By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2006-11-20 Print this article Print

Ruckus Wireless MediaFlex NG products provide highly stable and consistent wireless connectivity that dovetails nicely with IPTV or other streaming media services. However, eWEEK Labs tests show some early-generation limitations and drawbacks.

The Ruckus MediaFlex Router (Model 2825) and the MediaFlex Adapter (Model 2111) both use Ruckus BeamFlex technology. Beam-Flex intelligently employs six internal antennas to provide a clean, consistent 802.11g transmission between an access point and client, minimizing the degenerative effects of interference from devices such as microwave ovens or Bluetooth adapters.

The MediaFlex solution is ideal for IPTV (IP Television) or other streaming traffic, as both the router and adapter prioritize multicast traffic—using a technology Ruckus calls SmartCast—whereas typical wireless devices put multicast service at the bottom of the bucket.

Although the MediaFlex gear can be purchased on its own ($159 for the 2825 Router and $99 for the 2111 Adapter), these devices are more likely to be provided as part of an IPTV subscription. The devices are intended to be managed by the user and by the IPTV service provider, so there are separate administrator log-ins for both parties.

The MediaFlex Router supports two SSIDs (service set identifiers): The service provider preconfigures one to work with the adapter, which would be connected to a set-top box for IPTV service. The second SSID is for the user, for connecting to third-party wireless data clients.

The router has only one radio, so both networks share the same airtime, but users are able to configure separate security parameters. Both devices support WPA-PSK (Wi-Fi Protected Access Pre-shared Key) and WPA2-PSK.

We were ecstatic that the Ruckus equipment now offers a WDS (Wireless Distribution System) repeater, which allowed us to bridge multiple wired Ethernet clients connected via a switch to a single 2111 Adapter.

However, the WDS feature comes with a catch: The adapter comes preconfigured to associate to the service provider network, and the clients on the service provider network are isolated from the rest of the local LAN, picking up their DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) addresses from the service provider itself. Users who want to use WDS to bridge wired clients (other than those provided by the service provider) will have to buy their own 2111 Adapter separately. Ruckus representatives provided us with the default service provider password, so we were able to reconfigure the 2111 and verify that WDS works.

We were also disappointed to find that the MediaFlex Router does not encrypt management commands. Because the MediaFlex Router is meant to be managed by both the user and the service provider, the router can be configured by Telnet or via a Web management interface. Neither method is encrypted, however, so the password to log in to the router is transmitted in the clear over the Internet.

Ruckus officials claim that support for HTTPS (HTTP Secure) and SSH (Secure Shell) support will be added in a soon-to-be-delivered firmware update. In the meantime, current firmware revisions do allow the service provider—but not the user—to disable Telnet support and change the HTTP port of the management interface.

The router offers port-forwarding capabilities for redirecting defined network port calls from the Internet to a host on the protected network, allowing users to host a data or game server. The router by default is also a DNS (Domain Name System) proxy for internal hosts. This makes for easy client configuration, but it also means that Port 53 is visible to the WAN. This option was not reconfigurable.

Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at andrew_garcia@ziffdavis.com.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for eWEEK.com, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at agarcia@eweek.com.

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