Ruckus Adds Midmarket Option To ZoneFlex 11n AP Line

Ruckus Wireless on Monday expanded its ZoneFlex portfolio of wireless gear with a new series of 802.11n access points (AP) designed for the midmarket.

According to Ruckus, its ZoneFlex 7300 line will be the first enterprise-class 802.11n product available to the channel with a price tag south of $500. Ruckus' growth has been rapid since the company started picking up accolades for its SMB-focused ZoneFlex products a few years ago. In March 2009, the company expanded the ZoneFlex lineup to target the enterprise, and last fall, Ruckus named both a worldwide channel chief and revamped its channel partner program in hopes of better nurturing its most strategic VARs.

Designed to compliment ZoneFlex 7962, Ruckus' high end 802.11n AP, the ZoneFlex 7300 line includes the single-band 7343 and dual-band 7363 APs, offering 802.11n capacities of 300 Mbps and 600 Mbps respectively. The 7343 is priced at $499 and the 7363 at $599. Both products are available through Ruckus channel partners starting this month.

"From a trend perspective, we see a tsunami of Wi-Fi enabled devices," said Niv Hanigal, director of product management for Ruckus. "The need for more bandwidth support is becoming very big, at the same time budgets are still getting tired. Yes, the economy is rebounding but people are still being very conscious about how much they spend."

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Among particular opportunities, Ruckus is targeting midmarket accounts in hospitality, health care and education, all strong verticals for the vendor. According to Hanigal, the new Zoneflexes were designed with an eye toward both performance and aesthetics, the latter of which is often crucial in hospitality settings.

"Hospitality is going to be a big vertical for this product," said John Sampson, director of global channel programs. "So will retail, which is an area where we've been a little behind, but also an area that has opted to stay with 11g products longer. Based on the conversations I've had, the channel is excited about the retail potential here, because some see the recovery there as a big opportunity for new customer acquisition."

All of Ruckus' ZoneFlex APs use Ruckus BeamFlex, a multi-antenna array that's controlled by software and enables the APs to direct and redirect signals in real time over the strongest paths available. According to Ruckus, the $499 and $599 ZoneFlex APs outgun rival products from Cisco (Aironet 1140) and Aruba (AP 105) on both price and throughput.

"We get a lot of questions from folks in the channel about how do I quantify price performance, so we suggest putting it to customers as 'you care about every megabit you can get,' Hanigal said. "The theoretical data rate number that everyone advertises is 600 [mbps]. We can advertise that too. But we tested with a 50-foot range between the AP and the client, and if we price the actual throughput to the cost of the AP, you're paying $3.84 per megabit per second for the [Zoneflex] 7363, $6.56 for the Aruba, and $13.26 for the Cisco. Test it."

Ruckus' confidence is echoed by its channel partners, who say the vendor's mix of attractive pricing and channel savvy has helped its growth.

"I've really enjoyed working with their organization," said Trinh Pham, chief operating officer and vice president of sales at OCx Network Consultants, a Denver-based solution provider. "Ruckus has tried to jump into the wireless market and Cisco, Aruba and some of the other guys have let them, certainly on the price side. The story around what they can do with beam-forming has also been really compelling."

Ruckus' challenge, said Pham, will be keeping its channel close as it continues to grow. "Our access to the executives has been fantastic, and if we come up with ideas and strategies, they've been all ears, as well as wonderfully supportive on what we've come up with," she said. "With others, it's a challenge because they've become so large and the processes can be tough, but when companies get bigger what makes them successful is the ability to move the Titanic on the fly. Ruckus has brought us some pretty amazing stuff so far and this is a market segment that really needs it."