What is our primary use case?
We started rolling out Ruckus access points about eight years ago, but it was a very small deployment. We only had about 15 or 20 devices, and later on, we did a bond measure upgrade to basically go and expand that to having one per classroom and a few in the common areas such as cafeteria, gyms, and stuff like that. The idea was that we were going to put on-premises one-to-one, which is like putting a Chrome cart of 35 devices in each classroom. We wanted to be able to have the ability to have high-density wireless in the school district and up to possibly 80 devices per room because we were thinking of BYOD and devices that we already have. Generally, it was to be used for just normal day-to-day access to the network and internet.
We now have about 350 WAPs. Half of them have been installed over three years, and the other half are probably installed just under three years. We did a switch refresh in 2015, and we went with Brocade to replace our aging Cisco equipment, which was probably 20 years old. So, that's what we have right now.
We are basically using the latest version of SmartZone. We are up to date on that. Unfortunately, about 98 of our wireless access points are now considered end-of-service. They don't support the newer boot code, so we had to create a separate zone. They are on a kind of legacy firmware that is probably about five or six versions back. Our other zone has the latest AP firmware. They basically have separate firmware. They are basically doing a firmware for the controller and then a firmware for the APs. You could even elect to have different firmwares per AP.
What is most valuable?
The APs themselves have been pretty solid. We haven't had too many of them go bad or anything like that. The wireless performance seems pretty good.
The ability to provision the devices is pretty good, and the back end is also pretty good.
What needs improvement?
Their support has been lacking a little bit and needs to be improved. I have had a ticket open for a month, and it is really hard to get a resolution out of them.
They haven't really come out with anything that is much of an improvement in a long time. It has mostly just been fixes and things like that. We used to have a ZoneDirector or a physical controller for the wireless network, and that was kind of end of life. It was very old, and at the time, we were expanding the wireless network, and we didn't want to rely on one piece of hardware that was pretty old. So, we went to SmartZone Cluster, which has two VMs in a cluster. Unfortunately, we lost the feature ability for guest networks and other things that we were using before, and Ruckus just kind of told us that they weren't supporting that feature in the newer product, which is not really great. I was told initially that SmartZone was an upgrade to ZoneDirector. It is the logical thing to think that it is going to have all the same features, but it didn't.
The issue that we have right now is onboarding BYOD devices. It is not really great for us, and we're looking for a new product to make that easier. We did have Cloudpath, which was a product that Ruckus purchased from another company that was an onboarding solution, but it just didn't really work very well for us. So, we discontinued using it, and it actually created more confusion for people. They should make BYOD or guest network portals a lot easier and better.
In some areas, we have been having issues because there are just so many WAPs that are so close that we had to manually turn down the radio of power because the automatic feature of the AP wasn't really doing it right. It should also have a little bit better RF analysis capability to be able to see on the controller side. The front end for our staff, students, and guests has also not been quite as good as we had hoped.
For how long have I used the solution?
I have been using this solution for about eight years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
It has been pretty reliable. I have not had any issues recently. A couple of times, we had some issues while upgrading the path to the latest version of the controller software, for which it took a long time to get a resolution, but otherwise, the system works pretty well.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
It is scalable. It seemed pretty easy to scale. We went from having 25 to 350 devices, and it wasn't too difficult. The hardest part is just getting them in the physical location.
In terms of the number of users, it could potentially be up to 4,000 people. When we had full normal school going on, we were seeing somewhere around 1,900 clients a day on average.
How are customer service and technical support?
One of the deficiencies that they have right now is their support. A lot of times I've opened a ticket with them, and I have this back and forth communication going on. I have had a ticket open for a month, and it is really hard to get a resolution out of them. I would rate them a five out of ten.
Before they had the mergers, their support used to be really good. They have been really good in the beginning, but the company suffered a little bit from being bought out a couple of times. Brocade bought Ruckus, and then ERIS bought them. They then got bought by Broadcom, who sold off half of Brocade's business and then spun the campus switch over to Ruckus Networks. After that, they got bought by CommScope. So, the support has been lacking a little bit.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
In terms of an enterprise solution, this is the only solution that we have been using. Before that, we had some kind of APs that weren't really controller-based.
How was the initial setup?
It was pretty straightforward. Once we had it kind of configured and dialed out, it was pretty easy. Obviously, different buildings, devices, and things can be complex. There is no blanket setting that works for all places.
On campuses where we have buildings more spread out, it works better. When we have one site that is basically a whole giant building, the WiFi is a little too dense there, and we had to manually change some settings for that.
As far as adding an AP is concerned, it is pretty easy. You plug it in, and it contacts the SmartZone controller and downloads the firmware. After that, it shows up as a new available AP. You just put whatever WLAN or zone that you want it to be in.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
What other advice do I have?
I would advise others to make sure that they do a good demo and the feature set meets what they want.
I would rate Ruckus Wireless an eight out of ten.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?