Cloud-Based Wireless Networking Management: Three Takes At The NexGen Cloud Conference

Wireless networking, and the management of wireless networks, is one of the themes of this year's NexGen Cloud conference, with at least three vendors presenting three different takes on the business.

Ruckus Wireless, Extreme Networks, and Zyxel Communications all provided their takes on the wireless networking business and opportunities around cloud-based management they provide to channel partners.

Ruckus is taking the management of its wireless LAN technology to the cloud in a move to help cut the costs of that management while giving partners greater control over their customers' infrastructures, said Jeanette Lee, director of global field sales enablement for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, which this year was purchased by Brocade Communications.

[Related: Brocade, Ruckus Leaders Talk Channel Future, New Market Opportunities And The Need For End-To-End Solutions]

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Ruckus combined its wireless technology with management technology to bring its Cloudpath cloud-based management to customers, Lee said. "As long as you have a smartphone, you can manage it," she added.

Cloudpath is aimed at providing partners with a simple way to manage their clients' wireless technologies while providing a solution that scales to thousands of access points, Lee said. It not only provides single-click configuration of access points or networks but also of venues. By configuring a venue, say, for a restaurant with multiple locations, the solution allows networks at the sites to be managed with a single pane of glass, she said.

Management is done via mobile applications that provide provisioning, setup, management, and monitoring, and helps partners keep track of client alerts, Lee said.

With the mobile application, a photo of an access point's carton is all that's needed to go online and configure the device, Lee said. "I don't even have to take the access point out of the box," she said. "The serial number is on the box. I can just take a picture of it and then send [the device] to the customer."

Cloudpath also provides other tools such as configuring network access for guest visitors, with the user interface customizable for specific guests, Lee said. "You can even add advertisements, if you want," she said.

Mike Coffey, purveyor of technology at Gravity Networks, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based solution provider and Ruckus channel partner, said his company has yet to use the vendor's cloud-based wireless solutions, but it's on his list of technologies to consider.

"We manage our customers' networks remotely already, and will probably switch to the cloud," Coffey told CRN. "We've been talking to Ruckus Wireless about this for years, and I'm glad to see that it is actually available."

Coffey said that while Ruckus may be the world's top wireless provider, it's still playing catchup to Cisco's Meraki on cloud-based management. 'But Ruckus Wireless will go toe-to-toe with Meraki with this solution."

Meanwhile, Extreme Networks sees a larger part of its customer base not wanting to manage their wireless networks anymore, said Kyle Brown, director of business development for the San Jose, Calif.-based vendor.

The company's ExtremeCloud is a cloud-based management solution that provides the same capabilities as on-premises versions, Brown said.

However, it offers managed service revenue opportunities, and makes it possible to provide wireless as a service, she said. Partners also get app-based management, and can offer customers investment protection for their current wireless solutions.

Extreme Networks offers channel partners up-front 60-percent discounts on hardware and licensing costs because partners are expected to provide level-one and level-two support, Brown said. "You profit, we profit," she said.

ExtremeCloud's ability to let customers move from on-premises-based to cloud-based management and back is a great capability, said Mike Sisco, CEO of Embed Digital, an Irvine, Calif.-based digital signage solution provider.

For many of Embed Digital's small business clients, simple remote power management has been a suitable option, Sisco told CRN. "Often, a remote power refresh takes care of issues for smaller customers," he said. "But we're looking at the cost of smaller cloud-based management solutions."

Zyxel is taking a small-business-focused approach to cloud-based wireless management with its Zyxel Nebula cloud network management solution, said Brandon Miyazaki, sales engineer for the Anaheim, Calif.-based vendor.

Nebula, which was introduced just last month, is a cloud-hosted network service that works with any networking hardware and software and interfaces with third-party devices, Miyazaki said.

One of the key capabilities of Zyxel Nebula is its zero-touch provisioning. "As soon as you plug a device in, it will call home to get the right information and get configured automatically. … We want to get the network up and running in minutes," he said.

Zyxel provides access points, cloud-managed switches, and cloud -managed security gateways for Zyxel Nebula, Miyazaki said. Partners can use both a browser and a mobile application for the management, he said.

Zyxel Nebula offers partners easy deployment by scanning devices with a mobile application. It also offers PC, browser, and mobile access for management, and fits customers of any size, Miyazaki said. Zyxel Nebula provides 24-by-7 management and monitoring, and retains up to six months of management data, he said.

Bob Nitrio, CEO of Ranvest Associates, an Orangevale, Calif.-based solution provider, said Nebula looks like a good solution for small business applications.

However, Nitrio told CRN, when it comes to small businesses, there are limits to cloud-managed wireless networking solutions.

Some customers may not want cloud-based networking for security reasons," he said.