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Future-proofing switching infrastructure is another important consideration in preparing for the deployment of Wi-Fi 6 wireless access points (APs). Examples include the ability to scale, easily upgrade existing switches, and the flexibility to modify, reconfigure, and repurpose existing hardware. These capabilities, if properly considered, can help protect investment and extend the useful life of customer infrastructure.
This is important because companies and organizations are refreshing their Wi-Fi networks every three years to keep up with changing Wi-Fi standards and equipment, as well as a significant increase of devices per user. However, the lifecycle of a switch averages closer to 5-7 years for commercial enterprises, and up to 7-10 years in the education market. This means customers will have to determine how capable their switch purchases are of supporting both current and future Wi-Fi networks.
More specifically, newly purchased switches will likely need to support at least one refresh cycle, if not more, as more users and devices access the network. It is worth noting that our partners working with higher education institutions are planning for 5-8 devices per student, with the knowledge that this number is a moving target and likely to keep increasing. Moreover, faster devices are leveraging the latest Wi-Fi standards, while the demand for UHD and 4K video streaming continues to increase.
Clearly, future-proofing your switches is essential. There are multiple approaches to achieving this. You take out your crystal ball and try to predict what you'll need for the next several years. Some vendors approach this with a chassis-based solution. What does this look like? Well, it means a big chassis with multiple open slots to increase capacity as requirements evolve. Unfortunately, this approach requires a big upfront investment for a large chassis – with (potential) capacity that won’t be used for years – yet will draw a lot of power or cooling.
Another approach is to rip and replace equipment as needed, or more precisely, replace existing infrastructure with new switches that support faster uplink speeds. This is sometimes referred to as a forklift upgrade. Alternatively, customers can install a flexible and scalable switching network that can be easily upgraded without having to be replaced. To future-proof the upgrade process, we recommend looking for features such as the ability to scale and easily add switches to existing infrastructure – without increasing management touch points or increasing network complexity. Other considerations include the ability to easily upgrade existing switches with faster uplinks, with the option to add advanced layer three features and extensible architecture such as OpenFlow for software-defined networks.
Ruckus Networks offers numerous features that future-proof our switches by making them flexible, scalable and upgradable. On our entry-level switches, the base model comes with one-gigabit uplinks. These uplinks can be upgraded to 10 gigabits with a simple software license. Most of our competitors would force you to throw out their switches with the one-gigabit uplinks and replace them to get 10 gigabits, but not Ruckus.
In contrast, all Ruckus access switches have the capability to upgrade their uplinks. Moreover, our mid-range switch has swappable modules with 1, 10 or 40 GbE ports, while our high-end access switch can be upgraded from 40 GbE to 100 GbE with a simple CLI command. Our switches scale to 12 per stack and up to 36 switches with Campus Fabric. All access switches connected to the Campus Fabric inherit the advanced features of the fabric controller, thereby automatically upgrading their capabilities.
Ruckus also supports OpenFlow hybrid port mode that allows customers to use traditional network protocols or SDN OpenFlow over the same ports. With these and other features, we allow customers to extend the life of their switches: to expand the scale and grow their networks as required without having to rip and replace.