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Carnegie Mellon Completes Upgrade to Wireless Andrew

Carnegie Mellon University has completed the upgrade of its core campus WiFi network using 802.11n equipment from Aruba Networks. As part of the university's "Wireless Andrew 2.0" upgrade, the campus has deployed 1,540 Aruba 802.11n access points and dual Aruba 6000 Mobility Controllers. This gear delivers high-speed WiFi service to academic and administrative buildings including lecture halls, laboratories, faculty and staff offices, the campus library, and the University Center. The network also includes three mid-campus student dormitories.

The original Wireless Andrew project began as a research network in 1994 to support Carnegie Mellon's wireless research initiative and was later expanded throughout the academic and administrative buildings as well as student residence halls. Prior to commencing the current upgrade, the university conducted a comprehensive technical assessment and performance test that included both adaptive and single channel wireless LAN technology. Aruba was selected based on its wireless LAN performance, centralized network management, and security features.

"The new Aruba 802.11n network covers the core of our campus and we're very pleased with the network throughput, coverage, and reliability," said Dan McCarriar, Carnegie Mellon's director of network and production services. "The network automatically adapts to local operating environments, and we have received very positive feedback from users about network performance. Network deployment was very straight-forward. The access points are small and unobtrusive, and their antenna patterns support both wall and ceiling mounting."

Aruba's Adaptive Radio Management (ARM) technology automates site surveys and uses infrastructure-based controls to optimize the performance of WiFi clients in real-time. By controlling how WiFi clients interact, ARM helps ensure that data, voice, and video applications have sufficient network resources, including airtime, to operate properly.

The university is tapping Aruba's policy-enforcement firewall software, which is running on the Mobility Controllers. The firewall software provides identity-based security, quality of service control, and traffic management capabilities. The firewall classifies usage on the basis of user identity, device type, location, and time of day, and provides differentiated access for different classes of users. Guest access can be tightly controlled with respect to bandwidth consumed as well as the applications and resources that can be accessed.

"Aruba's policy enforcement firewall is getting widespread use and has proven to be an effective means of protecting network integrity," said McCarriar. "The Mobility Controllers support a range of other software modules, too, and we're currently experimenting with the Remote Access Point module. That module will enable us to set-up secure off-site network access without requiring any client software."

The university has also deployed a Xirrus wireless network on campus, which is operating as part of Wireless Andrew in several dorms and buildings housing engineering and computer science programs.

But according to Aruba, the proximity of the networks shouldn't create technical conflicts for users. Although the two networks are geographically separated, "they are both standards-based systems, so they would work well together even if they were in close proximity," said Robert Fenstermacher, head of Aruba's global education marketing. "In this case there's no concern whatsoever. They both would authenticate in the same manner."

Also, added Mike Tennefoss, Aruba's head of strategic marketing, "We incorporate ARM, which is designed specifically to address situations in which other networks aren't as well behaved as they should be. We can go into active avoidance mode, to make sure all the client devices will work well, and we avoid interference from adjacent networks. We play well with others."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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