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Utah State Overhauls Wireless Infrastructure

Utah State University has gradually upgraded its wireless infrastructure and stuck with the same vendor it chose back in 2007 for a campus-wide wireless deployment. The 400-acre campus now has about a thousand Meru Networks AP320i access points to support its 27,000 students and staff members at six campuses. The network supports as many as 7,000 unique devices in a day and up to 4,000 simultaneous users at a given moment. In other Meru news, the company has announced several new products in its networking line.

"I fully expect our wireless network to carry the majority of traffic across our campuses within the next five years," said Eric Hawley, vice president of IT. "It is essential for us to deliver seamless mobility today and set in place future capacity to accommodate our rapidly growing student population and the vast number of different devices they'll use to access our network."

Hawley said that a broad evaluation of vendor options concluded that Meru's approach for virtualizing wireless network access addressed the university's current and future needs, "while helping us meet the demand cost effectively." He added that the company's hardware has enabled the institution to expand wireless coverage "by an order of magnitude and reduced our network management overhead."

This week Meru introduced new access points, controllers, an upgrade of its wireless operating system, and a new guest access technology based on a recently acquired product line.

The AP433i and AP433e access points have three radios with capacity for a fourth one, and an internal and external antenna, respectively. The AP 433is has dual three-stream 11n radios and one dedicated radio frequency sensor for spectrum analysis to detect, report, and react to WiFi and non-WiFi interference. The sensor is an option on the other access points. The AP400 line was first announced in the spring.

The new controllers--the MC3200 and MC4200--improve on the scale and capacity of existing Meru controllers. The MC4200 offers dual 10 gigabits per second interfaces or four 1 Gbps interfaces. This 2U device supports up to 500 access points. The MC3200, a 1U device, has four 1 Gbps interfaces and supports up to 200 access points.

Both new controllers run the latest version of Meru's operating system, System Director. Version 5 of the operating system was redesigned to address the particular needs of dense environments with a multitude of different kinds of devices.

"Increasing demands on the WLAN, particularly in the form of users bringing their own (and often multiple) devices for use in the enterprise point to the need for the architectural and management innovations--like System Director 5--that have been the hallmark of Meru's products from the start," said Craig Mathias, a principal with wireless and mobile advisory firm Farpoint Group.

Meru also introduced Meru Smart Connect, based on guest management technology acquired when the company bought Identity Networks in September. The product, available in a virtual edition or an appliance, manages guest IT policies and lets non-IT staff set up guest access to the wired and wireless network. It also provides audit and reporting capabilities to address potential compliance requirements.

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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