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Buyer's Guide
Wireless LAN
June 2022
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Network and Security Consultant at a insurance company with 1,001-5,000 employees
Consultant
Top 20
Overall a good product that provides role-based authentication native to the controller, but has code stability issues
Pros and Cons
  • "Aruba is an industry leader. The hardware is on par, and its performance is also on par with anybody else. The Aruba brand really only focuses on wireless, so they're not competing their R&D for switching data center products and cloud security. They're really focused on that and their underlying key pieces. They provide a role-based authentication that is native to the controller. A lot of other systems don't do that. They won't provide you the ability to basically have everybody join the network, regardless of whether or not they share the same network space, the SSID, or the wireless LAN. You can segment it down to a specific user role based on any kind of attributes that you like. That's their differentiator. If you need per user, per device, or per port segmentation, you can get that with Aruba. There isn't another vendor who does it."
  • "Currently, the stability of the code is the basic underlying problem for us. They had an 8.6 release that came out two weeks ago, but we had to migrate twice because the code wasn't stable. We can't get things to work the same way. Version 8 was a big change for them. They made a change so that it is forced to be a managed hierarchical system. It means that you make changes at the top, and it pushes them downstream. There are a lot of problems with the 8.6 version code. I ran into four bugs in one week and was informed that we should just move onto the next one because all of those fixes have taken place. The feedback loop for fixes is not always really relayed back to you. I don't have a lot of strong things to say about version 8.6. When we had version 6, the controller was pretty much rock solid. We had no problems. We made a heavy investment to migrate a lot of stuff to take advantage of things like WPA3, Wi-Fi 6, and all that kind of stuff, and we haven't been able to turn those features on because we are not confident that they are going to work just yet. So, right now, we're still very much stumbling through the version 8.6 code and just trying to make sure that it is safe before we turn on some of those features. In terms of the marketplace, they are one of the top three leaders. In some respects, one of the things that they focus on is wireless. Therefore, there are some things that should be beyond reproach, as far as I'm concerned. In terms of the stability of the code, there are always going to be bugs, but the core stability of the code needs to be there. When it is not stable, that's a real problem for me because you lose a lot of confidence in the products."

What is our primary use case?

We run a number of guest wireless networks with captive portals with layer 3 networks. We run .1x for corporate SSIDs or wireless networks for additional certificate-based and/or WPA2 security.

How has it helped my organization?

Aruba has a lot of features that work particularly well. One of the things that Aruba is trying to do in most of its product ranges to make sure that all of their products now have a fully functioning northbound set of APIs. That basically means that you can plug it into any kind of system that you have for some operational pieces. For example, if you want to have Tufin, but more in line with things like change management. We're a ServiceNow shop, so we use that for change management and orchestration.

The ability to use the APIs that are available in the Aruba Wi-Fi controller means that you can get information from the system very easily by using APIs, or you can push changes to it. So, if you want to lock administrators there and restrict the type of functions that people can do, you don't have to give them access to the systems anymore. 

This functionality has been useful for us because we have recently outsourced a lot of our lower operational tasks to an outside vendor. With that, obviously, other people need to access systems, but we don't always want to give them direct access to the system. So, we can provide them with APIs to be able to perform basic tasks without giving them access to our dashboard services.

What is most valuable?

Aruba is an industry leader. The hardware is on par, and its performance is also on par with anybody else. The Aruba brand really only focuses on wireless, so they're not competing their R&D for switching data center products and cloud security. They're really focused on that and their underlying key pieces. 

They provide a role-based authentication that is native to the controller. A lot of other systems don't do that. They won't provide you the ability to basically have everybody join the network, regardless of whether or not they share the same network space, the SSID, or the wireless LAN. You can segment it down to a specific user role based on any kind of attributes that you like. That's their differentiator. If you need per user, per device, or per port segmentation, you can get that with Aruba. There isn't another vendor who does it.

What needs improvement?

Currently, the stability of the code is the basic underlying problem for us. They had an 8.6 release that came out two weeks ago, but we had to migrate twice because the code wasn't stable. We can't get things to work the same way. Version 8 was a big change for them. They made a change so that it is forced to be a managed hierarchical system. It means that you make changes at the top, and it pushes them downstream. There are a lot of problems with the 8.6 version code. I ran into four bugs in one week and was informed that we should just move onto the next one because all of those fixes have taken place. The feedback loop for fixes is not always really relayed back to you.

I don't have a lot of strong things to say about version 8.6. When we had version 6, the controller was pretty much rock solid. We had no problems. We made a heavy investment to migrate a lot of stuff to take advantage of things like WPA3, Wi-Fi 6, and all that kind of stuff, and we haven't been able to turn those features on because we are not confident that they are going to work just yet. So, right now, we're still very much stumbling through the version 8.6 code and just trying to make sure that it is safe before we turn on some of those features. 

In terms of the marketplace, they are one of the top three leaders. In some respects, one of the things that they focus on is wireless. Therefore, there are some things that should be beyond reproach, as far as I'm concerned. In terms of the stability of the code, there are always going to be bugs, but the core stability of the code needs to be there. When it is not stable, that's a real problem for me because you lose a lot of confidence in the products.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been working with Aruba Wireless for about four years now.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is pretty good. There are a lot fewer people in the office, obviously, because of COVID. Under normal situations, we were probably about 2,000 users a day. Between 40% to 50% of that would be corporate users with mobile devices, such as iPhones, as well as laptop users accessing corporate resources and the corporate LAN. We also have guest users.

They are really moving towards making it cloud-based and less attractive for you to use on-premises. There are still a number of limitations with the cloud. One of the reasons we don't use cloud controllers is that they're not able to support more than 250 access points per tenant instance. For example, you have two sites. One has 200 APs, and one has 300 APs. You could put one site in the cloud so that you wouldn't need to have on-premises wireless controllers. You could manage it all from the cloud instance, and you would have zero hardware and all that kind of stuff. 

However, you wouldn't be able to deploy the second site in the cloud because you can't put more than 250 APs. So, now you have got to go back to doing it the old-fashioned way, which is to have on-premises controllers or two management suites. You don't want to do that because the way this new code works is that it is hierarchical, meaning that you build your configuration centrally, and then you push it down to your access points or your local controllers. So, if you've got one management session in the cloud and one management session on-premises, you would have to manage them at two places.

I do understand that you can configure that local hardware. So, for the site that has 300 APs and a local controller, you could plug that controller into the cloud, but it is still for two different models. So, the companies that just want to have a very simplified setup or want to make it less complicated, they can just say that we're going to go cloud or just stay on-premises, but now you have to have a combination of both, or you just stay with on-premises. There are still some basic limitations preventing us from doing wireless deployments where controllers are based in the cloud.

How are customer service and technical support?

I use them a lot. Sometimes, I use them every day. They are pretty good. There is a problem in getting hold of people. That may be just because of COVID, but it is very much dependent on when you call and the type of issue that you have.

If it is a fairly standard issue, if you need assistance with a programming or configuration change, or if you need to know how to do something, you can normally get a very quick resolution. The meantime for resolution is pretty quick. It is within that call, half an hour, or one hour. You can generally speak to somebody. If it is some of the things that I have experienced or a bug, it can be very problematic. It could take days or weeks to get resolutions.

The basic stuff is really good. Anything past that, you probably need to have a dedicated support engineer on your camp if you're big enough, or you need to have resources that really know how to do the legwork beforehand.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I worked for a company that had Cisco for many years. Actually, towards the end of that, I switched them from Cisco to Ruckus. I did a POC and a pilot between Ruckus and Aruba, and Ruckus came out on top because of its simplified approach to wireless networking. I have also used Meraki, which is Cisco's cloud-only based AP solution. 

Cisco is like the other de facto. A lot of shops are all Cisco. Their hardware is probably on par with Aruba in terms of processing and handling capabilities. Features are also probably the same. It is more like a Ford-GM question. If you were brought up in a Ford household, you are probably going to buy a Ford sort of thing. I don't think there is much to them, to be honest.

The differentiator for me is that Cisco has a product, which is its network access control system, called ISE or identity services engine. That's a terrible product. It really is an awful product. It is very cumbersome, and it makes adding network access control to your wireless and wired networks very problematic. Aruba's product is called ClearPass, and it is a very flexible tool and easy tool. It is a much more reliable tool. While it doesn't have all the features that you can use with Cisco, it is a standard network application system, which means it will work with any vendor for any system. So, you can do 90% to 95% of the stuff you want, and it is a much more stable and capable system. This difference and the price are differentiators for me. 

From a purely wireless perspective, I think that Aruba is number one. Cisco is a very close number two, and then Ruckus is actually a distant third. Ruckus doesn't have all of the advanced capabilities, but what it does, it does very well. If you want a very basic entry-level wireless that is cheap for K-12 schools or a lot of environments like that, you can use Ruckus. If you need some of the advanced stuff, then you're going to have to pick one of the other solutions.

How was the initial setup?

I would say it is straightforward. It is just that it is a backward way of doing it. They had a fundamental shift in the way you deploy configurations in version 6 to version 8. So, basically, you would do one way in version 6, and then they completely reversed it in version 8. When you come into the product for the first time, it is easy and fairly straightforward. It is an easy adoption process. If you have got lots of experience with the previous version of code, such as version 6, and then you move to version 8, it is very confusing.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Aruba is probably cheaper than Cisco, and yet you get all the things that you want.

What other advice do I have?

I would recommend Aruba Wireless, but it depends on the size and the scope. If you are a large-scale enterprise, you are going to need to deploy something large. If you are a big university or something, you are going to have to pick one of the big three, which, in this case, is going to be Cisco, Aruba, or Juniper. Juniper's Mist is a recent addition that is hugely popular right now because of a lot of the stuff it does in the cloud. They are all cloud-based controllers, and they integrate machine learning into all of your analytics to give you data. 

I think that Aruba Wireless is a good product overall. They have some code issues with this change as most vendors do when they go through a major change. The product hardware is really good, and they have additional capabilities that Cisco doesn't have, like being able to do per-port tunneling so that you can keep isolation on. They are building features, and you could only make use of these if you extend out and use all the Aruba products like Aruba switches, Aruba ClearPass, etc. 

I've had a couple of conversations with them about the next release, which is actually pending. I don't think it is happening this year. It will happen next year. Version 10 is their next step of code, and it is geared more towards automating a lot of the setup. There are still a lot of manual tasks that you have to do. The automation piece has been something that has really garnered a lot of interest from the wireless community in terms of being able to set networks up. You can just buy access points and just throw them up, and once they're powered on, they communicate with zero-touch provisioning and all that kind of stuff. A lot of the automated processes are coming along, such as the ability to tie in cloud-based analytics to look at your reports, training, or data, like Juniper Mist is doing.

There will also be a change in the user interface. They have now brought in things like COVID tracking. It is not like they are adding features that the market wants. They will add the ability for you to be able to write things that you want to see so that you can basically do your own SDK, if you like, and more easily be able to tie that into what you're doing. I'm not sure whether they'll offer that within the version 10 code.

I would rate Aruba Wireless a seven out of ten. The negatives are the instability with the specific versions of code. These could be specific versions of code, but the newer features, such as WPA, WiFi 6, require some of the newer code. The newer code isn't really very stable yet. The high point would be that it is still an industry leader with on par hardware and performance like anybody else.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Tim Brumbaugh - PeerSpot reviewer
Solutions Architect at Golden West Technologies
Real User
Top 5
Great performance, easy to set up and simple to configure
Pros and Cons
  • "The product has some very awesome patents on their radios and their antennas and antenna patterns and how their signaling works. That's why nobody can touch them. If they go head to head with anybody."
  • "The cost could be slightly improved. It's not on the low end, and it's not in the high end. It's in that middle area, which can be a deciding factor between someone going with this solution versus another one."

What is our primary use case?

We primarily use the solution for its performance, compatibility, and general capabilities. We do a lot of schools, colleges, large civic centers, large arenas, etc. That kind of stuff. We know how to deploy this so that the clients get great client connectivity.

How has it helped my organization?

In terms of COVID, we've deployed external access points to the outside of a lot of the buildings. These are very weather-resistant, all-metal enclosures. The students have been able to do assignments and schoolwork and that kind of stuff from the parking lots of the schools. They can drive up in their car, get their assignments, or do work that they need to while they're connected to the school. It made social distancing in this way pretty seamless as everything was already set up on their laptops. Most of the schools are what they call the one-to-one initiative, where every student gets a laptop and they've been able to work through COVID from their cars in parking lots when they needed to be at the school for something. It's really benefited a lot of the schools to be able to do that.

What is most valuable?

The performance of the product is amazing.

The ease of configuration that's on offer is very good.

The product is very compatible with other solutions.

The guest onboarding is so simple. We can onboard guests really easily. Each guest that connects has a pre-shared key that they get which are all unique. We have some great control over the guest and corporate traffic. We can control how much bandwidth a guest user gets versus a corporate user, and who gets priority on there. 

Ruckus is way ahead of the game on a lot of stuff like Wi-Fi 6. They're already rolling out the second version of Wi-Fi 6, which is a huge improvement over even Wi-Fi 5. The way wireless started is you had 802.11b, 802.11a, then 802.11g and 802.11n, then 802.11ac, then AC wave to 802.11ax which is the first version of Wi-Fi 6. The next version of Wi-Fi 6 is rolling out already.

The product has some very awesome patents on their radios and their antennas and antenna patterns and how their signaling works. That's why nobody can touch them. If they go head to head with anybody. They blow Cisco and Aruba out of the water and even Mist for radio plant connectivity. On top of that, they have very good engineering. If I ever need help with engineering stuff, I can call on them. The company does a really good job, which is why we've stayed with them.

What needs improvement?

They're leaders in what they're doing. I don't know what they can do to improve what they're doing currently. 

The cost could be slightly improved. It's not on the low end, and it's not in the high end. It's in that middle area, which can be a deciding factor between someone going with this solution versus another one.

They've got a rotation or a life expectancy of about four years for the radio. Not that radio is going to die right hten. I've got some that are way older than that, that the customers are still using. However, they take them and they end the life of them at four years. Any of their wireless products are end of life by year four. Most of it's because technology has changed so much that those old videos can't do stuff that is now available for PCs to connect or phones to connect to that kind of stuff. 

What they do is they force you into a Cloud controller. We've got a couple of them. If I've got a Cloud controller there and it's on version 5.1, and I want to go to version 5.2, bdue to the fact that I need to support the new radios coming out, I can't if I have some older radios on that controller. I can't upgrade that controller to the latest software to support the new radios as I've got some end of life radios on there that go into life when I upgrade the software. They need to be able to allow us to keep some of the older products on the Cloud controllers or any of their controllers longer, and just start supporting the new controllers. They force you into an upgrade unnecessarily.

We have some customers that have just a few APs. There are some small businesses that don't want to, or don't need to upgrade their controllers and they're crushing their access points. For us to be able to work with the latest access points, we've got to upgrade our controller, however, we can't. That bites us every year. We'll have customers that have APs that are going end of life that still work fine, but we can't manage them anymore.

I know the reasoning behind it is it could be security features or it's something that the access points don't support that newer devices do. They'll support this new Wi-Fi 6 coming out, however, I can't run the same types of radios on this particular controller software anymore. That kind of puts me off a little bit, however, that's the only thing that the company has done that's made me mad.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using the solution for the past six years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability of the product is rock solid. We haven't had any issues at all.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The solution is extremely scalable. I can have up to three controllers with each one housing 10,000 APS. I can have a cluster of controllers controlling 30,000 different APS. I don't have anything that big. One is close to a thousand and that's the biggest I have. Still, it's nice to be able to build in more redundancy. 

How are customer service and technical support?

As a Ruckus partner, I've got access to Ruckus. I've got access to tech support, and it makes things a lot easier for the end-users and businesses I work with. If they have an issue, they can come directly to me or they can go directly to Ruckus, it doesn't matter. I'll be happy to help them. If I can't answer the question or get them fixed, then we'll get with tech support. I don't call tech support very often. Maybe once a year, if that. They make a good product and offer good training. Once you learn it, it's pretty easy to manage. 

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We used to have Cisco's products for one or two years. I don't know the last time I had to turn in an RMA for a Ruckus radio. They're a solid product.

How was the initial setup?

I've been doing implementations for a long time. If it's brand new to the system, like any system, it can be fairly complex. However, they have great documentation on their website on how to set it up. If a client needs complexity, however, they need help. That's where I come in.

I can go in and configure things securely for guest access and BYOB devices and corporate laptops with 802.1X. I have a stand-alone AP, I just got one office with one AP. I don't need it to be controlled by anything. If I've got one or two SSID, it can still be configured. It's just that you're doing it on the AP or, alternatively, they have what's called Unleashed, which is controller-less. The AP is the controller that can do up to 50 APs all controlled by one AP. If that AP was to die, it doesn't matter, that configuration is saved on all of them. 

There are several different interfaces you may run into, to be able to configure everything. However, they're all very similar in how they work and react. The full controller has much more capability than Unleashed and at least has more capability on the stand-alone. In any case, it's all well documented, and all straightforward.

In terms of deployment times, we figure for AP it's an hour and a half, so you can just figure in that as the base amount of time you need for each AP and that includes configuration and installation. Therefore, if you have 20 APs, it's about 30 hours for 25 APs and that's setting up the controller virtual, or Cloud-based, setting up the AP, the SSIDs, passwords, 802.1X., and then physically mounting them.

What was our ROI?

The solution definitely offers my clients a good ROI after they implement it.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

They don't really need to be cheaper. They're not the most expensive, and they're not the least expensive. They're right there in the middle.

What other advice do I have?

We're a reseller as well as a customer.

We're running the latest software. We deploy through a controller and we use 802.1X. There're multiple ways to deploy to customers. There's a cloud controller, for example. We typically do a virtual controller on their systems.

If a company is new to Ruckus, it's best to work with a partner. You need somebody that knows what they're doing, and knows what questions to ask so that you're getting the right information. When I go to do an implementation, I've got a list of 50 different questions. I'll ask somebody, what about this? What about this? What about this? It will help with the implementation process if someone has a complete view of what to ask for and what to do.

You get what you pay for. People will throw in Linksys, and this other stuff. If you're a business, say you're a coffee shop and you have 50 customers sitting there. You want all of them to get the same performance all the time. I want to make sure everybody gets an equal amount of time without anybody getting any interruptions.

With Linksys and Ubiquiti and all these other brands, you don't get that. When it comes to the head-to-head competition, the Ruckus far out-shines them. Ten to one, you just can't compete. When they say it's going to do something, it does it. They don't put documentation out that is misleading. If it says it'll do 1,024 clients it'll do 1,024 clients. If it says it'll do 4.3 gigabytes, it'll do 4.3 gigabytes. It's great.

Overall, I would rate the solution at a nine out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Private Cloud
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Marc Gaethofs - PeerSpot reviewer
ICT manager at a real estate/law firm with 11-50 employees
Real User
Top 20
A highly stable solution held back by limited controllers
Pros and Cons
  • "This solution is highly stable. We have only had one issue in seven years."
  • "The flexibility on the controllers isn't that great."

What is our primary use case?

We have a business center with about 600 tenants. We use Cisco wireless throughout our business center. We have a coverage shortfall for WiFi access for our customers.

We have 600 users in our building spread between roughly 20 to 25 different companies. We all have different needs and different security issues. 

What needs improvement?

The flexibility on the controllers isn't that great.

We always have to inject a third-party if we want to do things on social media, etc. If you have a guest network, you can make some connections with guest networks within your social media account — that's not the case with the standard solution from Cisco. You always have to get a third-party solution.

Our solution is prehistoric — it's seven years old. Still, they have perfectly served all of our needs. But now the market is changing. Because of COVID-19, more and more people are using wireless solutions. They're using Teams. They have bandwidth issues. That's a limitation with Cisco — you have to change all your APs again.

There's no way to upgrade it to make it faster and better, overall. The only thing you can do is add more access points, but then you have to license each access point. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

This solution is highly stable. We have only had one issue in seven years. We had one issue with our controllers. We upgraded our controllers and there was a little bug, but that was solved very quickly.

Also, we've never experienced any downtime.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It's scalable, but there is a break-level replacement cost.

We expanded seven years ago. If we want to expand further, we'll have to replace our controllers and add new access points. So expandable? Yes, but it's pricey.

How are customer service and technical support?

Cisco has a great support team. We pay a lot for support, but they are very accurate. They are very fast. They are very good and they have great knowledge.

We have a very good partner for technical support. We have a contract with them. The support is always great but it's limited to just one product.  

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is fairly complex because we have a lot of VLANs in order to enhance our customers' user experience.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

This solution is expensive, but you get value for your money.

Cisco is not cheap. That's actually an understatement. Our Cisco partners want us to partner with Cisco Meraki solutions because their cloud platform is monthly-based. We pay roughly $2,000 a year with our current subscription.

What other advice do I have?

I would recommend this solution to other users. If you're interested in Cisco, Meraki is a good choice, but they are lagging a little bit behind in terms of technology. If you compare Aruba with Mist, Mist has the most advanced wireless solutions that you can possibly get at the moment.

After over seven years of use, overall, on a scale from one to ten, I would give this solution a rating of seven.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner
Alexandra Cevallos - PeerSpot reviewer
Project Engineer at CIEMTELCOM
Real User
Top 20
Good dashboard, great support, and easy to manage and configure

What is our primary use case?

I use this solution for wireless.

What is most valuable?

It is easy to manage and configure. The dashboard of Meraki is easy to use.

What needs improvement?

Currently, only a limited number of clients can connect to these devices.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this solution for three years.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Our clients are small and medium companies, and we didn't have any problems with scalability. Our clients may increase its usage in the future.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their support is great. Its documentation is also good.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I used Juniper Mist. Cisco Meraki Wireless LAN is easy to use in the cloud.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It is expensive.

What other advice do I have?

I would rate Cisco Meraki Wireless LAN a nine out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Private Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Other
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: partner
Buyer's Guide
Wireless LAN
June 2022
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