The purpose of this post is to look at the reasons I see for the new and increasing importance for schools to have robust, open and protected wireless networks. It is also to compare two products (Ruckus and Bluesocket) looking to provide solutions in this area as a cognitive reflection on our own decision making in this area.
Why wireless development.
With most schools having robust network backbone in place we want to escape wires to create a more natural connection allowing us to be more flexible in where we are able to support the diverging devices that are able to connect wirelessly.
Wireless access is of course not new but as we scale the clients in a network the throughput of our wireless system has to develop to provide acceptable service to each client device. Netbooks and mobile devices are bringing the feasibility of 1 to 1 for more and more schools, and indeed home environments. The use of wireless gateway devices allow us to control wireless traffic and present easy access to the internet for guests and a wide variety of devices eg psp, phones etc.
What we are doing at our school
In our school we are introducing 200 new wireless device to one building within the school and will extend this to include another 125-150 in 2010.
Making a choice
This is not an insurmountable problem as there are some clever options available vendors using the 5Ghz spectrum can have more radio channels overlapping and therefore greater Access point density. Most of the solutions also provide for self managing access points. By this I mean once a controller is established additional access points are able to find it and set themselves up. We have looked at four solutions to this wireless problem. The vendors being Bluesocket, Ruckus, Xirrus and Trapeze.
Advantages Ruckus Equipment.
- The controller will not become a bottleneck for traffic as it is responsible for authentication, management rather than a router of traffic.
- This requirement makes Bluesocket more expensive long term as client density will outgrow controller throughput.
- The wireless access points work well in a noisy environment directing traffic to the clients that need it
- The 802.11n APs are priced at a point that means we can move to this standard now rather than redeploy within two years.
- We have also experienced the Ruckus Solution working at learning conferences here in New Zealand where many clients were able to connect and hold reasonable wireless service.
- The Ruckus APS can work as mesh in other words find each other and extend their range without wires.
- Offers only 2.4 ghz radios which have only 3 channels available and may suffer if placed to close to each other.
- Even though they operate in the 802.11n the n clients will not benefit until they are the only ones present as the access point will drop to meet the needs of the weakest client eg operate in 802.11b if a b client is present.
- While the ruckus traffic is not directed through a router this means it will all take place on layer 2 of the network meaning that having a high density of clients is likely to degrade network performance for everyone.
We are still considering the verdict and at the moment we see ruckus as a terrific solution to medium density sites where meshing may be of benefit. In a higher density 1 to 1 environment we are starting to think it may struggle.
Will discuss other options in next post.