5508 & CT8510 platforms. (eg 500AP,7K clients ,8Gbps throughput  in 5508 where as 1500AP, 20K clients, 20Gbps in 5520)

5520-8540This does not mean 5508 & 8510 goes EoL, but if you are purchasing AireOS controllers, these two new platform are the one you should buying now on.

The other important fact about this new software version is Cisco has stop supporting 3 different indoor AP models namely 1130,1240,1250 series. Also this new codes stops supporting 1520 series outdoor AP models. You may already knew that if you seen the below post few months back


wlc8.1-APsupportThis will be the most  critical factor when deciding move on to this new code, if you already having a deployed wireless network. If you have those AP models, then start replacing them prior to move on to 8.1

If you are not in that situation, then you have to keep a WLC with older software version (7.4,7.6 or 8.0) to support those AP models in future (until you replace them)

Also 1040,1140,1260 Series AP will able to register 8.1 code WLC, but those AP model will not support any new features added in 8.1. Here is the list of AP model supported in this new code. Refer this compatibility matrix document for more details

Lightweight APs: 1040, 1140, 1260, 1600, 1700, 2600, 2700, 3500e, 3500i, 3500p, 3600e, 3600i, 3600p, 3702e, 3702i, 3702p, 600 OEAP, 700, 700W, AP801, and AP802

Outdoor Mesh APs: 1532E, 1532I, 1552E, 1552H, 1552I, 1552C, 1552EU, 1552CU, 1552S, and 1570

Another important point to note if you have deployed 5508 as Mobility Controller in Converged Access deployment (3850/3650 as MA, 5508/WiSM2 as MC). In 8.1 code this MC functionality is not supported in AireOS WLC. So if you have dedicated MC with AireOS, you have to plan to migrate that to IOS-XE MC (such as 5760)

Still “new mobility” feature is supported in AireOS & you can configure mobility between AireOS & IOS-XE MC (5760). So roaming will work between these two systems. Below extract from Release Note.

Seamless roaming with Inter-Release Controller Mobility (IRCM) between Cisco 8510 WLC, Cisco 8540 WLC, and Cisco 5520 WLC with Cisco 5760 WLC—Enables seamless mobility and wireless services across high scale WLCs running Cisco AireOS and Cisco IOS using new mobility for features such as Layer 2 and Layer 3 roaming and guest access or termination.”

Here is the some of key features introduced in 8.1

Enhanced HD experience:
– Dynamic Bandwidth Selection (DBS)—Automatic and intelligent configuration of 5-GHz channel bandwidth (20, 40, 80 MHz) for good channel width. This can be achieved by the learning of both client mix and the presence of neighboring APs and wireless networks.
– Flexible Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS)—Automatic adjustment of channel selection and channel width for 5 GHz spectral regions requiring radar detection and avoidance.
– Enhanced Interference Mitigation—Event-driven RRM (ED-RRM) is additionally triggered by Wi-Fi interference (faster channel change than the typical dynamic channel assignment cycle in RRM).
– Optimized Roaming Extensions —802.11v Basic Service Set (BSS) Transition Management (the infrastructure provides explicit advice to clients for reassociation and roaming).

 Cisco WLAN Express and Best Practices on Wireless Controllers —Simplifies the initial (day 0) setup for Cisco WLCs with over-the-air setup and best practices defaults that enable RF parameter optimization and network profiles

AVC for FlexConnect Local Switch AP-This release extends the AVC functionality from Cisco WLC to the AP. The AVC on FlexConnect AP provides application visibility and control for locally switched client traffic. The AVC on FlexConnect uses Protocol Pack 8.0 and NBAR engine version 16

Guest Anchor Priority —Assigns a fixed priority to each anchor WLC or HA pair. The highest priority Cisco WLC is designated as the primary anchor. This feature also allows load distribution in round-robin fashion if the priorities are of the same assigned value.

Multi-country domain support on WLC for bridge AP—Enables multiple country codes to be configured on a single Cisco WLC with bridge mode APs connected.

Like any other code, it has listed large number of open/resolved bugs in this code. You have to deploy & see how stable this new code is.

Cisco Wireless Release 8.1 Bulletin
Cisco WLAN Configuration Guide – Release 8.1
Cisco 5520 WLC Deployment Guide
Cisco 8540 WLC Deployment Guide

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1. What’s new in WLC 8.0