When to use multiple wireless LAN controllers? High density wireless environment question.

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When to use multiple wireless LAN controllers? High density wireless environment question.

I'm working on redesigning a wireless network. When we first built it, it was really only designed around maximum floor coverage, and only really meant to be supporting 10-20 wireless clients at any one time, spread out over about 20,000 square feet. We accomplished this, originally with 4, then expanded to 5 access points with a wireless LAN controller.

The wireless needs have been growing steadily, and we've been starting to see between 70-90 client devices connected at any one time, and the network has been running somewhat poorly, due to over saturation.

I was just informed that we should be expecting a jump to consistently having around 150 wireless devices on the network, in that same 20,000 square foot space, and this will be happening nearly immediately (with some additional growth expectations.)

I have an updated floor plan, and given coverage requirements, and expected growth, I think I'm looking at needing around 20 access points to provide appropriate coverage, and keep any one access point from becoming overcrowded.

I've been reading Cisco's guides on high density wireless deployments, and actually am feeling reasonably comfortable with most of it, but I'm a bit worried about the WLC situation. Our current WLC (2504) can have its licensing expanded to accommodate up to 75 access points and 1000 clients, but I'm skeptical of that one, single WLC properly handling the load from ~20 APs.

I've tried looking into when to add additional WLCs for any sort of load distribution, but I'm having trouble finding anything that can clearly define when this is appropriate.

I'm hoping someone here can shed some light on this for me.

Kind of a big deal

This question is probably better suited for the Cisco community (https://community.cisco.com/t5/wireless-mobility/ct-p/4931-wireless-mobility). This is the Meraki community that handles Cisco's Meraki portfolio.


That being said. I honnestly think 20 APs is easily handled by 2504 APs. If you don't have a FlexConnect setup, have a look into that. It'll take most of the load off of the controller as you will no longer be tunneling all data back to the controller.

Hi @BrechtSchamp , 2504? Really? 😁 That will go end of life shortly.

Darren OConnor | doconnor@resalire.co.uk

I'm not an employee of Cisco/Meraki. My posts are based on Meraki best practice and what has worked for me in the field.

I'm not saying you should buy a 2504 right now... 🤐 I'm merely answering the question. It should be able to handle 20 APs. That's all I'm saying. There is indeed the issue of software update limitations and a limited range of supported APs which is important to consider. But I didn't want to go into detail here as that is not the point of this board.


If you are replacing, look into 9800-L. I would probably not invest in 3504 either at this point. But that may be out of your budget if you don't have a lot of APs.


Or just go Meraki and get rid of the controller... Then you get this lovely community as a bonus.

Kind of a big deal
Kind of a big deal

You are on the Cisco Meraki forum where we all use access points that have a cloud controller, so this is a non issue.


For a WLC environment you'd be better off on the other Cisco forums.  In my opinion it won't work as when we had 25xx controllers the performance was terrible in terms of bandwidth when you had over 100 clients, regardless of the AP density. 


It was good for WiFi phones and other similar, low bandwidth latency sensitive applications though 😎

Kind of a big deal
Kind of a big deal

Also note the 2504 is getting a bit long in the tooth.  The current model is the 3504.

Kind of a big deal

Instead of trying to patch a wireless network that has not been maintained over time, I'd retire the 2504, and instead look towards refreshing the network and replacing with a Catalyst 9800-L, 

Especially, if you're in a position where it would be more feasible. With newer APs you'd also be accommodating those users with newer devices.


If you're running a 2504, you'll only be able to firmware upgrade to the latest on the 8.5 train. The 2504 is not supported on any newer.

You'd might want to take a look at Cisco's compatibility matrix, and use it for your reference.

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If you do decide to stick with Cisco Enterprise (why?, a Meraki AP solution is cheaper and on the whole offers more usable features) and upgrade to a new WLC - be careful that the new WLC supports your old APs.

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