Lippis Report 137: Our Experience with Ruckus Wireless ZoneFlex 7962 Smart WiFi Access Points and ZoneDirector 1000 Wireless LAN Controller
This is a different kind of Lippis Report research note than those we usually produce as it is product vs industry or architecture focused. We were impressed with the ease of installation and performance of the Ruckus Wireless dual-band 802.11n ZoneFlex 7962 access points and ZoneDirector 1000 wireless LAN (WLAN) controller in our office so we decided to write about it. Ruckus provided these products for us to test and use. In this Lippis Report Research Note we document our experience.
Next Generation 802.11n Enterprise WLANs Perspectives
Our office is made up of approximately 5,000 square feet or 150K of cubic space with some ten computers, the same number of WiFi-enabled mobile devices and IP phones plus four printers. We provide WiFi service for internal voice, video and data as well as guest services for clients, partners, visitors and suppliers. We used a range of WiFi devices, including Apple Airport Extreme, Express, Time Capsule, Belkin and Linksys for 802.11 b, g and n services before we deployed the Ruckus Wireless AP and controller. Like many companies we deployed different WiFi products for different connectivity needs such as backup, printing, general connectivity and communications. This piecemeal approach resulted in poor wireless coverage and multiple management interfaces, which increased complexity during configuration and troubleshooting.
Is There Enough Power in PoE Ports To Run 802.11n Access Points?
To provide uniform wireless coverage, simplify management and offer guest services we deployed two Ruckus Wireless ZoneFlex 7962 access points and a ZoneDirector 1000. The initial set-up and configuration could not have been easier and was perhaps the simplest and most straight forward we have experienced. The installation was a simple three-step process:
The Borderless Branch Office
Connect and Discover the ZoneDirector. After the ZoneDirector 1000 was powered up and plugged into our LAN we were able to simply discover it and start the configuration process.
Configure the Wizard: A set-up wizard asked for the language we wanted to use (i.e., English, Spanish, Japanese, etc.), a unique name for the ZoneDirector, a network name (i.e., ESSID), Passphrase for WPA security, guest WLAN check box, administrator and network accounts. It took us less than five minutes to go through this wizard.
Connect the ZoneFlex APs. With the ZoneDirector configured, the next step was to connect the ZoneFlex 7962 APs to a wired LAN, preferably 100 to 200 feet apart. After the APs are powered up and connected to the LAN, the ZoneDirector discovered and configured them. The Ruckus Wireless network was ready to use. That was it.
True-Sizing the Network, Finding the Golden Mean in Wire Line and Wireless Networks
After the above three-step process we connected computers, IP phones and mobile devices to the new WLAN. We then reviewed the coverage to find out that there were no dead zones or poor coverage areas in the entire 5,000 square foot area. In addition we found that coverage had expanded significantly. Each ZoneFlex 7962 AP was delivering a high performance signal range throughout a 200 foot diameter. With two ZoneFlex 7962 APs, approximately 160K cubic feet of space was being covered with 802.11 n.
The ZoneFlex 7962 APs are dual-band 802.11n Smart Wi-Fi access points each with an integrated and miniaturized antenna array that supports “dynamic beamforming.” With concurrent dual-band supported in the ZoneFlex 7962 APs, they operate at both 5GHz and 2 GHz delivering some 300 Mbps of throughput. Ruckus’s patented beamforming antenna technology delivers a reliable signal through difficult or challenging RF conditions such as concrete, metal and other structures. The APs also sport automatic interference mitigation for high-density usage scenarios.
The 802.11n Ratification Checklist
In addition the ZoneFlex 7962 APs support smart meshing. This means that an AP can connect into a WLAN without a wired Ethernet connection to extend coverage to unwired spaces. And as the ZoneFlex 7962 APs and ZoneDirector 1000 supports multicast IPTV and other video services, it is enterprise business video ready, which is important as enterprise video usage is on the rise. The company has recently received a patent on its multicast-to-unicast conversation invention. This enables every APs to direct multicast transmissions only to requesting stations, thereby allowing better queuing, scheduling and prioritization of multicast video over 802.11 which, until now, has treated multicast as best effort only traffic.
Securing The Network Edge
While the above configuration process is simple, the Ruckus ZoneDirector supports a Web user interface for more detailed configuration, monitoring, administration and troubleshooting. For example, multiple guest access accounts, user roles, AAA services, access control, hotspot services, etc., can be established. In short, the ZoneDirector offers a full suite of enterprise-class configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting services allowing as much or as little WLAN customization that a business may require. The ZoneDirector dashboard feature is one of the best we’ve seen with a snap shot overview of the ZoneDirector, devices connected, most recent user and system activities, most frequently used APs and overall usage summary.
As for scale, a ZoneFlex 7962 AP delivers 20 concurrent voice calls, 100 simultaneous data users or 80 Mbps of guaranteed user throughput for over 100 meters or 328 feet (line of sight). The ZoneDirector 1000 supports as many as 50 APs. Therefore, a ZoneFlex 7962 and ZoneDirector 1000 combination is well suited for the small-to-medium-sized business market. With the ZoneDirector 1000’s simple configuration/deployment and centrally managed AP which are automatically tuned, this solution should scale effectively to the medium size business with limited operational support requirements. While our experience with Ruckus was confined to its ZoneFlex 7962 AP and ZoneDirector 1000 controller, they offer a wide range of enterprise and service provider WLAN solutions. They are currently leading the industry in outdoor WiFi as an alternative to WiMax’s high cost, complexity and performance. Therefore, a Ruckus Wireless WLAN solution will scale to outdoor coverage too over time.
We found the ZoneFlex 7962 AP and ZoneDirector 1000 to be easy to install and operate while delivering significant range and bandwidth performance.