This is part of a series on the RUCKUS line of controllers. To read the introduction and to find other posts in this series, please see the first blog post which can be found here.
What is Unleashed?
To start off my series on RUCKUS Controllers, I thought I would go with the platform that is listed in the “Controller-less” line of controllers. (Take that Lee!) What is meant by a controller-less platform is there isn’t a dedicated piece of hardware purchased and installed in your network to handle the controllers duties, nor is there a cloud subscription that the APs talk to. In the case of RUCKUS Unleashed, the controller duties are handled by one of the APs in the network. The next question that generally comes up is which AP should I use if I want to try out Unleashed? In a bit of insider knowledge, the answer is any AP in the lineup. In what is a nice thing with the RUCKUS AP lineup, any of the APs can be used with any of the platforms I am going to cover. Pick the AP you want based on the requirements for the space, and that AP can run Unleashed.
One Unleashed network can have up to 128 APs and 2,048 concurrent devices connected. Being what is known as a converged management system, Unleashed can also be used to “manage” up to 8 RUCKUS ICX switches at the same time. I decided to put the manage part in quotations because even though the information you can find online uses that term, I find it a bit of a misnomer. I would use the term “monitor” the switch really. Unleashed allows you to disable and enable ports via the Unleashed dashboard (I’ll get to that in a bit) and monitor what is going on with the switch and switchports, but you are still going to need to jump on a CLI to do the actual management part of the switch like configuring VLANs and other such things. While not a big enough of a disappointment to me (I like CLI actually) for some that might be a downer to discover after that fact.
Add in a host of other features, many of them considered Advanced features that we will get into later, and Unleashed is a great way to start your RUCKUS journey.
How to set up Unleashed
The first thing you are going to need is an AP. If you clicked on that link earlier then you have already seen the data sheet for Unleashed, if not here it is again. Scroll down to page 6 and figure out which AP you want to pick up, either from your friendly neighborhood RUCKUS Partner or from some other source (that I won’t name here) in order to get started. Nothing there tickling your fancy, the other way is to head on over to the support site and create an account if you don’t already have one already. Creating an account is free and easy, and not a bad idea since it’s how you are going to get the code you are going to need. After creating your account, log in and from the main page, click on the Unleashed icon in the grid of other solutions. After clicking on the icon scroll down to see the list of APs under the Software heading, and pick out an AP from there. While you are here you might as well download the software (firmware) that you are going to pair with your hardware, once you get it.
Worried about the AP you selected might not be up to the task? Don’t be. The scale of the network is set to ensure that even that R320 can handle the controller duties of a network comprised of R750’s. While I suspect that if the Unleashed “Master” was running on the R750 the network could scale larger, the limit ensures that there isn’t any confusion later. Besides, 128 APs and 2,000 concurrent client devices seems like a pretty decent size network for this. No need to get greedy.
Once the AP and firmware are somewhat co-located, go ahead and power up that AP. Good news is the default IP address and credentials are on the bottom of each AP. If the AP was able to pull an address from your local DHCP server, use that IP address instead.
Using those credentials on the bottom of the AP, go ahead and log in. If you have trouble logging in, that means that the AP might need a reset, so locate and then press and hold the reset button for about 20 seconds. Additionally, try another browser. Depending on the code version on the AP, some like different browsers than others based on the OS of the computer. Once in, the next step is to load the firmware. Don’t worry, the hard part is already behind you!
From the left menu select “Upgrade” from the Maintenance menu, and since you are more than likely local, just click local. You can pick the other ways but if the firmware is on the computer you are using, why make it harder? Select firmware, choose file, go find the firmware in your download file, and then “Perform Upgrade.” When it’s all done, and rebooted, it’s time to configure!
Never configured Unleashed before, or maybe this is for someone not as versed in the 802.11 wisdom as yourself, no problem. There is a wizard! Basic configuration stuff here, and I am betting anyone can follow it. Once completed, the AP will reboot and when it comes back, there will be an SSID and a login screen using credentials set up in the wizard.
Thanks to the configuration wizard, once the AP reboots the SSID configured will now be seen by the users and as far as most basic users know, the work is done. For the home user that likes to fancy themselves a power user, there is a couple of ways they can managed their new fancy network. We are going to cover the Web UI first. Just like before, navigate to the IP address of the AP via a web browser and this time, a new log in screen. Log in using the credentials set up during the configuration wizard and users are presented with a dashboard that while not splashy, is pretty functional. Condensing the fields down gives the basic user the ability to pick their category to investigate without overwhelming the user at first glance. Trust me, clicking the arrows on the right hand side allows you to start digging into some pretty nerdy stuff. Word of advice here, don’t neglect the “Internet” section at the top. Clicking on that arrow actually gives you some interesting statuses that can help users out. Wi-Fi Networks, Clients, Access Points, & Switches are the next items to be seen, and for the most part, pretty self explanatory.
In what is a pretty slick trick with Unleashed, if the network requires additional APs (you know, those extra 127 that you bought earlier) simply plugging the next AP into the same Layer 2 network and the new AP will discover the existing Unleashed AP and join it. Might have to give that reset button on the AP a press, but it will join and magically any SSID’s or advanced settings (that I will get to in a second) start working. Unlike standalone, or autonomous code, Unleashed is designed to give you that controller like function, but without the controller. Parents have a big home and really need 2 APs to cover all that extra space they don’t use? Unleashed gives you a simple Wi-Fi experience built on the back of some robust RF features (like BeamFlex+ and PD-MRC) but can be configured in minutes. Enterprise type of solution with an “at home” configuration feel.
Don’t have Cat6 running throughout the house? No worries, Unleashed also can connect APs via mesh, and it’s built in! While that topic is a little more in depth than I want to get into here, you can go to this video and learn more. Oh, I didn’t mention this, but there are a whole series of YouTube videos covering the topics so if you get stuck at any point, they are there for reference!
Before getting into the Admin & Services tab at the bottom of the WebUI, I want to cover the other method of managing and monitoring your Unleashed network. There is a free iOS and Android App that can be installed on your phone! While not as fully featured as the WebUI, it will give most users everything they need when managing their network. Download the app, make sure you are connected to your Unleashed network, and log in using the same credentials as, and now users can quickly monitor and manage their network from anywhere!
Swiping through the circles at the top gives users a quick glance at how their network is performing. Clicking on the arrows on the right gives you more information, while clicking the white plus above the WLAN circle allows you to create a new WLAN directly from your phone. Sure, I constantly feel the need to create new WLAN’s on my network without planning and without time to find a computer, but it’s there. </sarcasm>
I told you I was going to get there. Everything so far seems pretty basic, which is good for the basic user type (like my mother) which is good (no offense mom). But what about those people looking for that next little bit of knobs and adjustments? While not as fully featured as a full blown controller (remember, we are talking controller-less here), Unleashed has you covered with that bottom menu item from the WebUI. I’m not going to go into full details on everything here, but I wanted to give you a quick look at what can be tinkered with.
Couple of quick notes I have found here. Under “Services” is a tab called WIPS. Yes, this is a functional WIPS and if you are running this in a lab to play around with (like me right now) it’s best you get into that tab quickly and turn it off. You see, I have other APs on my network and Unleashed is flagging those as a Rogue AP (an AP it can hear over the air AND see on the wired network) and it is currently filling up my logs. Handy for an office that wants a feature like that (you can set it up to alert on something like that) but for my lab, maybe not so much. Also, under “Administration” there is also an Upgrade button. Unleashed will check to see if there is new firmware and allow you to upgrade directly from here. You can still perform a local upgrade if wanted, but it’s nice to not have to fuss with it.
Switching back to the mobile app, I want to talk about the hamburger menu button seen from the main screen (the three line thing in the upper right of the app). Most of these are pretty self explanatory, but I wanted to bring up the “Remote Management” tab seen here in the middle.
This remote management feature looks REALLY cool, but you will need to have valid Unleashed support contract in place to make this work. If you have that, GREAT! If not, I suggest watching this video to discuss another method. One of the cool things is the ability to remotely manage and monitor up to 10 Unleashed networks this way, assuming you happen to be onsite during set up for the parents. Another feature, which I won’t get into much, is the idea of the Unleashed Multi-Site Manager. If you want a video overview of that, check out this video from the series on Unleashed that I referenced earlier. In a nutshell, UMM can manage up to 1,000 separate Unleashed networks or up to 10,000 APs. You know, for that person that needs to manage 10K APs but doesn’t want a controller to do it.
Unleashed Final Thoughts
Unleashed wasn’t the first platform that I tested when I joined CommScope RUCKUS, it was actually RUCKUS Cloud since setting up that network was even easier than Unleashed. That was me being overwhelmed and wanting to take the path of least resistance. Looking back, that was probably a mistake on my part. I have teammates and family that run their home networks on Unleashed, and they love it. I mean, what’s not to love? RUCKUS has always been known for superior RF technology using BeamFlex and now people can run it in their homes simply at the cost of the AP. Sure, it maybe more expensive that the bottom shelf hardware you can find at the big box stores, but I know folks still using their 802.11n RUCKUS APs in their house (on Unleashed) and loving it.
Add in the additional Enterprise class features and functions, an entire YouTube series explaining Unleashed and how to configure and use it and RUCKUS Unleashed becomes this little hidden gem that only the cool kids (or the folks from the Black Hat NOC, and oh, that one cousin I have in SLC) are using in their homes. OK, maybe more of the nerdy crowd than the cool kids, but you get my point.
With the movement to more remote learning for the kids, and working from home for the parents, I think you owe it to your home to look at some enterprise grade gear that can usually be acquired for less than you might think, especially on the reseller market. I would love to hear from anyone else that runs Unleashed in their homes or businesses and what their experience is. Drop me a comment below if you don’t mind!