Ruckus Wireless Software Upgrade Targets Wi-Fi Capacity Optimization

The latest version of Ruckus' ZoneFlex operating system, confirmed this week, includes a new technology called ChannelFly that can automatically learn and select the best RF channel for a wireless transmission to offer the highest throughput.

That selection is made based on that channel's actual capacity at that time, and that's a major competitive advantage, said David Callisch, vice president of marketing, because it takes a lot of the guesswork out of how wireless access points select RF channels.

Callisch likened the experience to driving in an 11-lane highway, with the driver only able to see how traffic is flowing in the lanes adjacent to one's own.

"The lane next to you is free, but inevitably the lane you just left goes faster and you wonder why you chose to move to that lane. The answer is because it looked like it was going to go faster," Callisch explained. "But imagine if instead of guessing which lane is going to go faster, you're in a helicopter and you can actually see all 11 lanes."

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ChannelFly uses proprietary technology and similar techniques to the ones found in Ruckus BeamFlex, the adaptive antenna technology Ruckus applies to finding the best wireless signal paths. Where traditional RF channel selection falls short, said Callisch, is that techniques like spectrum analysis and packet sniffing are essentially guesswork.

"We're taking a predictive approach -- trying to make predictions based on what's actually happening on the channel," he said. "What competitors do, basically, is have their APs go off-channel and listen for beacons and CRC errors and essentially guess which one is going to be available based on a slice of time."

Wi-Fi's use of unlicensed 2.4 and 5 Ghz wireless bands makes it ripe for interference, and that problem gets potentially worse the more mobile devices are in use. A wireless system, Callisch said, has to be able adapt to constant changes in the environment as quickly as possible.

ChannelFly accesses all available channels on the 2.4 and 5 Ghz bands, and will come standard on all Ruckus ZoneFlex APs as an update to ZoneFlex version 9.3, available Dec. 1. Ruckus is claiming a capacity improvement from 25 percent to in some cases, 100 percent, when ChannelFly is in use.

When ChannelFly is first in operation on an AP, the AP automatically selects the wireless channel with the highest capacity, and then ChannelFly uses the 802.11h protocol to automatically update when better channels are available.

"All the vendors say we can support 100 simultaneous clients and yeah, we do too, but the question is not how many clients do your APs support, it's how do you utilize the spectrum, because there's only so much of it," Callisch said. "It's how do you actually manage it and get users on and off the network. That's the key to delivering high-density and high-capacity solutions."

Ruckus has been a success story in the channel, and according to Callisch, is adding new partners at the rate of about 200 a month. In a remarkable show of channel strength for a company launched only seven years ago, Ruckus bested Cisco, HP, Adtran and other vendors to take home UBM Channel Annual Report Card honors in SMB networking hardware.