High-Speed, Three-Stream Wi-Fi Devices Tested

SUNNYVALE, Calif. /PRNewswire/ -- Ruckus Wireless@ has announced that its new three-stream 802.11n ZoneFlexT 7982 consistently outperformed competitive alternatives in the industry's first evaluation of high-speed three-stream enterprise Wi-Fi access points (APs).

The competitive Wi-Fi testing, conducted by Syracuse University's School of Information Studies' Center for Convergence and Emerging Networking Technologies (CCENT), in cooperation with Ruckus Wireless, was developed to help enterprise managers better determine what type of real-world performance can be expected from leading Wi-Fi suppliers including Aruba, Aerohive, Cisco, Meraki, and Ruckus Wireless.

The comprehensive testing, performed by faculty and graduate students in Syracuse's School of Information Studies, is the first view into the real-world performance of emerging three-stream 802.11n enterprise Wi-Fi systems. New three-stream 802.11n access points use multiple Wi-Fi radio chains to simultaneously transmit different streams to receiving devices. Three-stream capable receiving devices are able to combine these streams to achieve higher data rates. Typically Wi-Fi vendors quote the theoretical maximum data rate of 450 Mbps for each radio. According to Syracuse University, the Ruckus ZoneFlex 7982 consistently posted the highest aggregate transmission control protocol (TCP) throughput measurements, taking the top spot in 66 percent of all the tests performed.

Testing was conducted during a 7-month period from April to October 2012 and included a combination of 87 single- and multi-AP/client tests through 1,500 test runs. In single AP, single client tests, for instance, 135 runs were performed for each device under test (DUT). This included testing each device in 5 locations, on "3 bands" (2.4, 5GHz, concurrent), in 3 different orientations running traffic and three different traffic patterns (uplink/downlink/bi-directional). The winner of each test was determined based on the highest aggregate TCP throughput.

While Ruckus provided advice and guidance in the formulation of test plans, the actual testing was performed by a team of Syracuse students who have all completed advanced coursework addressing Wi-Fi and 802.11. A team of students was assigned to each product tested and configuration of these products was based on vendor-recommended best practices, wherever such guides were available. Configuration details about all products will be available on request from Syracuse University's CCENT.

"While performance is only one factor in assessing the quality of enterprise Wi-Fi product offerings, it is an increasingly important factor as Wi-Fi enabled devices proliferate and Wi-Fi emerges as the default network access mode in many organizations," said Dave Molta, Associate Professor of Practice in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, who oversaw the student testing. "However, there is a general void in the market with respect to quantitative data that addresses the real-world throughput of 3-stream MIMO product offerings."

Molta continued, "We set out to systematically evaluate how the throughput of leading products maps to data rate claims made by vendors. While we spent hundreds of hours testing this gear, we are not trying to generalize these results to every environment. Still, we think these tests provide information about 3-stream MIMO performance that will be valuable to network managers."

Three-Stream Wi-Fi Testing Details To ensure valid results, Syracuse CCENT Wi-Fi testing was performed late at night within a clean RF environment on the ground floor, in and around actual classrooms and labs within Hinds Hall, the home of Syracuse's School of Information Studies. The production Wi-Fi network was disabled for these test windows and spectrum sweeps were conducted before every test was performed.

Graduate students on Syracuse's CCENT wireless test-bed worked with professional staff at Ruckus to devise three test scenarios: 1) single AP to single client, 2) single AP to multiple clients, and 3) multiple APs to multiple clients.

Measurements for all tests were taken for traffic within the 2.4 and 5GHz bands as well as concurrent use of both bands. Three-stream capable Apple MacBook Pro and Dell Latitude notebook computers were used for most tests. For tests with high numbers of clients, these systems were supplemented by Dell desktop PCs equipped with three-stream NETGEAR USB network interfaces. Within the 2.4GHz band, 20MHz channels were used and within the 5GHz band 40MHz channels were used. For single AP to multiple client tests, one AP was tested with 30 clients.

The AP was sequentially placed in three different rooms while the 30 clients remained in the same room. The clients concurrently ran an IxChariot throughput script that transfers a 1MB file for 2 minutes. TCP aggregate throughput was measured for these tests. To reflect the enterprise trend towards increased use of 5GHz capabilities, one-third of clients were transmitting on the 2.4GHz band while two-thirds were transmitting on the 5GHz band.  All clients were evenly distributed within each room.

Multi-AP, multi-client testing was performed with 120 clients (30 clients per room) and six APs (for each vendor) distributed across four rooms. Since all equipment used for testing was supplied by Ruckus, CCENT staff worked with Ruckus to secure the latest public operating code and determine the test configuration for all products. Auto channel selection, client load balancing, and airtime fairness features were enabled for all vendors (note: these capabilities were turned on if not enabled by default). Each AP's channel selection algorithm was allowed to run for an hour before testing, then fixed on the system's choice to reflect real-world conditions. 24 clients (8 on 2.4GHz and 16 on 5GHz) were uploading data while 96 clients (32 on 2.4GHz and 64 on 5GHz) were downloading data.

Overall Vendor Performances According to Syracuse, in all single and multi-client AP testing, Ruckus consistently posted high TCP throughput measurements across both the 2.4 and 5GHz bands at short, medium, and long ranges.  In single AP, single client Wi-Fi testing, the average of three discrete runs were performed with the client being rotated 45 degrees for each test run.

Single AP / Single Client Testing In single AP, single client bi-directional tests, the Ruckus ZoneFlex 7982 posted the top aggregate TCP throughput of 372, 275 and 228 Mbps at short, medium, and long distances, respectively. When compared against the average of all vendors at all distances, Ruckus delivered 60% greater Wi-Fi performance.

Single AP / Multi Client Testing In single AP, multi client tests, the Ruckus ZoneFlex 7982 achieved the highest aggregate TCP throughput of all vendors on 83% of the tests. In bi-directional TCP throughput tests, the Ruckus 7982 posted top speeds of 206, 143, and 91 Mbps at short, medium, and long distances, respectively. When compared against the average of all vendors at all distances, Ruckus delivered 116% greater Wi-Fi performance.

Multi AP / Multi Client Testing In multi-AP, multi-client tests (6 APs and 120 clients)-the most complex attempt to measure throughput of real-world enterprise deployments-the Ruckus ZoneFlex 7982 achieved the highest TCP throughput of all vendors on 58% of tests performed. In bi-directional TCP throughput tests, the Ruckus ZoneFlex 7982 posted top aggregate speeds of 570 and 562Mbps. When compared against the average of all vendors at all distances, Ruckus delivered 51% greater Wi-Fi performance.

Ruckus and CCENT acknowledge that vendor-sponsored network testing should be viewed with a critical eye towards bias. CCENT made a diligent, sincere effort to exercise independence, soliciting input from the other vendors in cases where they were willing to cooperate, and to optimize performance for all products tested. CCENT plans to make all product test configurations available upon request and encourages others to replicate some or all of these tests in order to gain a fuller understanding of enterprise Wi-Fi performance.

For more details on the Syracuse CCENT high-speed Wi-Fi testing, please visit: http://dcc.syr.edu/PDF/CCENT_3-stream_eval.pdf.

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