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Stanford Overhauls Computer Science Wireless Network

Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA has replaced its wireless networking gear with wireless access points (APs) from Meraki in a 150,000 square foot computer science building. The facility houses Stanford's Computer Science department and the Computer Systems Laboratory. The building's 550 users had begun to complain at the start of the school year about wireless network failures. Computer Services, the IT team that supports the building, replaced 21 Cisco APs with 15 of Meraki's newly updated MR14 dual-radio 802.11n APs. The deployment took about four hours. The MR14 AP is priced at $799.

Miles Davis, director of Computer Services, described the department's network environment as challenging. "We've got robots on their own network drops, along with a campus network for people who come in and out of the building all day," said Davis. "We also have people who work in the building and have wireless devices that must work all the time."

New features for the Meraki hardware are delivered through the Meraki Cloud Controller, a Web-based software service that takes the place of the traditional wireless LAN controller. The latest updates offered through the service include:

  • Rogue AP detection, which detects nearby APs that may be spoofing service set identifiers (SSIDs, the public name of a wireless network), as well as APs that may be connected to the LAN without permission;
  • Network analytics to generate analytics reports about the usage and reliability of a Meraki wireless network, bandwidth trends, device popularity, and mobility;
  • Event logging to gain visibility into where, when, and how devices connect to a Meraki wireless network for troubleshooting and device tracking; and
  • The ability to broadcast for up to 16 SSIDs that are independently configurable. Administrators can use these SSIDs to create unique wireless networks for different groups of users and devices (such as guests, employees, or voice over IP handsets).

Davis used the rogue AP detection feature to find Cisco APs that needed to be disabled and removed. In addition, he used event logging to save time providing help desk support. Davis also posted a portion of his network analytics report to his blog, sharing the breakdown of wireless devices in the Stanford Computer Science department. The Apple iPhone was the most popular device at 34 percent of all clients. Following the iPhone was Mac OS X at 27 percent of clients, Windows Vista with 17 percent, and Windows XP with 10.5 percent.

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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