Ruckus Wireless designed its ZoneFlex Wi-Fi system to provide organizations with stable, secure and flexible managed wireless networking. The system offers ease of implementation and covers long distances.
The Ruckus system works with several Wi-Fi controllers and a variety of interoperable access points, including APs that are designed for rugged and outdoor applications. The test focused on the ZoneDirector 1100, which supports up to 50 APs. Ruckus also makes the ZoneDirector 3000, which supports up to 500 APs, and large enterprises can choose the FlexMaster Management System, which supports thousands of APs.
I tested the ZoneDirector with four ZoneFlex access points (two of each model) — ZoneFlex 7962, an advanced high-speed AP with beam forming and multiple polarization capabilities, and the ZoneFlex 7363, which also can handle beam forming and supports mesh networking. The network was formed by connecting the 7962 APs to the Gigabit Ethernet network and operating the 7363 APs in a mesh configuration. Both types of APs are concurrent dual-band devices and automatically form their mesh control circuit in the 5-gigahertz portion of the 802.11n band.
The first thing users will notice is that their wireless signals will be stronger and less likely to drop. The Ruckus APs use beam forming, which focuses the Wi-Fi energy on each client, raising signal levels by as much as 10 decibels. Using the Fluke Networks AirCheck Wi-Fi Tester, I was able to watch the beam forming and the resulting increase in signal strength. Because Voice over IP and video traffic receive appropriate priority, users should experience fewer dropped voice calls and smoother video delivery.
Users will likely enjoy more reliable communications as they travel throughout the office because the Ruckus beam-forming feature will track them as they move.
The Ruckus ZoneFlex Wi-Fi System has a number of characteristics essential to IT management. The ZoneDirector sports a well-designed web management interface that’s intuitive, yet highly flexible.
The interface uses a tabbed design across the top of the screen, with detailed choices along the left. Individual characteristics appear in a series of separate boxes on the screen, ranging from the SSIDs supported to detailed control over security and authentication.
Mesh networking support adds to the ease of deployment. While each AP must be connected to the wired Ethernet for initial setup, once that’s accomplished, all you have to do is provide power, enable mesh operations on the management interface, and the APs will operate without a physical connection to the wired network. Within a few seconds after the APs connect to another meshed AP or to one of the wired APs, the network becomes fully functional. You can deploy the APs without fully configuring them, and then finalize the configuration later with the management console — even after the AP becomes part of the mesh.
The maximum speed in megabits per second of the Ruckus ZoneFlex 7363 access point
The individual components of the Ruckus wireless system are somewhat more expensive than other concurrent dual-band Wi-Fi devices. However, because of their beam forming and support for mesh networking, you’ll need fewer of them, and implementation costs will be lower.
Wayne Rash is a longtime technology journalist who has directed product testing centers.
Ruckus Wireless and a few other manufacturers have found a means of tracking wireless clients and manipulating their antennas so that they can focus the Wi-Fi signal directly at the client, even if moving from place to place. This allows the AP to provide a stronger signal to the client device, while reducing interference in other directions.