Ruckus Wireless is challenging HP's recent foray into enterprise WiFi management with a cloud-based platform of its own, designed to virtualize the WLAN controller and help small businesses monetize WiFi.
Ruckus Wireless Inc. introduced its cloud-based Smart WiFi Access Management Service, SAMS for short, on Tuesday, two weeks after HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) showed off its version, the Cloud Network Manager, at Interop. (See HP: Here's How We Can Cut WiFi Costs and HP Beefs Up Its SDN Portfolio.)
What Ruckus is pitching is a way for small businesses to manage and monetize the access points they have deployed from the cloud, saving them the expense of deploying controllers and servers to manage the WiFi locally. Salah Nassar, Ruckus's senior manager of product marketing, explains that what makes it unique is not just the ability to manage WiFi from the cloud, but also to monetize it through collecting analytics and layering on custom services.
With SAMS, any new ad or service can be created and managed via a basic web portal, but it starts with analytics. Either working with a Ruckus channel partner or their own IT staff, a venue can track information on their customers WiFi usage -- their ages, device types, gender, duration of sessions, etc. -- and adjust their offer accordingly. (See Ruckus Brings Analytics to WiFi.)
For example, they could require customers to view a targeted ad before logging on to WiFi or authenticate them through Facebook or Twitter or, if they so choose, limit their length of session, bandwidth consumption, or the content they can access based on their usage patterns.
The platform does, of course, require the business to have Ruckus APs in place. The company is offering SAMS through channel partners on a yearly subscription basis for $265 per access point or $180 if the location is using local WLAN management.
So how is this different than HP's Cloud Network Manager or other competing cloud offerings? Nassar says it's the services angle. HP's platform provides AP management, but stops short at helping the venue monetize their WiFi investment. That's what Ruckus aims to do with SAMS.
That's the differentiator that Ruckus is pitching, but Ovum Ltd. analyst Daryl Schoolar says the big deal about its announcement is simply that it simplifies network management by hosting the network controller. This is still a relatively new transition for WiFi companies to be making. The revenue potential is just a value-add, he says.
"I think it fits well with operations that need to support multiple sites, but don't have a major IT budget or headcount," he tells Light Reading. "I can see this being used by a restaurant chain trying to support six to 12 locations."
While telecom service providers are big customers for Ruckus, Nassar says this is the type of WiFi service they are looking to manage and provide on their own. That's why it's focusing on the smaller guys that might only be able to afford a few APs and can't see the value in buying a controller for so few. Nassar says this is a market both Ruckus and network operators haven't really addressed in the past. (See Ruckus Scores 22 New SP Customers in Q4.)
"Those guys really like the cloud solution and tend to be on the lower end," he says of small businesses. "There are some customers on the higher end that don’t care if it's in the cloud or on site because it's a managed service but then it's up to our resellers providing the managed service to decide what's best for them."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading