ZoneFlex 7363 Review: A Cost-Effective WLAN

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Ruckus’ latest access point has a lower profile than previous models, and a lower price than its rivals… and delivers high performance

Ruckus Wireless has announced a set of new wireless LAN access points this week, which set a price challenge to other players in the field of business Wi-Fi

The Ruckus  ZoneFlex 7363 has a low price for an enterprise-class 802.11n access point – an important point because 802.11n take-up is still slow in the enterprise, despite the approval of the faster Wi-Fi standard. Other vendors have addressed the issue including Aruba and Zyxel.

With its intelligent antenna management, nice mix of features, and good TCP and UDP performance in hostile airspace, it makes an appealing all-around wireless LAN solution for cost-conscious businesses.

eWEEK.com tested the dual-band ZoneFlex 7363 in the US. The same kit was tested iat eWEEK Uk, with similar results. The 7363 sells for £428 in the UK, but Ruckus also announced the £357 ZoneFlex 7343, which operates only in the 2.4GHz band.

ZoneFlex APs slim down

The 7300 series eschews the bulbous or funky form factors that characterized previous generations of Ruckus access points (like Ruckus’ previous-generation 802.11n AP, the ZoneFlex 7962, announced a year ago). Measuring in at 7 by 7 by 1 inches and 0.88 pounds, the 7363 has a low, unobtrusive profile and comes with slots in the chassis for a wall or ceiling mount.

The unit supports 802.3af Power over Ethernet via the device’s lone Gigabit Ethernet port. It also comes with two 10/100 Fast Ethernet ports, and it can be custom-ordered with an optional USB port that supports 3G dongles to provide a wireless backhaul (although this port was disabled on my test unit).

The 7300 series can be deployed as a stand-alone access point or as part of a centrally managed network in conjunction with a Ruckus ZoneDirector. I deployed the 7363 in conjunction with a ZD1006 controller, which quickly identified the device once it connected to my network.

However, after I approved the new access point for use with the controller, the ZD1006 immediately lost communication with the AP. Administrators should ensure their controllers are updated at least to firmware Revision 8.2 before attempting to join a 7300 series access point to the network.

Like the 7962, the 7363 supports a total of 16 SSIDs (eight in each band), while allowing different security and QOS (quality of service) policies for each. When using in conjunction with a ZoneDirector, by default the first eight configured wireless networks will be replicated to each radio on the 7363, but wireless administrators can organize SSIDs into WLAN groups to apply different sets of SSIDs to each radio.

Like previous Ruckus APs, the 7363 supports Ruckus’ SmartMesh wireless mesh to extend the network to places that can’t be Ethernet cabled. The SmartMesh functionality automatically configured whether the 7363 was a root node (backhaul) or mesh node, but I could also manually assign the role as well.

Are 40MHz channels realistic?

Because the 7363 offers concurrent dual-band support, with separate radio chains for the 2.4GHz and the 5GHz bands, Ruckus advertises 600Mbps of theoretical throughput, with each radio operating at 300M bps. This is a little disingenuous: For both radios to operate at the 300M-bps data rate (MCS15), both need to utilize 40MHz channels.


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