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Ruckus mixes meshing with 802.11n

The wireless LAN company says it can help SMEs and larger organisations roll out the new version of Wi-Fi with minimal cabling for access points
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Ruckus Wireless has unveiled equipment for enterprises that combines the high-speed 802.11n Wi-Fi standard with mesh-networking technology.

The company's SmartMesh technology was unveiled on Monday, along with a "smart wireless LAN (WLAN) controller" called the ZoneDirector 3000 and a remote management tool called FlexMaster. Ruckus claims its new kit will help small to large companies roll out self-organising WLANs with minimal cabling.

Mesh networking involves Wi-Fi access points that can intelligently network among themselves and automatically heal broken connections. The technology is useful for rapid deployments without the need for each access point to be wired to an Ethernet connection. However, mesh networking has generally worked best in open-air environments, with existing Wi-Fi standards not proving reliable enough to let the access points mesh among themselves in a building while retaining a useful throughput.

Now the latest version of Wi-Fi, 802.11n, has become widely available in "Draft 2.0" form, Ruckus hopes it will prove reliable and fast enough to provide the backhaul for mesh networking in an office environment. The company's SmartMesh wireless LAN technology, launched on Monday, is a free software upgrade to turn Ruckus's existing ZoneFlex access points into mesh nodes, thus making it unnecessary for all of them to be connected directly to Ethernet.

According to Ruckus, SmartMesh enables "a new class of simple yet robust WLANs that self-organise, self-optimise and self-heal, eliminating costly, inconvenient cabling to every Wi-Fi access point and complex, labour-intensive RF planning". The company, which has traditionally serviced mid-sized firms, is pitching the technology at larger organisations as well as SMEs — on Monday it also introduced a WLAN controller, the ZoneDirector 3000, which can handle up to 250 APs.

Ruckus has also launched a remote management tool for its WLANs, called FlexMaster. That product starts at $5,000 (£2,500), while the ZoneDirector 3000 starts at $6,000 (£3,000). The ZoneFlex 7942 802.11n access point costs $699 (£350). "We can deliver an 802.11n WLAN that's half the cost, takes half the set-up time and has three times the performance of a standard 802.11g WLAN," said Ruckus's communications director, David Callisch.

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