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News

Secure wireless LAN for large UK university campus

Aruba Networks : 03 June, 2009  (Application Story)
An Aruba scalable wireless network has been chosen for Manchester University with up to 4000 access points and policy enforced firewall infrastructure
Aruba Networks has been selected by The University of Manchester to upgrade its campus wireless network with a high-speed 802.11n solution. The University of Manchester is the UK's largest single-site university, and depends heavily upon IT infrastructure to support its 35,000 students, 11,400 faculty and staff, and world-class research, innovation, and learning initiatives. To address wireless usage that outstripped the capability of its legacy Cisco 'Fat' AP network, meet demanding future video and virtual learning needs, and provide pervasive coverage that may ultimately require in excess of 4,000 access points, the university conducted an extensive technical review of single, multi-channel, and adaptive wireless LANs. Aruba was selected after the university determined that Aruba's adaptive wireless LANs were more scalable, Adaptive Radio Management (ARM) easier to deploy, and overall the network was more easily managed than competing systems. The network will be supplied by authorised platinum Aruba partner, Pervasive Networks.

"We looked for a solution that could scale to deliver a pervasive wireless network on campus, yet would be cost effective and both easy to deploy and easy to manage," said Darren Hankinson of The University of Manchester's IT Services. "Aruba won on all points: its ARM technology makes deployment simple and automates a lot of the management; it's easy to build and manage all the different user communities we need to support; and the scalability of the solution is exemplary."

Aruba's massively scalable centralised architecture delivers switch-like performance while lowering IT operating expenses by simplifying network set-up, expansion, and updates. A master-local design allows master Mobility Controllers in the data centre to manage and update dispersed controllers supporting local 802.11n access points. This field-proven architecture minimises IT overhead while delivering visibility into, and fine-grained control of, the entire network.

An ICSA-certified policy-enforcement firewall provides identity-based security, Quality of Service control, and traffic management capabilities. The firewall classifies traffic on the basis of user identity, device type, location, and time of day, and provides differentiated access for different classes of users. Guest access to applications and resources, and even bandwidth consumed, are tightly controlled by the firewall and an integrated captive portal.

Aruba's Mobility Controllers authenticate users through Active Directory, RADIUS, LDAP and other commonly employed databases. Until such time as they are decommissioned, traffic from the 400 legacy Cisco 'Fat' APs will be passed through the Aruba controllers for authentication to deliver a uniform end-user experience.

To optimise Wi-Fi performance in real-time, ARM technology uses infrastructure-based controls to manage how Wi-Fi clients interact, and ensure that 802.11n data, voice, and video applications have sufficient network resources to operate properly. Acting on their own, Wi-Fi clients do not always work cooperatively with other clients, or select the optimal band, channel, and access point. These issues are exacerbated in environments like lecture halls and dormitories with high-bandwidth applications and densely-packed clients. ARM has been demonstrated to increase 802.11n throughput by more than 200%, enabling more than 100 laptops to reliably display multi-media lectures delivered from a single access point.

"Scaling a wireless LAN to support thousands of high-speed 802.11n access points is no mean feat," said Bob Vickers, sales director of Aruba UK and Ireland. "It requires high throughput controllers, automatic management of the ever-changing RF environment, and centralised management. The University of Manchester validated that the robustness and scalability of Aruba's adaptive wireless LANs make them a best-in-class solution for the rigors of a large university deployment."
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