Ventura Unified School District Selects Ruckus for Large-Scale Wireless Initiative to Drive Technology-Enhanced Learning

SUNNYVALE, CA – September 17, 2012 – Ruckus Wireless™ today announced that Ventura Unified School District (VUSD), a large school district located in Ventura, California has standardized on its Smart Wi-Fi products and technology to support its one-to-one computing program and foster a more interactive learning environment for students and teachers at its 28 K-12 schools and district offices.

VUSD selected Ruckus’s advanced ZoneFlex™ Smart Wireless LAN system (WLAN) to deliver reliable high-capacity Wi-Fi to support its expanding use of mobile laptop carts and netbooks in the classroom, as well as a mobile healthcare clinic.

The district serves approximately 17,000 students with 1,000 faculty members across 28 different campuses. VUSD is purchasing and installing over 500 ZoneFlex dual-band 802.11 Smart Wi-Fi access points (APs) to deliver performance and capacity across all of its schools as well as its 140,000-square-foot district office.

“VUSD works diligently to inspire our students to excel academically and reach their full potential, and we strive to deliver a sense of community across all our schools,” said Ted Malos, IT director for VUSD. “The Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi system is helping us achieve this goal though advanced technology that delivers reliable, continuous connectivity that we can rely on for various interactive programs and videoconferences with outside organizations – both of which keep our students highly engaged.”

Test, Test, Test and then Test Again

Previously, VUSD had a legacy 3Com system of unmanaged access points that was unable to keep up with wireless demands as more devices came onto school campuses. “We were encountering problems daily due to dropped connections and limited coverage,” said Malos.

Malos and his team evaluated WLAN systems from Xirrus, Aruba, Meraki and Ruckus. According to VUSD, after a battery of tests, the team selected the ZoneFlex product due to faster and more consistent data rates at various ranges along with demonstrable cost advantages over competitive alternatives. “We conducted a bunch of very rigorous tests and found the ZoneFlex system simply outperformed all others – exceeding our expectations in almost every way,” said Malos.

For Ventura’s evaluation, students were asked to stress test their wireless connections. Malos also tested the systems by opening seven different YouTube videos streaming in separate windows. With the Ruckus ZoneFlex access points, 100 concurrent YouTube video streams transmitted flawlessly.

Controller-based vs. Controller-less: The Difference is ‘Wildly Amazing’

As part of the evaluation process, Malos found the costs for controller-less solutions, such as Meraki’s “controller in the cloud” architecture, were demonstrably more than traditional controller based architectures while performing “demonstrably worse.”

According to Malos, with an annual subscription cost added on to the price of each APs, the five-year cost for Meraki would have been more than five times the cost of the Ruckus ZoneFlex solution. “The cost difference cinched the decision,” said Malos. “This was a big surprise to us. But frankly, we needed a system that delivered high-quality Wi-Fi, not a fancy architectural trend that didn’t really solve a wireless problem.”

A single ZoneDirector 5000 controller located in the district office supports hundreds of ZoneFlex APs now deployed. “Our ZoneDirector is already capable of supporting 1,000 APs, which will help us as we grow,” Malos added.

To properly outfit each school, Malos’ team is placing one AP in every other classroom to provide adequate coverage and capacity to the entire campus. The APs are ceiling-mounted and connected to the LAN. In most rooms, an existing but unused cable drop was rerouted to the ceiling, providing a quick and economical path back to the network closet where connections were patched into Ventura’s existing 3Com Power over Ethernet (POE) switches. The Ruckus ZoneFlex system integrates directly into VUSD’s existing wiring closets without adding mid-span power injectors or electrical services.

Wireless Applications Abound

Ventura Unified School District partners with other agencies including the California State Parks PORTS project, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the City of Ventura and the Ventura County Office of Education to provide a number of interactive programs that allow students to have live discussions via videoconference with people out in the field, which puts further demands on the wireless local area network.

“In one of our projects with NOAA, elementary school students assembled in their ‘cafetorium’ for a videoconference session with a teach located across the country and 70 feet underwater in the Florida Keys,” said Malos. “The experience for them was awesome – and having a reliable wireless infrastructure made it possible.”

The Smart Wi-Fi network will be used to support a number of other applications, including its Aequitas Q student information system used by 1,500 Teachers and Staff in the district. The Ruckus access points provide stable network connections for Teacher’s wireless laptops. This is essential for maintaining the database connections required to run the Aequitas software reliably.

According to Malos, one of the elementary schools hosts a mobile healthcare clinic located in the parking lot, about 250 feet away from the nearest indoor AP. The clinic requires a reliable wireless connection to the Internet to maintain their medical records in the mobile clinic. At 250’ feet, the clinic maintains a 52 Mbps signal when connecting to the school’s new wireless network. This has allowed the mobile clinic to drop their “hotspot” laptop card and the attendant problems of cost, slow speed and overheating of the card they previously used with their laptop.

“Ruckus actually has reduced the stress of my job,” Malos said. “This time we got the horse before the cart. We went from wondering how to meet our wireless needs to exceeding our expectations. Using Ruckus is just plain smart.”