Introduction

Design

Wired connection

Switch configuration

AiMesh configuration

Additional parameters

Conclusion

Introduction

ASUS AiMesh is the ultimate home WiFi solution that lets you enjoy a stable, seamless and secure wireless connection anywhere in your home. With powerful features, exceptional ease of use and no trade-offs between WiFi range and maximum speed, you can finally experience WiFi the way it should be.

That’s exactly how ASUS presents its AiMesh technology which is supported by the majority of wireless dual-band router new models of this vendor. With the help of AiMesh technology mesh wireless network is created. Client devices connect to the node with the highest signal level and on moving a client device inside the coverage area roaming, which means reconnecting to another AiMesh node, takes place.

Design

The system consists of a wireless AiMesh router, which is actually a central point of the wireless network, and one or several AiMesh nodes. By default, for connection between AiMesh nodes a dedicated channel operating at 5 GHz frequency is used.

Establishing a direct connection between the network nodes is available. At the moment this article is being written, up to two wireless hierarchy levels were supported.

A pleasant feature of such mesh network is the support of self-healing function. In case of any node failure, all equipment reconnects to appropriately functioning nodes by default.

In addition to wireless connection of AiMesh nodes to each other, one can use wired connections as well.

That’s exactly a wired connection of AiMesh nodes to a wirelss router we are going to discuss today.

Wired connection

Wireless connection of AiMesh nodes to the central wireless router is all good except the performance. Yep, 5 GHz modules of several router models are perfectly able to step over 1 Gbps performance limit. However, this is valid only under certain conditions. Mutual nodes position together with the absence of direct visibility between them can significantly decrease the performance of wireless transit channels. One can avoid decreasing of node-router channels performance by using wired connection. In this case, based on the vendor recommendations, one should connect WAN port of AiMesh node with LAN port of AiMesh router the way it is shown in the picture above.

But what should one do if such cable connection is impossible? It should seem that there is a rather simple solution: one should place a switch between the router and AiMesh node, that means connecting both devices to a new or already existing L2 network, adding them to the same VLAN. However, in practice it is not so simple.

For mutual detection wireless devices in AiMesh network use LLDP. This protocol is intended for exchanging messages about the abilities supported by each side. LLDP messages exchange is possible only with directly connected nearby device that means the router and AiMesh node will not see each other but will exchange LLDP messages with the switch between them.

switch#sho lld ne
Capability codes:
    (R) Router, (B) Bridge, (T) Telephone, (C) DOCSIS Cable Device
    (W) WLAN Access Point, (P) Repeater, (S) Station, (O) Other
Device ID           Local Intf     Hold-time  Capability      Port ID
Cat3750             Gi1/0/2        120        B,R             Gi1/0/14
0015.176a.f39b      Gi1/0/4        3601                       0015.176a.f39b
RT-AX56U            Gi1/0/5        20         B               04d9.f5b4.68a0
Total entries displayed: 3

Fortunately, there is a solution for this situation as well. For sending LLDP messages through the switch one can use QinQ technology which allows transparently tunneling messages of several service protocols through L2 network.

Switch configuration

We had Cisco Catalyst C3560CX-8XPD switch that supports QinQ technology and ASUS RT-AX88U, RT-AX56U, and RT-AX58U wireless routers all to ourselves. We started with creation of a dedicated virtual network for AiMesh network data transmission. This is exactly an ordinary VLAN without any additional settings.

switch(config)#vla 17
switch(config-vlan)#name
switch(config-vlan)#name AiMesh
switch(config-vlan)#^Z
switch#

Then we configured interfaces to which AiMesh network members connect. The interface configuration doesn’t depend on the fact whether a wireless router or AiMesh node is connected to it. Clarifications to the commands are shown inline below.

interface GigabitEthernet1/0/5
 switchport access vlan 17
 !Select of VLAN in which AiMesh data is transmitted
 switchport mode dot1q-tunnel
 !Select interface operation mode
 l2protocol-tunnel lldp
 !List of tunneling protocols
 no lldp transmit
 no lldp receive
 !Turn off switch LLDP messages receive/transmit

In addition to tunneling of LLDP messages, our switch allows sending messages of several other protocols, however this is not required for AiMesh proper work

switch(config-if)#l2protocol-tunnel ?
  cdp                 Cisco Discovery Protocol
  drop-threshold      Set drop threshold for protocol packets
  lldp                Link Layer Discovery Protocol
  point-to-point      point-to-point L2 Protocol
  shutdown-threshold  Set shutdown threshold for protocol packets
  stp                 Spanning Tree Protocol
  vtp                 Vlan Trunking Protocol
  <cr>

The MAC address table corresponding to our virtual network contains MAC addresses of both AiMesh equipment and client devices.

switch#sho mac address-table int gi1/0/5
          Mac Address Table
-------------------------------------------
Vlan    Mac Address       Type        Ports
----    -----------       --------    -----
  17    04d9.f5b4.68a0    DYNAMIC     Gi1/0/5
  17    d868.c310.f0f1    DYNAMIC     Gi1/0/5
Total Mac Addresses for this criterion: 2

From the side of wireless devices supporting AiMesh network one should also perform a short configuration to which description we are going to.

AiMesh configuration

For each AiMesh node one should select a way of its connection to AiMesh wireless router (Connection Priority option).

The way of node connection to the central router used at the moment is also displayed as an icon in the list of connected AiMesh nodes.

That's all. Configuration of AiMesh wireless network nodes is completed here.

Additional parameters

A significant part of settings corresponding to WiFi module operating is sent by AiMesh wireless router to subordinate nodes during their connection. However, there are several options that can be configured individually for each device. Among these options is, for example, working of LEDs on the front panel of the devices forming AiMesh network.

The connection to AiMesh nodes with the help of HTTP/HTTPS is impossible, so the only way of their configuration is using of SSH protocol (that is not recommended for the general users by the vendor). One can find out IP address of AiMesh node with the help of AiMesh node card.

For switching off LEDs on the front side led_disable parameter is used, that is set with the help of nvram utility which we have already described.

admin@RT-AX58U-3F40:/# nvram
======== NVRAM CMDS ========
[set]                   : set name with value
[setflag]               : set bit value
[unset]                 : remove nvram entry
[get]                   : get nvram value with name
[getflag]               : get bit value
[show:dump:getall]      : show all nvrams
[loadfile]              : populate nvram value from files
[savefile]              : save all nvram value to file
[kset]                  : set name with value in kernel nvram
[kunset]                : remove nvram entry from kernel nvram
[kget]                  : get nvram value with name
[commit]                : save nvram [optional] to restart wlan when following restart
[restart]               : restart wlan
[save]                  : save all nvram value to file
[restore]               : restore all nvram value from file
[erase]                 : erase nvram partition
[fb_save]               : save the romfile for feedback
============================
admin@RT-AX58U-3F40:/# nvram show | grep led_disable
size: 67930 bytes (63142 left)
led_disable=0
admin@RT-AX58U-3F40:/# nvram set led_disable=1
admin@RT-AX58U-3F40:/# nvram get led_disable
1
admin@RT-AX58U-3F40:/# nvram commit

After all necessary configurations are performed, one should reload AiMesh node manually or remotely using reboot command.

Conclusion

Certainly, we realize that Cisco switching equipment described in our article will be hardly ever set at houses of the majority of users. However, if a managed switch of another vendor is used in the network there is a probability of its QinQ technology support, that allows combining several AiMesh devices within one virtual network. Anyhow, for the most users using of switch is not required at all, as for configuring a small AiMesh network LAN ports of AiMesh router (some models have eight LAN ports) are just enough.

In addition to this, we would like to notice that vendor is working on fixing the issue as well. Probably, it will be solved either by using another protocol of AiMesh neighbors detection or by updating an existing one.

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