Open Menu Close Menu


U Arkansas Network Upgrade to Support IoT and More

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock is upgrading its network in an effort to better serve students and employees, streamline the network infrastructure and support emerging technologies like the Internet of Things.

The university's existing network was built on a mishmash of dated equipment from a range of vendors — and struggling to keep up with the demands of an evermore tech-savvy and mobile student body looking to connect numerous devices, from smartphones and laptops to Apple TVs and Playstations.

"We were really searching for a long-term partner — not just a vendor — to come in and provide a technology road map, deployment plan and support resources to help our university reach its primary goals," said Thomas Bunton, interim associate vice chancellor and chief information officer for UA Little Rock, in a prepared statement.

The university decided to deploy approximately 3,200 Aruba gigabit WiFi access points and Aruba 303H access points, which are designed specifically for housing and hospitality environments; Aruba access and core switches; network management solutions AirWave and IMC; and ClearPass for additional security.

So far, the new tools have been implemented in 10 buildings, including a student center and attached recreation center, the library, larger classroom buildings and residence halls.

"We can deploy the Aruba 303H APs in the residence hall rooms while students are on campus because it's a standard maintenance request," Bunton said in a news release. "We'll put a note on the door letting them know we will enter their rooms for about 15 minutes. We don't have to do any invasive cable pulling, no drilling of holes in walls or placing things in ceilings — we just utilize the standard wall plate and leverage our existing investment in cabling, resulting in fast, simple implementation and reduced costs."

The university is also using the deployment as an opportunity to reconfigure the network and redirect resources to places they are more needed.

"We found that of our 29,000 wired ports on campus, we were only using less than a third, so that's obviously a huge investment," Bunton explained in a news release. "With Aruba's help, we've been able to resize the network, so that we continue to offer wired service, but only with connections that have existed within the past year. By decommissioning two-thirds of the wired ports, we're saving about $2 million and can invest more on the wireless side."

The updated network will also help the university with other projects, such as a video-over-IP project scheduled to launch in the fall, and reducing the cost of its virtual desktop infrastructure by allowing students to connect via their own laptops rather than thin clients.

In addition, the university's research activities and Emerging Analytics Center are driving a need for Internet of Things technologies, according to a news release. "UA Little Rock researchers, including one of the newest elected members of the National Academy of Engineering, Dr. Carolina Cruz-Neira, are constantly leveraging state of the art technologies like Microsoft HoloLens, and outside of the analytics center, IoT devices like Apple and Android TVs, Fire Sticks and older devices that don't use 802.1X authentication such as Nooks and Kindles, must all connect to the network," the release said, noting that ClearPass helps ensure that IoT devices can connect to the same network subnet as other mobile devices.

"Whether it's an Apple TV or Alexa device, ClearPass is instrumental in allowing users to connect these devices," Bunton said. "While many of them don't speak 802.1X, we still prefer that they're connected to the network, so ClearPass enables an SSID IoT network and behind the scenes, performs the 'magic' that bridges the two networks so they appear as one."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

comments powered by Disqus