Saturation Level with Cisco and Meraki AP's

Posted on 2011-02-11
Last Modified: 2013-12-27
I have now been told by Cisco and someone looking int Meraki, that their Access Points do not have a satursation level. That both can handle an unlimited number of connections with no issue. The Cisco would be a model like the 1131 or 1242. Not sure about the Meraki. Does anyone know if this is true? If so, how do they handle connections differently than a consumer grade AP?
Question by:Greg27
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LVL 46

Expert Comment

by:Craig Beck
ID: 34887480
Cisco APs have an association limit which can be configured, depending on IOS version.

However, they recommend that you don't let more than a specific number of clients connect to a single AP if you want to achieve certain data-throughput rates.

Author Comment

ID: 34888661
What is an association limit? Any idea what that limit is? Sonds like you are saying, regardless of what that association limit is, Cisco doesn't recommend more that a certain number of connections. Is there a way for me to find that out? I had a Cisco SE tell me there was no limit, but I find that hard to believe. Is it even possible that other AP's don't have a limit? Is Meraki's marking team being a little creative with the truth of what their AP's can do? Again, I have a hard time believing there is an AP that can handle an unlimited number of connections.
LVL 46

Accepted Solution

Craig Beck earned 500 total points
ID: 34888822
Exactly right!

Cisco say there is no limit to how many clients can actually associate, and that is technically correct.  The APs have a limit of 2048 MAC addresses, but this is just the number it can hold at any one time.

Also there is a MAX-ASSOCIATIONS option in the AP which lets you physically limit the number of associations.

Cisco do advise that connecting lots of clients will affect throughput, and that you should limit the number of associations to avoid this.

Read this doc from Cisco (search for the term, Q. How many clients can associate to the AP?)
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Author Comment

ID: 34888874
So it looks like 24 is their recommended limit. Any idea if Meraki is any different? They claim unlimited connections. Again, I find this hard to believe, but need proof, before someone in our org takes us down the wrong path. Thanks.
LVL 46

Expert Comment

by:Craig Beck
ID: 34888885
I've just read a bit further through the linked document, and spotted this (which indicates 255 is the maximum association limit)...

Q. My access point (AP) accepts and connects to only one client at a time. What could be the reason?

A. One possible reason could be that the max-associations parameter is set to 1 under the service-set identifier (SSID) configuration. Use the max-associations SSID configuration mode command in order to configure the maximum number of associations supported by the radio interface (for the specified SSID). Use the no form of the command in order to reset the parameter to the default value. This default maximum is 255.
LVL 46

Expert Comment

by:Craig Beck
ID: 34888967
I'm not sure about Meraki as I've never used their kit, but as the majority of wireless kit is based on the same standard, I'd tend to think that there is a limit at some point.

For any WiFi installation, I'd always try to limit the number of clients associated to a single AP as the 802.11 standard is half-duplex, so only 1 client talks at a time.  This will make connections slower as more clients connect, and therefore throughput must slow to a stop at some point.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 34920105
Craig, the part that jumped out at me was " Ideally, not more than 24 clients can associate with the AP because the throughput of the AP is reduced with each client that associates to the AP." That to me is the saturation level for the Cisco AP's. I will see if I can track down info on the Meraki's. Thanks.

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