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West Chester U Hits the Air with WiFi in 2 Residence Halls

West Chester University of Pennsylvania is deploying Aruba Networks' 802.11n WiFi networks at two of its newest residence halls. The deployments follow a favorable assessment of the projected monetary and sustainability impact of using Aruba's 802.11n networks in lieu of wired LANs as the primary form of network access. The residence hall wireless networks will be fully commissioned in August 2009, with dark Ethernet cabling installed only as a backup. Once the 802.11n network demonstrates the expected benefits of wireless, the university intends to forgo wired LANs in future residence halls in favor of WiFi.

West Chester is the second-largest institution in the state university system with 13,600 students.

"Our objective is to use wireless wherever we can, and deploy Ethernet only where we absolutely must," said Adel Barimani, the university's CIO and interim vice president of information services. "We reached this position after analyzing the infrastructure requirements in both our existing and new residence halls."

Richard Chan, assistant director of networking and telecommunications, acknowledged that "each seven-story facility typically houses about 625 students. Using Aruba wireless networks in existing facilities will eliminate roughly 1,050 Ethernet ports and 14 80-port switches per building, a savings of roughly $100,000 in existing buildings and $250,000 in new buildings that would otherwise require wire installation. Additionally, the reduced cooling and power requirements of the Aruba WiFi networks are expected to lower the carbon footprint of each building by more than 25 metric tons per year."

Aruba explained in a statement that network rightsizing is a three-step process that matches infrastructure with user needs. The first step entails assessing the actual or projected utilization of closet switches and ports. In a typical existing facility, the company said, it's not unusual to find that 40 percent of ports are underutilized or not used at all. The second step involves consolidating required ports into fewer switches to lower deployment and maintenance costs and reduce electricity and HVAC usage. The third step involves deploying 802.11n WiFi. Aruba has developed a calculator to show the estimated monetary and CO₂ emissions savings resulting from rightsizing.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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