Ruckus Buys WiFi Onboarding Specialist Cloudpath

Acquisition gives WLAN vendor a valuable feature and boosts its position in the WLAN market.

October 22, 2015

3 Min Read
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It’s been years since wireless network systems were about just client access. The bigger story is about the “add-ons” --  those features that round out the overall usability of a WiFi network. With the purchase of onboarding supplier Cloudpath Networks, Ruckus Wireless just bought itself a potentially disruptive add-on.

As a long-time Cloudpath customer, I understand the appeal of using an onboarding system. Configuring individual wireless client devices for use on secure WiFi networks isn’t trivial, especially when you have thousands of clients using any and every device type in today’s BYOD world. Now add frequent operating system updates to that already-complicated environment, and keeping it all sorted can be a challenge for users and support staff alike. A good onboarding system makes a range of problems go away, and Cloudpath is a very good onboarding system compatible with any WLAN.

As a latecomer to the enterprise 11n market when it was in its heyday, Ruckus no doubt hopes to leverage Cloudpath’s customer base to sell more 802.11ac network gear as older 11n deployments come up for refresh. But the WLAN vendor has bigger aspirations with this acquisition.

Ruckus has long been a proponent of Hotspot 2.0, which could transform public WiFi by bringing enterprise-grade security to the masses, but getting mass buy-in hasn’t been easy. Ruckus has deep penetration in the carrier space, and by extension access to huge customer volume at a time when carriers are looking ever-harder at WiFi to augment their services. Add the proven and easy onboarding capabilities provided by Cloudpath, and Ruckus might just be in a position to facilitate wider adoption of Hotspot 2.0.

With Cloudpath, Ruckus also is acquiring a complete solution that's superior to the competition. It’s becoming fairly common for WLAN vendors to offer abbreviated versions of Cloudpath’s capabilities. I’ve taken a number of them to task for leaving out important features that Cloudpath provided early on, including  options like toggling IPv6 support on or off, making sure device firewalls are on, and that system updates are set to automatic.

Beyond simple onboarding, Cloudpath provides basic, but critical, device management functions. In my experience, this provisioning sets clients with a common basic posture that leads to dramatically reduced trouble ticket counts and a known baseline to troubleshoot from.

Other vendors don’t seem to get that these “extras” are huge during onboarding, so Cloudpath often outshines native onboarders from major WLAN vendors that do nothing more than basic 802.1X supplicant configuration.

With the Cloudpath acquisition, we continue to see the WLAN market shake out and contract. Similar to Aruba’s2013 purchase of location services company Meridian, Ruckus now has a popular product it can offer into other WLAN vendors' environments. Whether these products will ultimately evolve into feature sets exclusively geared for their parent vendor or remain more universal in applicability remains to be seen, but in the short term they add an interesting dimension to an industry that has arguably become defined by vendor-lock for lack of interoperability.

As with Cisco’s purchase of Meraki, there are no doubt countless nervous Cloudpath customers that are hoping Ruckus doesn’t move their cheese too much. We'll have to wait and see.

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