Ruckus tapped for massive 802.11n university WLAN, spanning Puerto Rico, Florida

Aug. 6, 2010
Sistema University Ana G. Mendez (SUAGM) in Puerto Rico has selected the Ruckus ZoneFlex Smart WLAN system for a large-scale, indoor/outdoor Wi-Fi infrastructure.

SUNNYVALE, Calif. -- Ruckus Wireless announced that the Sistema University Ana G. Mendez (SUAGM), one of the largest university systems in Puerto Rico, has selected the Ruckus ZoneFlex Smart Wireless LAN (WLAN) system for a large-scale, indoor/outdoor Wi-Fi infrastructure spanning campuses and satellite locations throughout Puerto Rico and Florida.

The Wi-Fi network will support over 40,000 students and staff and replaces hundreds of legacy Wi-Fi access points (APs). The new 802.11n network is being deployed in phases across SUAGM's three main universities as well as 15 off campus centers.

According to Ruckus, the massive Wi-Fi project will cover hundreds of acres of campus and over 50+ buildings, driven by growing requirements for higher speed access, pervasive indoor/outdoor coverage and more reliable wireless connectivity to satisfy an explosion of wireless-enabled devices hitting SUAGM's campuses.

According to SUAGM, 60-75 percent of students now attend classes with Wi-Fi-enabled laptops with 80-90 percent students who carry Wi-Fi enabled PDAs or smart phones.

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"Given the mobile Internet phenomenon, a reliable and high speed Wi-Fi infrastructure has become a prerequisite for higher education," said Carlos Fuentes, vice chancellor of IT Resources at the Metropolitan University of the SUAGM. "Like many universities, migrating to the next-generation of Wi-Fi was imperative to improve the overall academic experience within our university system."

According to Ruckus, after evaluating wireless vendors including Aruba, HP, Nortel and Meru Networks, SUAGM chose 802.11n products and technology from Ruckus due to their ability to provide a unified indoor/outdoor infrastructure that could deliver longer-range, higher speed and more reliable Wi-Fi connectivity at a lower total cost of ownership.

SUAGM reports that in competitive testing, the new Ruckus ZoneFlex Smart WLAN system delivered a 5:1 performance advantage and a 3:1 coverage advantage at half the cost of the nearest competitive wireless system.

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"The performance and range delta between the Ruckus system with beamforming and the others we tested was remarkable," said Miguel Paulino, SUAGM, manager of Networks and Telecommunications. "Beyond the smart antenna system, Ruckus was able to deliver integrated, indoor/outdoor wireless system that supports adaptive meshing and centralized management where others couldn't. But more importantly, Ruckus system was specifically designed to deliver much better coverage and more predictable performance with less infrastructure components required and at a lower price point. All of our testing and evaluation substantiated this."

Support for delay-sensitive applications such as VoIP over Wi-Fi and streaming video were key requirements for the Wi-Fi network as SUAGM looks to deploy Wi-Fi phones to IT staff and mobile video conferencing systems for teachers. "With its unique smart antenna system, Ruckus has expertise in handling streaming IP video and IP voice that we couldn't find elsewhere," said Paulino.

Another major problem SUAGM faced when evaluating wireless systems was the inability to fairly allocate bandwidth across a mix of newer 802.11n and older 802.11b/g clients.

In its testing SUAGM discovered that with a mix of fast and slow clients on the network, many of the systems throttled down device speeds to 802.11b rates of 11Mbps even though faster clients could support rates of 100 Mbps or more. "The Ruckus system automatically allocated airtime and network capacity fairly across all clients based on each client's capabilities. This was a key differentiator, especially since we see so many new high speed 802.11n devices coming online," said Paulino.

Under-Achieving Wi-Fi Network Gets "Smart" Upgrade with Ruckus

SUAGM's new Ruckus-powered indoor/outdoor wireless infrastructure replaces a legacy network comprised of Enterasys and HP APs and HP controllers. According to SUAGM, the Enterasys WLAN suffered from instability, frequently requiring IT staff to spend an inordinate amount of time troubleshooting and managing the different Wi-Fi networks. In addition, SUAGM's legacy Wi-Fi network was never designed to support media-rich content and delay-sensitive applications and was unable able to meet the high-capacity demands of so many new client devices and applications operating on the network.

According the SUAGM, another key Wi-Fi decision criterion was the ability to support delay-sensitive Wi-Fi VoIP and streaming IP-based video conference applications. In the first phase of its 802.11n build out, SUAGM is deploying hundreds of ZoneFlex 7962 indoor and ZoneFlex 7762 outdoor dual-band access points (APs) to provide full indoor and outdoor wireless coverage throughout three large main campuses including the Universidad del Turabo, the Universidad del Este and the Universidad Metropolitana.

The Universidad del Turabo school, for example, is a 140-acre suburban campus with fifteen buildings and university centers in Yabucoa, Cupey, Naguabo, Isabela, Ponce, and Orlando, Florida. Deployment of its remaining campuses and 15 off-campus sites is planned to be complete by year's end.

Ruckus ZoneFlex 802.11n APs are centrally managed over a fiber-based MPLS network by Ruckus ZoneDirector 3100 series controllers. The previous SUAGM Wi-Fi network required expensive controllers at every site. For guest access SUAGM leverages WISPr, a protocol and capability integrated into Ruckus ZoneDirectors that automatically redirects users to a remote Web server for authentication. This allows SUAGM to uniquely brand guest access for each campus.

SUAGM runs a variety of virtual wireless LANs, each with its own authentication scheme to support guests, laboratories, student hotspot, administrative and academic network access on each campus.

University IT staff plans to use Ruckus FlexMaster remote Wi-Fi management software as a single point of configuration, event and firmware management for the entire university system Wi-Fi infrastructure. FlexMaster is a carrier-class Wi-Fi management system that allows remote configuration, reporting trending and diagnostic testing of individual ZoneFlex APs or complete ZoneFlex WLAN systems. SUAGM will take advantage of Ruckus' smart meshing capability to provide reliable wireless connectivity to areas of the campuses where Ethernet cabling is not possible.

"The powerful combination of Ruckus' dynamic beamforming technology and 802.11n was simply jaw dropping," said Eng. Oscar Hernandez, CIO of SUAGM. "Not only was the performance of the Ruckus system the most impressive we saw, it was also the most economical of all the products evaluated."

Unlike conventional Wi-Fi systems with omni-directional antennas, each Ruckus AP integrates a patented smart antenna array that continually selects the best transmission path for every packet to each client. As client devices change their orientation or move, or as potential interference is encountered, the Ruckus technology ensures the highest possible data rate and lowest packet error rate. This results in greater Wi-Fi coverage, better reliability and more consistent performance everywhere.

For more information, visit Ruckus Wireless.

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