The Network Field Day 5 delegates, myself included, were treated to an entertaining review of basic wireless and a tour of the antenna / RF signal testing lab at the Ruckus Wireless Sunnyvale location. The presenters did a fine job. G.T. Hill, Director of Technical Marketing, did a fine job presenting with whiteboard, a storyline, good analogies, and lots of energy and enthusiasm, while proving that he really did have a prior technical background. The #NFD5 video recordings at Ruckus can be found at http://techfieldday.com/appearance/ruckus-presents-at-networking-field-day-5/. Ruckus Wireless itself can be found at 350 West Java Drive, Sunnyvale, CA 94089.
I see that Terry Slattery concurrently just posted a blog on this same topic! So you’ll get two differing points of view.
About Ruckus Wireless (The Company)
Ruckus Wireless has been around for some time. Their IPO stock offering on 11/16/12 was perhaps somewhat overwhelmed by Cisco’s acquisition of Meraki, announced around 11/18/2012. Ruckus is actually in two distinct markets, enterprise and service provider. A quick skim of articles around that time suggests that the Meraki acquisition may have targeted the small business / campus easy-to-use market that Ruckus is in.
Concerning the Service Provider space, Ruckus apparently has controller software scaling to 10,000 APs. Meraki might also be a competitor in that area as well, since the Meraki cloud controller should clearly scale to Service Provider sizes, and both vendors have mesh network capabilities. On Feb. 22, 2013, a deal between Ruckus and Airtel was announced. See http://investorplace.com/2013/02/ruckus-soars-on-airtel-africa-deal/. Reports suggest that up to 100,000 Ruckus APs might be deployed in Africa. Neither Airtel nor Ruckus commented.
About Ruckus’ Technology
Ruckus is about “Pervasive Performance”. They noted that they use the same RF chips as some other wireless vendors, and view a portion of their value add to be very careful antenna design. The complex antennas are claimed to handle user device polarization well while supporting beam forming to steer the wireless signal towards the end user device. Their 3D antenna design is said to accomodate well to signal polarization. While we tend to envision beam forming as a lobe directed at the user device, we were told that the Ruckus algorithm optimizes for signal throughput taking signal reflections and other factors into account.
I personally take that with a grain of salt. It is not always that wonderful for the AP to get great signal to the client. The problem is that the client may not have the same ability. The analogy is two parties yelling across a field. One may have a loud voice, readily heard. The other might not be audible to the first, even though they can hear the loud person.
One measure of the effectiveness of this is better throughput to end users at somewhat larger distances from the AP than with other vendors. Anecdotal evidence suggests this is true for Ruckus APs compared to home-grade APs. While that is easily observed, ability to beamform for many users is what such an AP needs in an workplace or campus. This author is not in a position to field test that anytime soon.
The ability to steer a beam seems likely to reduce the incidence of co-channel interference. That is, nearby cells should have overlapping signal for smooth roaming, and in the overlap region users are subjected to signals from two or more APs. Having steered signals suggests that users in or near the overlap region might receive less spillover signal than from an omni-directional antenna, helping throughput. This is something any vendor doing beam forming should be able to do. Ruckus claims their antennas help them do a superb job of this.
The Meraki controllers are claimed to support from 25 to 250 APs. They provide the ability to globally configure settings across all APs, including SSIDs, security settings, authentication, and signal strength. I’ll have to look at a live controller to see what else they can do. It does not seem like Ruckus has something analogous to Cisco RRM (centrally modeled AP signal strength setting). We didn’t get into that level of detail in our #NFD5 visit to Ruckus.
Ruckus controllers can apparently do L3 tunneling to each other, thus providing support for guest tunneling to DMZ. The Ruckus website also now mentions an AeroScout partnership for location services.
About Wireless Skills
I’ve been tracking wireless technology for a while and getting hands-on with it intermittently. The same applies to some of our other staff. I’m now trying to focus on data center technologies. NetCraftsmen would like to add a WLAN specialist who also has some Route Switch skills on our staff. If you have solid Cisco and general wireless skills, consider contacting firstname.lastname@example.org with your resume.
The vendors for NFD 5 are paying my travel expenses and perhaps small items, so I wish to disclose that in my blogs now. The vendors in question are: Cisco, Brocade, Juniper, Plexxi, Ruckus, and SolarWinds. I’d like to think that my blogs aren’t influenced by that. Yes, the time spent in presentations and discussion gets me and the other attendees looking at and thinking about the various vendors’ products, marketing spin, and their points of view. I intend to try to remain as objective as possible in my blogs. I’ll concede that cool technology gets my attention!
Concerning Ruckus Wireless, they are shipping a controller and an AP plus a personalized circuit-board antenna to each NFD5 delegate. While I’ll be glad to explore them and use them personally, I doubt anything I’ll find one way or the other will affect the prior portions of this blog. If I see ugly behavior or instability, I’ll report it via an added comment. Others have told me they found somewhat better single-AP coverage with Ruckus than with other home APs. That would be great. It would constitute insufficient testing if you have an enterprise purchase in mind.