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Oxford Brookes U Boosts Wireless Coverage with Controller-Free Architecture

UK's Oxford Brookes University has introduced a controller-less wireless network to its five campuses. The institution has put an Aerohive Networks network in place to deliver connectivity to 18,000 students and 2,500 staff. The new network was added to increase wireless coverage and keep up with growth in mobile devices that has doubled year over year since 2009 and is expected to continue growing. The university estimated that between 1,000 and 2,000 devices access the wireless network each day.

The procurement process evaluated product lines from a variety of vendors in addition to Aerohive. Oxford Brooks also reviewed Gartner research on wireless networks, checked on vendor references, and sought advice from other institutions. Noted Chief Technology Officer Robin Breathe, "Evaluating technical specifications and running small pilot deployments fulfils a checklist tender process, but doesn't answer our questions about niggles in the deployment process, long-term operational demands or compatibility with new devices or applications. Speaking with Aerohive's customers, and reviewing Gartner's own research, provided an additional layer of confidence."

The approach Aerohive takes to access point and network management was a big selling point for the university. The company's HiveManager Virtual Appliance provides a central view of all network activity across the entire institution. When a new access point is installed, it shares configuration information with other APs in its "hive" through a self-organizing capacity and can be monitored and managed through HiveManager. When failures surface among devices, the hive regroups to redirect data traffic.

"With Aerohive I get all the functionality in one license, as opposed to having to buy multiple licenses for multiple functionalities," Breathe noted. "This includes firewalling and user profiling for enforcement throughout the edge of the network--something that other vendors would normally impose incremental charges for. And being controller-less has made the network easy to scale: Whether we're installing the 51st or 251st AP, network performance remains just as resilient, and there are no controllers to purchase and licence."

Over the coming year Oxford Brookes will expand its wireless coverage. "In five years time, it's possible that all our network access will be wireless," said Breathe. "To sustain the tens of thousands of concurrent devices such a system would have to support in an environment like ours, Aerohive's architecture is the only way we could foresee achieving this."

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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