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Ruckus Extends Virtualization To Wireless Management

Offering an approach that it believes will provide some key aid to cable operator-driven WiFi deployment strategies, Ruckus Wireless has rolled out what it claims is the industry’s first carrier-class virtualized wireless LAN controller.

Ruckus, which sells WiFi gear to operators such as Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, said the approach will help carriers scale up their deployments by using this new cloud-based approach to WLAN management.

The approach also hits on a bigger trend – network functions virtualization (NFV), a budding approach that decouples the apps from the hardware, allowing operators to run those apps on off-the-shelf gear rather than pricier proprietary equipment.

Ruckus, said Steve Hratko, the company’s director of service provider marketing, is bridging NFV to the wireless LAN, believing it will play a big role in helping carriers deliver managed wireless services, including subscriber-based and cellular offload services, on a massive basis. Going virtual will allow operators to add capacity and management features without having to install and buy new physical appliances, he said.

Cable’s already got a big WiFi buildout underway. MSO members of the Cable WiFi roaming alliance (Comcast, Cablevision Systems, Bright House, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable) have already deployed more than 250,000 hotspots. Of that group, Comcast believes it will exceed 8 million managed, quasi-public WiFi hotspots when factoring in deployments in business locations, at outdoor venues and in customer-side gateways.

To scale up, the backend management systems for those need to become more centralized and virtualized, Hratko said, noting that Ruckus is using OpenStack to manage the new cloud-based infrastructure.

The first app Ruckus is tucking into the cloud is what it now calls its virtual SmartCell Gateway (vSCG), claiming that it can be configured to allow multiple service providers share an “instance” of the gateway setting them up to enable service level agreements on their own, rather than relying on a service offering from a vendor.

Under Ruckus’s model, service providers purchase a license for each instance of the vSCG deployed, and purchase additional licenses as more access points need to be supported. Starting in June, Ruckus said a perpetual software license for each instance of the vSCG will run $995, plus a perpetual license fee of $100 for each Ruckus ZoneFlex access point (the first device to support the vSCG) installed in each network.

Hratko said a global managed service provider with 15 data centers, 10,000 access points and more than 100,000 clients is currently testing the vSCG. Management of them all ties back to the company’s backend systems, he said. Among early adopters of the vSCG Frontiir, a managed service provider in Southeast Asia, and Global Gossip, a provider headquartered in Sydney, Australia.

Customers of Ruckus’s original, non-virtualized SCG include TWC, Suddenlink Communications, Bright House, Cablevision of Mexico, Sprint, AT&T, Telstra, SingTel, BskyB, Orange, and KDDI, among others.