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Northwestern Continues Wireless Deployment with 802.11n

Following a multi-year effort, Northwestern University in Illinois has deployed wireless gear from Aruba Networks throughout its residential housing and at other spots on two campuses. The institution serves 15,000 students and 7,100 faculty and staff at its 240-acre Evanston campus and 25-acre Chicago campus.

The new residential 802.11n networks, installed during summer 2008 and consisting of about 500 access points, have replaced Cisco hardware. As budgets permit, legacy hardware will be replaced in hot spot locations as well. Previously, residential students were only able to connect wirelessly in study lounges and limited areas in dorms.

Both the Aruba and remaining Cisco networks are being managed through Aruba's AirWave Management Platform, which gives administrators a Web-based console for discovering, configuring, and monitoring the wireless network.

"Prior to deploying Aruba, our legacy deployment consisted of stand-alone access points that were difficult to manage, offered limited security, precluded seamless mobility, and did not meet the bandwidth needs of students," said Shehzad Amin, IT director of telecommunications and network services. "To address these limitations and future-proof our network, we sought a new 802.11n wireless LAN with a centralized architecture, built-in firewall, small broadcast domain support, flexible VLAN pooling scheme, and compatibility with the existing 802.3af power over Ethernet (PoE) injectors. Aruba was awarded the project based on the price and performance of their solution. They were also the first vendor to offer a small, aesthetically attractive 802.11n access point that ran in 3x3 [multiple-input and multiple-output, or MIMO] at full power from our PoE switches."

The university chose Aruba's dual-radio AP-125 802.11n access points, which are controlled with Aruba 6000 Mobility Controllers. "The system is designed to minimize IT overhead," Amin said. "[Aruba's Adaptive Radio Management] does away with the need for channel planning surveys and automatically manages access points, while policies and updates need to be loaded only once and are then automatically pushed to all devices. As a result, the IT team is freed from many of the time-consuming tasks that plagued the stand-alone access points."

"Network manageability was a key concern since we're concurrently running parallel Aruba and Cisco networks," he added. "The AirWave multi-vendor support blends these two disparate networks into one easily managed system, providing a graceful migration path from old to new."

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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