Do I need a zone director?

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  • Updated 2 years ago
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Hi all,

I am just about to install 2 X r600 aps in my house and was wondering if I needed to buy a done director console to fine tune the aps?

They will be used in a soho environment, however I would like to ensure roaming etc is fine tuned and I can get the best out of them.

If so, would I be able to use a single licence version as this is quite cheap?

http://www.wifigear.co.uk/ruckus-zone...

Would I need to renew the licence each year?

I'm new to the ruckus fold and so I have no clue as to what I need.

Thanks in advance.
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JasonS

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Posted 2 years ago

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John D, AlphaDog

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Hi Jason,

You don't need a ZoneDirector, but it's a nice bonus. As we talked about in the last thread, if you have a ZoneDirector, you can get FW 9.12 and 9.12.1 and beyond, which gets you DFS support for the R600's, which is nice.


The main benefit of getting the ZoneDirector is that you get one centralized interface for configuration and monitoring rather than having to log into each AP and define the SSID, password, and try to piece together all the info yourself about which clients are on which AP's, and how they are roaming, etc.

It's not required for your setup, though. You will get slightly faster roams (virtually instantaneous versus a few hundred ms of hiccups) thanks to 802.11r/k on supported devices, etc. Plus you get a turnkey solution for a captive portal based guest WLAN for when you have folks visiting. 


If you get a ZoneDirector, you'll be required to purchase Ruckus support contracts. The license that you linked to is not a support contract — it's to add an additional AP to the ZD1200. (For example, the ZD1205 is by default licensed for 5 AP's. If you were to add a 6th AP, you would need to buy one additional copy of that license)

The 1 year support contracts are indeed a yearly licensing cost. When you stop paying for it, you will not be allowed to apply future firmware upgrades. If you're happy with your setup at the end of your first year contract, you technically don't have to renew. But if you want new firmware, then of course you'll have to renew.
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JasonS

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Hi again John,

I didn't realise that was just the licence!

Looking at the cheapest zd will push me way over budget, which I have already done with the r600's

If I can pick up a second hand unit, can I purchase a 1 year license to start with?
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John D, AlphaDog

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You're very unlikely to find a ZD1200 second-hand, but yes, you can purchase a license for a second-hand unit.

Honestly, I would start with the R600's and then consider adding a ZD later on if that's really something you want to do.


The primary use case for a home user getting a ZoneDirector IMO is if you need Ruckus SmartMesh (e.g. wireless AP to AP bridging for homes without ethernet connectivity) capability.
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JasonS

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Ok point taken.

Whilst on the subject would a zd1000 be suitable?

Found one reasonably cheap on ebay uk..

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Ruckus-Wireless-ZoneDirector-1000-901-1025-UK00-licensed-for-50AP-w-pwr-su...
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John D, AlphaDog

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I wouldn't recommend it. ZD1000 went EOL before 802.11ac AP's were supported, and ZD1100 is also EOL at 9.10, which won't get you the benefits I mentioned with 9.12 and beyond.
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JasonS

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Thanks John, i'll avoid those then.

And again, ill take your advice and see how i get on with the AP's without a ZD for a while, and then maybe have a search for a used 1200 in a few months or so.
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Neil Mac, Employee

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Hi Jason,

If you only have two access points and you're using them at home then you will be perfectly fine just to configure them as standalone access points. You won't need the additional features a ZoneDirector offers.

The roaming won't be an issue either way.
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JasonS

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Thanks.

:)
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Sean

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If your traversing from one stand alone AP to another, the client will need to make a new DHCP request on each AP it attempts to join, as stand alone AP's are not aware of each other.

The main thing here is the client has to go through Layer 2 entry on every AP, and if you have a  passphrase on every AP, it wil have to go through the handshake mechanism, which adds delay and you will drop a few packets.

Once authenticated the clients will then be held in the connected/unconnected client cache of all the AP's in the network, until either the AP is rebooted, or the cache is overwritten or purged

Note: I am unsure as toward how long a stand alone AP stores the unconnected client cache

If you want fast/seemless transition between each AP, you must use a ZD as that supports 802.11r/k.

802.11r/k are not supported on stand alone AP's at the moment...

You may also want to consider the following options in the cli of your stand alone AP's to assist with roaming, as certain device hold on to AP's which can impact client performance:

set ofdm-only
set bss-minrate 24
set roam_factor wlanX <1-10>

For a full explanation towards the configuration of smart-roam see the following:

https://support.ruckuswireless.com/answers/000002277

I personally have seen great results using this in large scale roaming networks, but the link above does mention that some Apple devices dont like it - it's worth a test, as I have seen no issues when using it so far.

One note is that if you use a ZD, you must configure the session idle timeout on the WLAN to marry up with your DHCP server session idle timeout, or the set it to the max value of 500mins.
(Edited)
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John D, AlphaDog

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Upon double checking, the Nest looks like it's a b/g/n device and not just a b device -- it's 2.4GHz. But it's still true that there's a surprising number of devices that might be B only, the Fitbit Aria scale being a good example.

The problem is that devices connecting to your network at a slow bitrate will drag down throughput for everyone else while they are active. For each AP, all devices share talking time on one channel -- it's like a dinner table. If someone talks really fast, they get to convey more thoughts in a shorter period of time, but if someone else talks really slowly, what can you do? Two people can't talk at once, and the only choice is either to "waste everyone's time" listening to the slow person talk, or say "no you're not allowed to talk because you're too slow" and it's better for everyone else at the table.

And here is where I think enterprise and consumer use cases differ. On an enterprise network, you are often servicing more clients than you have capacity to service (at the desired average throughput, etc). On a home network, the only reason you connect something to your home network is because you want it to have wifi. So, you can make a "for the greater good" argument on an enterprise network for why a device that can weakly connect to your network simply shouldn't be allowed to use it, because it would occupy a lot of airtime talking at slow bitrates like 24mbit when other devices can easily speak at 300+mbit rates, over 10x faster.

But on the other hand, the "nice" thing that bss-minrate (or ofdm-only) does is that it's a polite hint to N-capable devices that if your current AP's slowest allowed rate is still not working for you, maybe it's time to look for a different AP.

(Note that there's other technical caveats too -- for example, broadcast/multicast traffic must be transmitted at the lowest possible rate, so setting bss-minrate to 24 means that all the broadcast traffic gets transmitted at 24mbit rather than 1.1mbit or 5.5mbit. They're worth considering, but most home networks also do not have a lot of broadcast/multicast traffic)


The short version is, I don't think these values have much impact on a home network. You can use bss-minrate to artificially shrink the coverage radius of your AP's in a way that doesn't require reducing transmit power.
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JasonS

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Thanks again for the detailed explanation John.

As i said, im not seeing any real problems at the moment, but will keep that in mind.

:)
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Sean

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The DCF MAC issue (throughput fairness) is not relevant on Ruckus equipment as it uses airtime fairness. So even if you had a legacy devices connected to your network all clients get the same airtime regardless of standard.

In short 802.11b clients will not bring down the performance of your Ruckus network.

Hope this helps :)
(Edited)
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John D, AlphaDog

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ATF and WLAN prioritization and QOS is still unsupported on 802.11ac AP's... That's slated for 10.0.
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Sean

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DCF MAC is only relevant on 2.4GHz, 802.11ac is 5GHz :)
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JasonS

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Thanks Sean.

To be honest, so far it seems to be working ok and I haven't really noticed any 'lag' while roaming.

I am literally using them at home and I'm getting full coverage throughout and coverage in places where the Unifi struggled.

I'll see how it goes for a while and then make a decision on the zd.

They are quite expensive for my basic needs!
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Sean

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no worries and good luck :)
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Neil Mac, Employee

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Jason, you are correct that your needs are quite basic, and you should keep things simple.

Fast roaming is a specialized requirement that is only considered in very specific circumstances, and is not only NOT required for home use, it's pretty much unconfigurable for home use.

When you move from one AP to another, the worst that will happen is that you need to generate a new key, which is so quick it just won't affect anything you are doing.

There's a lot of technical information being offered in this thread, which is very well intentioned, however it just serves to confuse the issue - some of it is irrelevant, and some of it is technically wrong. 

Just stick with a couple of access points that are manually configured and you'll be fine. If you have specific questions about how things work I'd be happy to explain.

Neil Mac
CWNE #113, CWNT
Senior Technical Trainer, Ruckus Wireless
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Sean

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I have never suggested the need for the use of a ZD - the title of the thread is "Do I need a zone director".

I was only answering his question and pointing out the reason why he may need one, but I also highlighted that an element of roaming can be configured on stand alone AP's

This is a forum where people come to get questions answered and I fully understand that people have their own opinions, but surely the person that has started the thread, can make their own mind up about what they do or dont want to do based on the information that has been given, without the assistance of poeple putting down what other people are recommending.
(Edited)
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Neil Mac, Employee

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Hi Sean, 

It's good to be able to discuss these points. We also need to keep perspective. There may be occasions where advanced settings may be tweaked, however the rules are always 1) Know exactly what you are doing first 2) TEST TEST TEST.

Jason is asking a simple question about home AP's - so the correct advice is to keep it simple and stick with defaults - I would suggest that sticking with defaults is always the right advice to a novice.

If there is a case for advanced tweaking, it's not here.

Why don't you open a new thread with you so we can discuss your technical proposals ? 

State the changes you would make to tune a standalone AP network, state your justification for making the changes and describe how the clients would behave differently as a result of those changes. Then we have a starting point and we can get into the technical details.

We'd then have information that people can use to decide for themselves if they want to make the changes.

We learn a lot from discussing experiences.

Neil
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Sean

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Hi Neil,

I have a few points:

1. Jason is asking questions about whether he needs a ZD or not.
2. I have stated the differences between having and not having a ZD.
3. I have given some advice that highlights what you can do in regards to the config of stand alone AP's in relationship to that of the key roaming benefit that you get from using a ZD.

I agree that sometimes keeping things simple is the best approach, but keeping things simple with a carrier grade product means that you're not really taking advantage of the product that you've bought.
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Neil Mac, Employee

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Sean - hence me proposing you open a new thread so we can discuss the merits...
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Sean

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Hi Neil,

I'm not here to open threads for discussion, so i am sorry I wont be doing that, but feel free yourself, I may even comment :)

What you should look at is whether or not the person that has opened the thread is happy with the responses he gets from the forum, and I think the factor that he has liked my comment adds some weight to that fact.

One thing I would recommend is that you think about the people in this forum, and not appear to play down what people say unless what they are saying is incorrect.

This forum is about giving advice, it is then up to the person who opened the thread whether or not they watt to take that advice.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink :)
(Edited)
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JasonS

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Sorry guys, i didnt mean for things to get heated!!

I fully understand and fully appreciate everyones input.

I am also aware that I am 'playing with the big boys', and that my questions and sheer ignorance on this particular subject/product may come across the wrong way, but, after a few years of consumer grade, and a few weeks of a supposed 'enterprise' product, i felt that i had to do something (particularly as with the last upgrade, it went from bad to worse and i got into trouble with a few of my family!)

At this point in time, a ZD is out of my reach, whatever i like to think, and the reason for my asking was to see if i needed to put some money aside when available, to purchase one.

Admittedly, maybe i should have waited a few days to use the system first, but i was so pleased with the instant results i got, i maybe thought there was a need for a ZD for total control etc.

I mistakenly looked at a one year licence, rather than the product, so one i saw the price, it was at that point i thought maybe i dont really need one just yet, if at all.

So, with that in mind, i thank everyone for their help and ideas, as without them i would not have got this far!

Jason.
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John D, AlphaDog

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Jason, you've been asking great questions. Not long ago, I was in a really similar position, getting tired of hacking together my own home wifi network from various equipment considered "enterprise" or  "business grade" yet still caused weekly wifi related headaches.

When I got my Ruckus equipment, I too had to come to the realization that it doesn't actually take hours of tweaking anymore for these solid AP's to cover a house. I asked a lot of questions, read a lot of articles, and came up with this huge list of tweaks to try (from blacklisting channels to SmartRoam and even beyond). One day I just decided to try the default settings after upgrading a firmware, and found that -- hey! They seem to work just as well!

It sounds like your setup is currently working well for you. I wouldn't change anything for now. Us consumers don't have infinite wifi budgets -- you're much much better off saving the money you'd put towards a ZD and waiting for the next major thing to happen in wifi technology (for example, you decide to get a R710 for Wave 2 AC once you have some clients that support it)

I think we're all on the same page in that your setup does not require (and barely benefits from, for that matter) a ZoneDirector.
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JasonS

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Thank you John.

In my mind, I think some of the original questions stemmed from the huge headaches i had from setting up the previous products.

I was expecting that i needed to do the same with the 600's, and I certainly did not realise that they would work pretty much straight from the box once i had set up the wifi networks.

Its taken me longer to make good the other AP holes and repaint!