In many enterprises, wired connectivity is no longer the default— or even the primary— mode of network access. With the escalating number of wireless devices and the accompanying demand for increased bandwidth, Wi-Fi-serving enterprises must ensure that end-users have a consistent experience. The state of the art in Wi-Fi technology is dual-band, three-stream 802.11n access points, devices which are marketed by their vendors with exceptionally high data rates. These metrics, while not altogether untrue, account only for maximum physical layer data rates; achievable application layer throughput is typically lower and often more than halved, even under optimal conditions. Throughput is hampered not only by layer 2 retransmissions and dozens of clients, but by the vast amount of overhead associated with 802.11 protocols.

The Centre for Convergence and Emerging Networking Technologies, housed in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, partnered with Ruckus Wireless to determine the level of throughput network administrators could expect from five leading vendor’s indoor three stream access points in an environment that resembles real-world deployments. Our tests are an attempt to discover what the top aggregate throughput for each vendor’s access point might be, as well as how each product scales under the load of many clients and an increasingly difficult RF environment. Vendors included Aerohive Networks, Aruba Networks, Cisco Systems, Meraki, and Ruckus Wireless. We performed a battery of tests in three broad categories:

  • Single AP, single client (rate v. range)
  • Multiple classrooms of simultaneous users (90) on a single AP
  • Multiple classrooms of simultaneous users (120) using multiple APs (6)

To be clear, our evaluation of vendors’ products was not a comprehensive product review. We did not compare total cost of ownership, ease of management, or advanced features and functionality, all of which may be more important than raw throughput in some environments. In addition, since our primary interest involved the assessment of maximum system throughput, we conducted all our testing with three-stream client devices. While we made a diligent effort to optimize each product for maximum performance, we do not disclaim the possibility that each vendor’s product could have been configured in a more optimal manner. New software releases might also result in better performance.

While all of the products we tested provided throughput levels that will meet the needs of most organizations, we found significant variation in their performances. Our results suggest that Ruckus Wireless’ ZoneFlex 7982 offers the best overall performance of any of the products we tested. In addition, we found Ruckus performance to be significantly more consistent as we altered key elements of the physical environment.

Read the full report by the Centre for Convergence and Emerging Networking Technologies, housed in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University

This is an extract from the full report.

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