Apple iPhone KO's Cisco network at Duke

Apple iPhone KO's Cisco network at Duke

Summary: Earlier this year, Cisco and Apple ended a legal spat when Cisco allowed Apple to use its "iPhone" trademark (though there was some debate whether Cisco really owned it). In return, Apple agreed to "explore opportunities for interoperability in the areas of security, and consumer and enterprise communications". Now in an ironic twist of fate, Duke university's wireless network is suffering from what appears to be a complete lack of interoperability between the new Apple iPhone and Cisco access points on campus. Network administrators at other campuses are keeping a close eye on the situation in case it becomes more widespread. LSU reportedly shut off access to its open wireless network on Monday as a preventative measure.

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Apple iPhone KOÂ’s Cisco network at DukeEarlier this year, Cisco and Apple ended a legal spat when Cisco allowed Apple to use its "iPhone" trademark (though there was some debate whether Cisco really owned it). In return, Apple agreed to "explore opportunities for interoperability in the areas of security, and consumer and enterprise communications". Now in an ironic twist of fate, Duke university's wireless network is suffering from what appears to be a complete lack of interoperability between the new Apple iPhone and Cisco access points on campus.

[ Read update: iPhone off the hook ]

On Friday (the 13th), Kevin Miller, Duke's assistant director of communications infrastructure, posted a plea for help on the EDUCAUSE wireless issues listserv:

Subject: Misbehaving iPhones?

For the last week or so, we have seen some unusual problems with our autonomous (cisco) APs. In particular, for short periods of time (~5-10 minutes), a large number of them would appear "down" in our monitoring system.

In these instances we began capturing traffic, and until just now I didn't realize what I was looking at. ... Basically we'd see thousands of ARPs like this.

What I just discovered this evening is that [this address] is registered to Apple. The first MAC address above wasn't registered in our system, but the second was .... someone's iPhone.

I am guessing that the iPhone has traveled from an off campus location (e.g. home network) to ours, and is trying to ARP for the gateway. The home location may use the same SSID as we do for simplicity of configuration.

However in the process it's flooding our wireless network with thousands of ARPs.. in one case, nearly 11,500 ARPs per second!

Anyone else seeing this?

According to Bill Cannon, a Duke technology spokesman, there are between 100-150 iPhones on campus now. However, a single iPhone is powerful enough to cause the problem. When regular classes resume this fall, students will be bringing many more into town. "The more iPhones that are around, the more they could be knocking on the door for access".

As of this writing, the university is in contact with both Apple and Cisco but a solution to the problem still hasn't been found. Meanwhile, network administrators at other campuses are keeping a close eye on the situation in case it becomes more widespread. LSU reportedly shut off access to its open wireless network on Monday as a preventative measure.

Topics: Apple, Cisco, iPhone, Mobility, Networking

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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34 comments
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  • You would get more hits if was a Windows Mobile phone

    Why don't you rewrite your story but replace "Apple iPhone" with "Microsoft Windows Mobile phone". You should immediately get about 300 posts with witty phrases like:
    [i]m1Cr0$$$uX i$ [b]EVIL!!!111!!!1one11!!!![/b][/i]

    If you report on a situation where Apple is clearly to blame for really shoddy workmanship, you will be blocked by Jobs' powerful RDF. [i]Duke? Never heard of it. Is it owned by M$$$$? Probably. Stupid Duke.[/i]
    NonZealot
    • Hmmmm the way they worded the first few lines it

      sounds like the iPhone is "POWERFUL" not shoddy or poor workmanship. I mean
      what was that line they have like a 100 to a 150 on campus already (wow) but 1
      iPhone is powerful enough to cause problems.....kinda COOL!!!

      Power baby!!!

      Pagan jim
      Laff
    • Too funny but very acurate...

      (nt)
      fr0thy2.
      • Not sure about that....Windows Mobile?

        I mean really I'm barely aware of it. It seems to me personally like just anotehr Ho
        Hum MS product. It's out there I'll grant you and I'll bet it's just chaulk full of
        "features" heh heh heh. Still I can't recall it ever making much of a stir and why
        would I care about it?

        Pagan jim
        Laff
        • Much of a stir

          True, it's not done anything like this. Get a MASSIVE installed base? Sure, but not bring down major networks, if that's what a "stir" is.

          Yes, the iPhone is cool, and I'd like on in addition to my current WM phone, if only I needed two phones. It's just a piece of hardware though, not some holy relic like so many make it out to be. A piece of hardware that will need LOTS AND LOTS of bugs shaken out of it, like any device of the sort.
          KTLA
          • Just saying I haven't heard a lot about Windows Mobile have you?

            So as Zealot remarks that an article about Windows Mobile would generate more hits
            I tend to doubt it.....just don't see a lot of interest out there for it. Market Share
            perhaps but interest is a whole other subject don't you think? The Ford Escort might
            have a much large market share than say the Porche but the interest level from one
            to the other is different? (Darn you forced me to use that damn car thing again curse
            you!!!)

            Pagan jim
            Laff
          • Uninformed opinion

            Windows mobile has only about 5% of the market, Hardly dominate.
            In the smartphone market MS has hardly made a dent.
            http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS8804000399.html
            In fact MS just loses money in the consumer electronics space.
            MS loses money on just about everything they are involved in Except Windows &
            Office. If they have to compete on a level playing field & can't leverage Windows they
            simply can't compete. 80% of there income comes from OEMs.
            SquishyParts
  • Sounds like the Routers need to be more robust...

    A router should be smarter than the devices connected to it. Get to work Cisco!
    BitTwiddler
    • Sounds more like the iPhone ....

      ... is not network friendly. The network works fine with all sorts of network devices until the iPhone was intoduced. It still amazes me to what lengths the Apple apologists will go!
      ShadeTree
      • Now I will freely admit I don't care much about this nor

        do I know much about this....still network wise I remember back in the good ole
        phonenet days everything to a point worked fine but as soon as you needed to do
        some heavy lifting on that network it crashed and crashed hard. Old vs new was
        usually the issue something new or some new work load that required more power.

        Pagan jim
        Laff
      • Depends on how many other networks this effects

        If it's only the Duke network, it's not a problem with the phone. If it happens all over the place, it is an issue with the phone. Assuming that a single iPhone actually can cause this problem (as they claim), shouldn't the effect have already been seen across the country on thousands of networks? Maybe it already has been, but just wasn't reported on.
        um.crouc0
      • Wrong again

        http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/2007/07/cisco_apple.html
        Looks like the little MS water boy has been proven to be wrong again.
        Quick think up some Apple conspiracy story. A punk & a joke.
        SquishyParts
    • What?

      11,500 ARP requests per second from a single device is OK with you? These iPhones are sometimes creating 10Mbps of traffic just for these ARP requests. That's in no way useful and is nothing that can be fixed by 'more robust routers'.

      Apple, fix your phone.
      Uber Dweeb
      • I doubt that

        1,500 ARP requests per second from a single device/10Mbps of traffic is crazy.
        There's obviously something going wrong between the phone and the network to
        cause this amount of traffic. The initial ARP from an iPhone coming onto campus
        from a home network, say, will begin asking for the MAC address at the same IP
        address it was using at home. The network needs to respond that that IP/MAC
        address is not available, but Duke is no doubt a very large network with many
        wireless nodes. What if each request coming from the iPhone is being needlessly
        repeated, echoed, propagated across the entire network simply because of an
        unknown syntax error in the request?

        This is definitely an isolated new device meets older network kind of problem. The
        iPhone would never have been released if it was behaving as you say. Duke needs
        to get Cisco and Apple to look at and solve this problem. End of story.
        Len Rooney
        • Doubt what? Find out for yourself.

          http://www.networkworld.com/news/2007/071607-duke-iphone.html
          [b]"That?s because the misbehaving iPhones flood the access points with up to 18,000 address requests per second, nearly 10Mbps of bandwidth, and monopolizing the AP?s airtime.[/b]

          Please stop apologizing for the iPhone, and do some research. The world is at your fingertips.

          [i]1,500 ARP requests per second from a single device/10Mbps of traffic is crazy."[/i]

          Your number is an order of magnitude less than the reality of the situation, but you said it, it's "crazy".
          Uber Dweeb
          • Well I think the poster has legitimate reason for doubt.

            Just because the same article has been written about twice this ZDnet article and
            the one you point too means what exactly? I makes claims as of yet unverified so
            are we just suppose to believe them and if so why? I for one would like to see this
            verified and nor just repeated. Tested by others so to speak. Do you have a
            problem with this approach? I think another poster had a grerat question if this is
            a common flaw or issue with the iPhone and that sucker has been out in volume
            for a couple weeks now why have we not heard of more wifi networks being
            brought down by the iPhone?

            Pagan jim
            Laff
          • Find out how?

            I'm thousands of miles away from Dukes physical network and I don't have remote
            access. How can I sit an watch the actual traces and review their configuration?
            Other than that, we're all reading the same single report out of Duke U. My
            numbers actually came from your first post.

            I really first need to have evidence that the iPhone is solely to blame in this matter
            before I can begin apologizing for them, however the lack of the same evidence
            doesn't seem to prevent you from flying into partisan bashing of this product. A
            fine display of bigoted ignorance.

            At this point I suspect the Duke network is not going to be completely free of
            blame. If this was solely an iPhone problem, there would have been a flood of
            similar reports from many other networks, not just Cisco's and not just Dukes.
            The 802.11 protocol is supposed to make allowance for aggressive polling by
            devices and is supposed to be impervious to APR DoS attacks. I strongly suspect
            that something is not right on the network side. But like everyone else, I just have
            to wait for more evidence and info to come in. You, obviously, won't need to wait.
            Bash on Uber Dweeb.
            Len Rooney
    • You think it's cool for your iPhone to transmit 10 mbps of ARP?

      Sure the Cisco Access Points should whether the storm a little better, but think it's cool for your iPhone to transmit 10 mbps of ARP traffic? Do you want your iPhone battery to die off that quickly?
      georgeou
      • Do you think it's cool to speculate?

        So far, there's no actual, confirmed evidence to suggest that the iPhone is actually
        transmitting 10 mbps or ARP traffic. I think there would have been a flood of reports
        from many other networks if this was the case. As it stands, this Duke U/iPhone
        thing is just that, a Duke U/iPhone thing. Why so isolated? Why not wait and gather
        more actual evidence before coming your usual speculative, sensational conclusions?
        Len Rooney
        • Why wait for facts?

          That's not the way it works here.
          msalzberg