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Networking & Wireless

New U Minnesota Network Expands IoT Capacity

University of Minnesota students using a laptop outdoors

Photo: Business Wire

A network revamp at the University of Minnesota is providing wireless connectivity for 48,000 students, 18,000 faculty and staff and 116,000 unique devices daily. It has also boosted the institution's capacity for secure authentication of Internet of Things devices such as game consoles, Amazon Echos, Google Homes and others.

The university worked with channel partner Pier Group to install 10,000-plus Aruba access points across its five campuses. The APs run on ArubaOS 8 software, which boasts a number of features designed to improve performance as well as user experience, according to the company. For example, Live Upgrade allows the network to be updated to the latest operating system without interrupting service, while the AirMatch RF optimization feature automatically selects the best channels for WiFi performance.

In addition, the university is using Aruba Airwave for network management, which provides rogue detection, built-in application tuning and troubleshooting dashboards, and Aruba ClearPass for network access control. ClearPass has allowed the IT team to securely authenticate a greater number of IoT devices: While the previous network was limited to about 200 devices, the upgrade has expanded that number to 3,600.

"With ClearPass, we can create a separate security domain for these IoT devices that tend to be more personal in nature," said Louis Hammond, service owner, voice and data network services, and next generation network project owner at the University of Minnesota, in a statement. "This gives us the confidence that we can continue to connect new devices to the network as they appear without worrying about security breaches."

Overall results include better wireless coverage within classrooms and lecture halls and a better experience for students and faculty, Hammond said. "Complaints about the network have been greatly reduced," he noted. "We're receiving praise from students and faculty alike, who have noticed a big difference in the performance. We're hearing that instructors are feeling encouraged to use technology in the classroom to improve student learning."

Future plans include extending wireless coverage to additional outdoor areas, such as common spaces and athletic fields. "We plan to continue building upon this network foundation, adding more devices and applications, and covering more of our campus to satisfy our university's needs," said Hammond.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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