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6/10
2013
Peter Welcher

Network Field Day 5: Ruckus Wireless Revisited

This blog revisits Ruckus Wireless, as followup to their presentations for Network Field Day 5 and prior blogs. The trigger for this blog is the arrival of an eval kit from Ruckus, complete with 7982 model AP, ZoneDirector controller model 1100, and cute stuffed black dog with orange Ruckus Wireless collar. The stuffed dog is strictly optional equipment. Testing confirms that presence of the dog does not enhance wireless performance. By the way, all the #NFD5 attendees seem to have received their kits, so you may expect a spate of blogs… For blogs already written by attendees, see the below. 

What can I say? It works. Plug in the controller, web into it (or access it via Microsoft networking, which I leave disabled), a little setup, plug in AP, and voila. 

It works well. 

I have a home Linksys E2000 in my basement. The basement is mostly below ground level. I bought a Netgear repeater so I could get enough signal to use WiFi on my deck and outdoors. The Ruckus AP is now about 3′ from the Linksys in my basement. 

I did a walk-about refreshing the WiFi display on my iPhone. A bit simplistic, but it makes the point. Outside more than a few feet from the house, I see the Ruckus and the Netgear, not the Linksys. Despite there being 3′ of ground vertically between the Ruckus AP and my position. Around the back of the house where the Netgear is, I can walk perhaps 80′ or so before the iPhone shows more signal strength than the Ruckus. And that’s with basement below ground, metal heating ducts, and/or a back room concrete slab in the direct path. And metal-lined siding.This seems like good evidence for the Ruckus beam-forming doing Good Things.

So much for the little hammer. I broke out the big hammer, namely the free inSSIDer (home) software. (http://www.metageek.net/products/inssider/) The Ruckus signal was better than the Netgear repeater around most of the house. It was around 10 dB worse 30′ out on the side of the house where the Netgear lives. (Conclusion: the iPhone isn’t very precise, and 1 bar definitely isn’t going to be fast.) The following screen capture was taken about 5′ outside the Netgear location. The Netgear is at -56, Ruckus at -69. Still not bad. (Also noted: I see a LOT more of my neighbors’ weak signals with this tool — hadn’t snooped around my house with it before.)

20130610-inSSIDerhome-01

Now having said all that, I doubt Ruckus particularly wants to be compared to home APs. Small to bigger office, yes. Sorry, don’t have one of those handy right now. Doing what I can do. Working with limited time here. 

Show Me!

I’m going to put in a few screen captures to show you what the current (well, almost current) Ruckus Wireless GUI looks like. (I apparently need a support contract to upgrade.) 

By the way, you can get the User Guide at  https://support.ruckuswireless.com/products/29-zonedirector-1100/documents

Here’s the main dashboard screen from the Ruckus Wireless Controller Dashboard:

ruckus-01

Clicking on the Monitor tab brings up the following. Note the menu along the left. Also the AP ID is clickable.

ruckus-02

Since the AP was clickable, I clicked it. This is what came up. A lot of solid information!

ruckus-03

I had to check Rogue Devices. Yes it sees my other devices (and not my neighbors, probably because the AP is in the basement so their signal is very weak.)

ruckus-04

And here’s the Configure tab:

ruckus-05

Last but not least, the Administer tab:

ruckus-06

And for a change, here’s the Web GUI for the Ruckus AP.

ruckus-07

I should note that when the AP is not managed by a controller, you get a bunch more choices down the left, allowing you to manually configure the AP.

Overall impression: solid GUI, shows text where they haven’t coded something fancier. Covers all the basics that come to mind. 

I looked at the map, it looks predictive, i.e. doesn’t show what is but what ought to be in a perfect model.

Summary Ruckus Evaluation

Disclaimer: when I do wireless, it’s usually Cisco, with all the bells and whistles. Ruckus doesn’t have all those bells and whistles. It also might be cheaper, simpler to operate? That’s one possible trade-off, features versus price and complexity. I wish I could say otherwise, but just about everything Cisco does seems to get complicated. Sometimes that’s necessary to do all customers need. Other times, it’s not always so clear to me where the complexity came from, perhaps lack of time to engineer “simple”. (Hey, when I write, more words is always easier than few words. Being concise takes serious time!)

I should also mention that I brought up Meraki in my prior Ruckus blog (link below). What I was thinking at the time was about a 1500 student university I work with occasionally. They’re ditching classic Cisco AP’s, WLC and WCS (Prime now) for Cisco/Meraki. Reason #1: AP price is lower and includes 5 years of support. Reason #2: With Meraki, they don’t have to buy controllers, server to install Prime on, and WCS, nor do they have to maintain code on controller(s) and management platform. They give up some functionality. Fine, its a college, students want raw bandwidth. Roaming gaps, they can adapt. VoWLAN, not of interest. Location services? Not a big deal. Cost? Big deal. 

Does that overlap the Ruckus Wireless market? Probably. Ruckus appears to want to be in all markets, small and large, and the Africa story (see prior blog) suggests large scale too. The system apparently can do mesh networking as well as “regular” WiFi networking. At the same time, “Hybrid SmartMesh”. That’s flexible! Talk about mixed mesh-ages! I’m not a fan of mesh due to potential bottlenecking where there’s too much backhaul to a LAN connected AP. But when you can’t run LAN to an AP location, there isn’t much else you can do. 

Ruckus does support all the “usual” authentication methods, include some of the enterprise scale ones. There’s AP load balancing to split the associations of clients in range of two APs. Guest networking. I don’t see much in their product literature about roaming and visibility into roaming gaps — not that I looked that hard. Roaming “Mobility” is apparently a licensed feature.

The Ruckus controller is small, dunno the cost, fairly simple. Adequate / better than adequate, I can’t say, I haven’t much time in the WLAN Ops role. A lot of what Ruckus is doing seems pretty reasonable. Does one need RRM a la Cisco or is Ruckus AP auto channel selection and other automatic features enough? Tough to say without more research. The top end 5000 controller is said to handle 1,000 APs and 20,000 clients. The low end 1100 is rated at 50 APs and 1250 concurrent stations. The mid-range 3000 is rated 500 APs and 10,000 clients (concurrent stations). That’s pretty large scale, and those are just the Enterprise controllers. 

Ruckus also offers ZonePlanner, a WiFi simulation tool.

If this interests you, explore  http://www.ruckuswireless.com.

Side Swipe at Linksys

By the way, let me say I would probably not buy another Linksys. Works pretty well but overpriced and mildly annoying. And it was not clearly enough labelled as dual band but only one of them at a time, on that particular model. (Yeah, I should have researched it better, and paid $25 or whatever more for the next model up.) There’s enough legacy 2.4 Ghz BG clients (even at home) that getting over to the 5 Ghz band let alone 802.11n is a challenge. The guest network didn’t work, I didn’t want to spend the time to figure out why, just not interested in that feature. There’s no way to disable it in the web GUI. And the PC management software won’t manage the AP once you change any settings in the web GUI. But as far as I can see, doesn’t let me manage some of the other settings. Doh! Bad product design, fail. I reset the config, used the PC GUI tool to kill off the guest network feature, then the web GUI to do the other stuff I wanted. Folks, if you’re going to give me two GUIs which are not equivalent, please rethink that? And “you’ve been touching the web GUI so I refuse to work” is not acceptable for a user-friendly PC GUI. 

Related Links

The following are the prior #NFD5 blogs about Ruckus Wireless that I’m aware of:

Myself, Network Field Day 5: Ruckus Wireless Comments, at  http://www.netcraftsmen.com/blogs/entry/network-field-day-5-ruckus-wireless-comments.html

Terry Slattery, Network Field Day 5: Ruckus Wireless, at  http://www.netcraftsmen.com/blogs/entry/network-field-day-5-ruckus-wireless.html

Paul Stewart, Ruckus on 802.11ac, at  http://www.packetu.com/2013/05/28/ruckus-on-802-11ac/

Tom Hollingsworth, Causing A Network Ruckus, at  http://networkingnerd.net/2013/04/01/causing-a-network-ruckus/

Videos of presentations:

 http://techfieldday.com/appearance/ruckus-presents-at-networking-field-day-5/

Life Log

Slogging away, looking forward to CiscoLive Networkers 2013. I hope to join the Tweet-Up Sunday. I’m presenting two Nexus sessions Monday.And NetCraftsmen will once again have our booth at the fringe. Stop by and get scanned to help us demonstrate the value of being at Networkers! And say hello while you’re at it! If you want to say hi but don’t know me, my picture is plastered all over these blogs so you have no excuses! 

(Why is it that now we have video phones, we don’t commonly have business cards with peoples’ pictures on them? I’ve been emphasizing cards lately since LinkedIn CardMunge makes it so easy to get them into my phone’s Contacts. But my facial retention is poor enough I could use pictures in there as well!)

Disclosure

The vendors for Network Field Day 5 (#NFD5) paid for 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!

Stay tuned!

Twitter: @pjwelcher

 

Peter Welcher

Peter Welcher

Architect, Operations Technical Advisor

A principal consultant with broad knowledge and experience in high-end routing and network design, as well as data centers, Pete has provided design advice and done assessments of a wide variety of networks. CCIE #1773, CCDP, CCSI (#94014)

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Virgilio “BONG” dela Cruz Jr.

CCDP, CCNA V, CCNP, Cisco IPS Express Security for AM/EE
Field Solutions Architect, Tech Data

Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.

 

John Cavanaugh

CCIE #1066, CCDE #20070002, CCAr
Chief Technology Officer, Practice Lead Security Services, NetCraftsmen

John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services.  Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.

He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.