Ruckus Wireless and Unidata, a Strategic Partnership.
Over the years Unidata has gained extensive experience in the planning, installation and maintenance of infrastructures for the coverage of areas with Wi-Fi connections.
Unidata’s competitive offer is based firstly on an analytical process entailing a study and comparison of the hardware and software technologies proposed by various suppliers. There is then an evolutionary process, assessing the circumstances when more powerful technologies are appropriate, for example studying the possibility of an incremental migration from existing solutions. These processes have resulted in the adoption, within the scope of our commercial offer, of equipment and services produced by one of the companies currently at the forefront of technology production for Wi-Fi coverage, Ruckus Wireless.
Ruckus Wireless is one of the most reliable international suppliers, and has achieved important goals certifying its expertise and service quality: twice awarded the title of “Best Hotel Wi-Fi”, it is a producer that anticipates future market trends. It posted a turnover of 100 million dollars in the first four months of 2016, and is capable of 22.5% growth from one year to the next. It is a strategic partner of Juniper Networks – producer of some of the most popular network devices in the world – and a pioneer in the production of Wi-Fi access systems based on extremely sophisticated, innovative and reliable technologies. Ruckus Wireless has recently joined the Brocade family, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of wired network devices. A perfect synergy for Unidata, which a few years ago made the strategic decision to adopt Brocade for its new-generation infrastructure: it was the key to developing Wi-Fi coverage solutions of an extraordinarily high quality.
A range of devices for all needs
Ruckus Wireless offers a great variety of equipment that ensures the optimal creation of infrastructures having different environmental and structural traits. It produces 11 different models of indoor access points and 6 models of outdoor access points. Access points are then broken down by 802.11 standards implemented: almost all models support the latest 802.11ac standard, and are backwards compatible with other standards. They all support 802.11n, while several models also support the 802.11ac Wave 2 addendum, which introduces improved specifications capable of bringing the theoretical maximum connection speed to over 6 Gbit/s. They are also classified by the number of simultaneously connected users supported (generally between 100 and 512), number of simultaneous radio flows and sensitivity. All models are dual band, i.e. capable of transmitting data simultaneously on frequency bands around 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, making a more efficient use of radio channels and, consequently, reducing interference. Depending on the installation milieu, it is possible to choose omnidirectional or sectoral radiation: the latter is particularly common in outdoor models, concentrating radio coverage on narrow angles (30° or 120°), in order to optimise the service in certain areas, minimise signal dispersion and dramatically reduce interference with adjacent access points in high-density environments. Outdoor access points are also classified by an IP67 protection index to guarantee maximum protection against water and other atmospheric agents. Unidata offers a wide range of models proposed by Ruckus Wireless, taking care to include at least one model for every need: low/high density settings, closed/open spaces, different speeds and transmission standards supported, antenna properties and size of the access point – to optimse installation in different environments.
This is done to achieve the goal of providing quality service to customers with stringent performance and service requirements, such as exhibition centres, theatres, embassies and hotels. Moreover, after Brocade’s recent acquisition, interoperability between access points and other network devices, such as switches and routers, chosen by Unidata has improved further, thanks to the effective combination of expertise between two leaders in their respective technological sectors, namely Wi-Fi networks and wired infrastructures.
Technologies that redefine the state of the art
Unidata’s choice of Ruckus Wireless as a reference supplier is also based on the adoption of extremely innovative technologies, a distinctive feature of the Californian company. The installations implemented up to now have showcased this manufacturer’s ability to combine these technologies with unequalled efficiency and stability of operation. One of the most advanced technologies it offers is BeamFlex, patented by Ruckus Wireless. Unlike traditional beamforming, which allows an access point with two or more antennas to create a constructive interference to amplify the signal in the direction of the device, also called client, BeamFlex makes it possible to direct the radio transmission to the client, while suppressing it in all other directions. This produces a much cleaner and qualitatively better signal for the client, and limits or even eradicates communication interferences with adjacent clients. Furthermore, unlike beamforming, which may require support for specific client transmission protocols, BeamFlex is compatible with any client, because all it does is concentrate the transmission angle of the radio signal. With BeamFlex it is also possible to increase the gain of the transmitted signal and further reduce interference compared with a traditional access point. If necessary, beamforming and BeamFlex can coexist, to achieve maximum transmission quality. The technique used by BeamFlex consists of preparing a network/matrix of antennas inside the access points and an intelligent switching on or off of said antennas to shield the signal in specific directions and concentrate it in others. A further enhancement to BeamFlex, called BeamFlex+, allows access points to optimise the radio signal according to the vertical or horizontal orientation of the client as well as its position in space. Access points are also able to automatically select the most effective radio channel for transmission, evaluating in real time which is less congested and trying to reduce interference with that used by other adjacent access points. Finally, mobile devices can obtain a more reliable connection thanks to the support for signal polarisation diversity and the ability of access points to combine information received from different antennas in order to reconstruct data possibly corrupted by disturbances. The multiple functions afforded by adaptive control of the radio signal and the maximisation of coverage offered by Ruckus Wireless thus make it possible to reduce, from 2- to 4-fold, the number of access points required for the area served. The ability of Ruckus Wireless to implement pioneering technological solutions in a continually evolving context is another essential strength that persuaded Unidata to choose it as a partner.
Several options for centralised control
When the size of the installation exceeds the few access point units available, it becomes convenient or even necessary to keep the entire infrastructure under control from a single centralised point. In this case, Unidata offers the full range of approaches proposed by Ruckus Wireless. Following installation, there is the possibility of customer configuration and independent control or the possibility of the entire Wi-Fi infrastructure being managed by Unidata.
In the latter case there are two possibilites:
– Ruckus Unleashed: if the installation consists of fewer than 25 access points, you can configure the APs in such a way as to apply the desired configuration to only one of them and have it automatically replicated on the others. The configuration parameters are very similar to those of a large-sized installation, however the entire infrastructure is “self-managed” without the need for additional hardware or software.
– Ruckus Wireless Controller: if the installation is on a broader scale, it is necessary to use an external controller, physically separate from access points. The controller, which may be a hardware appliance or a virtual machine, is able to manage very large numbers of APs (up to 30,000, with up to 300,000 connected clients) and can be used to manage AP provisioning phases, with the configuration of Wi-Fi networks for specific events, monitoring and troubleshooting.
The controller interface is used to manage a range of access point models, and can conveniently create arbitrary groupings of configurations (e.g. for each conference hall of a trade fair center). In this way, all configuration aspects, from the allocation of radio channels, determination of Wi-Fi networks to be activated, management of AP firmware versions and user authentication mechanisms, can be managed very efficiently. In this regard, it is worth pointing out that all the most common authentication mechanisms are naturally supported: open, shared key, 802.1x, Hotspot or captive portal with customisable web page, to name but a few. Unidata already hosts in its infrastructure the Ruckus Wireless Virtual SmartZoneHigh Scale controller, which can potentially manage thousands of access points. This makes it possible to offer the customer the possibility of a fully managed service, relieving it of any technological complications regarding the configuration and maintenance of the Wi-Fi infrastructure.
Performance assessment, statistics and reports in real time
During, and after, an event, it may be particularly useful to collect statistics on use of the Wi-Fi network on the part of users. These statistics can serve both as a business intelligence tool, for example to evaluate operating systems most frequently adopted by users to place a software product on the market, and as a tool to identify and correct any critical issues of the infrastructure, such as under-utilised access points or particularly prevalent specific applications. Unidata has among its monitoring tools SmartCell Insight, the Ruckus Wireless solution for monitoring, advanced analysis and reporting of network status.
It is a valid tool for business intelligence activities, making it possible to assess the success of an event and the efficiency of the Wi-Fi service made available. Ruckus Wireless also offers technologies to evaluate the spatial distribution of clients and transfer location information to third-party applications that can benefit further. Although Unidata is still considering whether to adopt this type of solution, it is worth pointing out that this is included in the Ruckus Wireless offer.