Here at Enterprise Networking Planet, we encourage networking and IT pros to boost their job performance and career prospects by engaging with the overall business pressures at their companies. Bringing your projects and proposals in line with business goals demonstrates that you're a big-picture thinker capable of bringing real value to your employer. And what do most employers want? To spend less and make more. A new, cloud-based Wi-Fi management solution from Ruckus Wireless claims to help organizations do just that.
Announced last month, Ruckus's Smart Access Management Service (SAMS) allows businesses (and the VARs and MSPs that serve them) to quickly configure public Wi-Fi hotspot access, serve advertisements and other content on custom registration pages, and manage the wireless network, all from a unified cloud dashboard. This eliminates the need for businesses to maintain their own WLAN controllers, authentication servers, advertising engines, and other infrastructure. Theoretically, this should significantly cut infrastructure costs. Additionally, the user-friendliness of the dashboard and the drag-and-drop configuration wizards, which Ruckus demonstrated for me in a video call, enable rapid setup and deployment.
Among the features most likely to help wireless network admins bring value to their organizations are the data collection and analytics tools included with SAMS. Social logins and custom survey questions presented at launch can help businesses collect demographic information to fine-tune their campaigns and sales strategies. The WYSIWYG login page editor allows for consistent branding. Finally, enterprising users can monetize their networks by offering advertising opportunities to other businesses.
Ruckus is presenting SAMS as especially helpful to its channel partners, who can begin offering SAMS-based wireless network management as a service to customers, but the service's ease of use means that SMBs and SMEs may be able to take the task on themselves. And while small and medium enterprises are Ruckus's target market, the vendor has of late been successful in larger venues as well, including several pro sports stadiums and this year's Interop conference.
Cloud-based WLAN management looks set to grow in the next few years, with IDC forecasting that the market will hit $2.5 billion by 2018. Ruckus already has some heavy-hitting competition in the market, in particular Cisco's Meraki cloud-managed wireless portfolio. Where Ruckus hopes to differ is in the comprehensiveness and user-friendliness of its feature set and in the accessibility of its pricing. Subscriptions to SAMS run $15/AP/month for onsite controller deployments and $22.50/AP/month for cloud-hosted controllers. Aruba Networks, another competitor, is offering a $50/AP/year subscription for its Aruba Central cloud Wi-Fi management solution, but it's important to note that that is a promotional price, good for only one year and only available on subscriptions before the end of 2014.
Network infrastructure and administration don't operate in a vacuum. Like every other component of a business, they exist to drive the business towards achievement of its overall goals—goals like cost cutting and revenue growth. SAMS looks set to help Ruckus shops leverage their public wireless networks in service of those goals.
SAMS works with Ruckus ZoneFlex Smart Wi-Fi access points and/or onsite Ruckus ZoneDirector WLAN controllers and is available through Ruckus Wireless channel partners.
Jude Chao is managing editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Follow her on Twitter @judechao.