Ruckus is taking the next step in its virtualization story, announcing the Ruckus virtual SmartCell Gateway (vSCG), which it's billing as the first carrier-class virtualized wireless LAN management platform.
Ruckus Wireless Inc. announced the NFV platform on Tuesday as a followup to the Smart WiFi Access Management Service (SAMS) it unveiled last month for small and midsized businesses. Though vSCG uses the same concept, it is designed for mobile and cable network operators, managed service providers, and large enterprises that want to move their WLAN to the cloud. (See Ruckus Takes On HP With Cloud WiFi Services .)
Ruckus is starting with virtualizing the control plane functionality. Nearly all data center and network operators are interested in this for the cost reductions, improved operational efficiency, and a faster time to market, but Steve Hratko, director of service provider marketing at Ruckus, says what makes it interesting to a WiFi service provider is the potential for managed services. Using NFV on the WLAN can also answer the question of how to monetize operators' WiFi investments. (See Sprint Starts Big Enterprise Push With WiFi.)
"We don't see anyone else out there enabling major Tier 1s to build out a full, complete service operating out of their data centers," Hratko says. "We're attacking both SMBs with SAMS, and now we're attacking managed services and cloud-based WiFi through virtualization through carriers and service providers."
Ruckus says this is just one component of an NFV architecture that is compliant with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) 's NFV program. It supports OpenStack and manages apps via Ruckus' virtual network function (VNF) services manager.
Heavy Reading analyst Gabriel Brown calls this the right move at the right time for Ruckus. He says the important points about the announcement are that it separates the cloud and control plane and that it supports multi-tenancy, in which 10-20 managed services customers can share one instance of the vSCG -- an important proposition for carriers offering managed enterprise WiFi.
"What will be interesting is what they can do in terms of any other functions, for example, the service control gateway and, with the VNF, whether they can start having things like location services or other services they talk about and whether this type of model will make it easier to integrate independent software vendors and ISPs into that environment," Brown says.
This is the direction Ruckus is taking. It's starting by virtualizing the controller, but Hratko says its new gateway will also be able to support its own location service, SpoT, as well as its SmartCell Insight analytics platform. If operators already have their own VNF, Hratko says, that VNF could manage the Ruckus appliance via an API. (See Ruckus Brings Analytics to WiFi.)
Ruckus has already announced two customers for the virtualized SmartCell Gateway: the managed services providers Frontiir and Global Gossip. The gateway will be available in June for a perpetual software license fee of $995 for each instance deployed, plus a perpetual license fee of $100 per each Ruckus ZoneFlex access point installed in each network.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading