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Cisco Wireless Lan Controller Comparision

Posted on 2013-11-21
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Last Modified: 2013-11-27
This question is in regards to the Cisco 2504 WLC vs. the Cisco 5508 WLC.  

I can purchase two 2504 WLC’s, both with 50 AP licenses for half the price of one 5508 WLC with a 100 AP license.  If I can put the two 2504 WLC’s in the same mobility group and control 100 AP’s, what makes the 5508 WLC with a 100 AP license so special?   Is it just because it can scale to up to 500 AP’s?  Is that really the only difference?  If so it is much more economical to go with two 2504 WLC's with 50 AP licenses vs one 5508 100 AP WLC.  Its like a $10,000 price difference.
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Question by:denver218
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Craig Beck earned 167 total points
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First obvious difference... the 2504 only has 4 interfaces - the 5508 has 8.  Therefore the total theoretical bandwidth available to the WLAN is double that of the 2504.

That then concludes that the 2504 hardware isn't capable of handling as many wireless clients as a 5508.  The limit for a 2504 is 500 clients pre-7.4 code and 1000 clients with 7.4 or greater, regardless of how many APs you have.  The 5508 can do a lot more with any version of code as standard (around 7000 clients).

The 2504 will only give 300-500Mbps throughput per interface pre-7.4 code.  The 5508 allows for the full 1Gbps per interface with any code.

Feature-wise, the two are nearly the same if you're running at least 7.4 code, although one of the key features is that although the 2504 will do High-Availability it won't do Stateful Switchover.  That means that if the primary controller fails all clients have to re-associate.
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by:lrmoore
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Craig is spot on.
The 2504 can now actually handle 75 AP's with 7.4 or better.
The 2504 is limited to a total max of 1G throughput across all 4 ports or any one port. It was 500Mb until 7.4
If you put up 50 AP's each with a gig interface and 1000+ users, then they will all share that single 1G pipe to the rest of the network.
The 5508 can aggregate all 8 full 1G ports for 8Gb throughput.
You can put dual power supplies on a 5508 for higher availability
It really depends on the throughput and reliability to the end client that you are trying to achieve.
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by:denver218
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I didn't know that 7.4 code now allowed for 75 WAP's.  This actually helps me.  Now since my  2504 has a 50 AP license, which was the max when I bought it a year ago, when I upgrade to 7.4 will I have to purchase an additional 25 licenses to have 75 WAP support?
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by:Craig Beck
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Yes you will still need to purchase extra... you don't get 25 free AP licenses :-)
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by:Garry Glendown
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You may also need to keep in mind that, with that number of APs, having redundancy in mind might not be too bad an idea ... of course, with two 2504's, you'd still have half the APs operational ... you'll need to decide whether that is sufficient ...
On the other hand, on the 5508, you can get a redundancy box that does not need any licenses, which will then cover your APs if the other one goes down ...
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by:Craig Beck
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You can actually order the 2504 as a HA SKU just like you can with a 5508.  You don't need to order licenses for the 2504 HA either.
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by:denver218
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As far as throughput goes, I have the WLC monitored right now with 50 WAPs and throughput is not an issue.  

So if I added a second 2504 and added it to the same mobility group, all WAP's registered to that second controller would be using throughput from that second WLC so throughput shouldn't be an issue.
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by:Craig Beck
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Yes, or you could install 7.4 code on the 2504 and use LAG.  That would give you extra bandwidth per interface.
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by:denver218
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Perfect.  Last question, lets say my 2504 was maxed out at 75 AP's in building 1, and I had the need for a 76th AP.  In Building two, which I have a site-to-site VPN to building 1, they have also have a 2504 controller with room to add more AP's, but they advertise different SSIDs.  Now could I install a 76th AP in office 1, register that AP to the controller at office 2 over the VPN, and have all 76 WAP's working in building 1.  Am I just dreaming:)
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by:Craig Beck
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You 'could' do that.  You'd need to use FlexConnect for that though, and it would mean that the 76th AP isn't pushing traffic through the second controller.  This may or may not be a bad thing, depending on what your security policy says.

It would need a bit more config than just a standard installation, from a WLAN and AP group point of view, and you'd have to ensure that the RTT between the sites was <300ms for the AP to believe it's connected to the WLC (in order to process association requests).

But yes, it is entirely possible.
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by:denver218
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Ok, since the 2504 can do up to 75 AP's now with 7.4 I'm going to go that route.  Now to purchase an additional 25 AP license so I can scale my current 2504 to 75 WAP's (Part Number L-LIC-CT2504-25A), is  more money than it cost to buy a second 2504 controller with a 25 AP License (Part Number AIR-CT2504-25-K9).  So I know this question will come up to me when I talk to my boss about it which is "why don't we just buy a second controller with a 25 AP license since its cheaper than the 25 AP Adder license  (L-LIC-CT2504-25A)".  I know we would save money in smartnet's only having one controller, but other than that nothing comes to mind.  Yeah there will have to be additional configurations on the controllers to put the two of them in a mobility group for seamless roaming between WAP's on the controllers but other than that, I see no other benefit.  Anyone have any opinions or thought on this?
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by:Craig Beck
ID: 39677796
Just remember the 500 client limit though if you stick all of your eggs in one basket.  That's not changed as far as I am aware and is obviously per WLC, not per AP.

You can load-balance APs with two WLCs.  Also you can prioritise which APs fail to a redundant controller, so if you have 50 APs on each WLC you could let 25 important APs fail to the second WLC if one fails.  You obviously won't have this functionality with one WLC.

It really depends on what you're using and how you want to deploy it.
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by:Garry Glendown
ID: 39678432
If you've got any chance that you will push towards 75 APs (in whatever constellation) I'd really recommend considering the 5508 with a redundancy unit ... I don't know how business critical your solution is, but given the bigger expandability and higher bandwidth available on the 5508, plus the lower per-AP-cost (considering for redundancy reasons you'd have to buy up to the max for both WLCs for the smaller, while you only have to buy them for the main unit on the 5508), the higher base cost may well be worth it ...
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by:Craig Beck
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I'd agree with Garry-G's suggestion to consider the 5508, but...
plus the lower per-AP-cost
That's not correct.  The 2504 is now also orderable as a HA unit using the CON-SNT-CT2504HA SKU.  Therefore there is no advantage in purchasing a 5508 from a licensing perspective with high-availability in-mind as you would only need to purchase licenses for one WLC, not two.
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by:Garry Glendown
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Ah, that was new to me, good to know, tnx!
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by:Craig Beck
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Yeah it's not been available for long!

Something worth noting though is that the 2504 in HA won't do AP or client SSO, so re-association/authentication is necessary when the HA WLC takes over.
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by:denver218
ID: 39680854
Thanks guys, I appreciate your help in discussing wireless controller options.  Since this project will require under 50 AP's we are just going to 2504 WLC with a 75 AP license so there is room to grow.  Since LAG is now support on the 2504 as well HA, if they grow over 75 AP's will will just just get another 2504 WLC and put them in the same mobility group.  Thanks.
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