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12/12/2007
12:21 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Case Study: Cornell To Blanket Campus With Wi-Fi

Cornell has decided that the 802.11b/g network it's had in place for several years is no longer cutting it. It will replace its existing wireless systems with 802.11n flavored Wi-Fi from Aruba Networks. The goal? Total indoor and outdoor coverage across the entire 745-acre campus. Wanna guess how many APs the deployment is going to take?

Cornell has decided that the 802.11b/g network it's had in place for several years is no longer cutting it. It will replace its existing wireless systems with 802.11n flavored Wi-Fi from Aruba Networks. The goal? Total indoor and outdoor coverage across the entire 745-acre campus. Wanna guess how many APs the deployment is going to take?C'mon, hit me with your best guess. Do I hear 1,000? 2,000? 3,000? Try 4,500 access points.

Right now, select buildings and green spaces at Cornell have some 900 Wi-Fi access points providing coverage. In the end, Cornell expects to provide unfettered Internet access to its more than 20,000 students and 14,000 faculty and staff in its 260 buildings. The expansion is going to take some serious enterprise-class access points and management software to get the job done right.

Cornell conducted an extensive in-depth technical assessment that included both adaptive and single-channel WLAN technologies. Think about all that a university has to contend with with respect to Wi-Fi. The range of building types and materials cover the gamut, as structures on the campus span more than a century of differing architectural designs and construction. Each building presents its own special challenge to deploying Wi-Fi.

Cornell needed something robust and scalable, but also something that is secure and can support a vast number of different computing devices. Faculty and students alike will bring everything from laptops to smartphones and other mobile Internet platforms to campus and expect to be able to hop into the Internet no matter what they're using. How else will they be able to download MP3s, er, I mean, collaborate with their peers?

"Wireless LANs are a critical network resource for students, faculty, and staff in today's universities, and in their role as business-critical infrastructure the wireless LANs must perform to a very high standard," said Keerti Melkote, Aruba's co-founder and head of products and partnerships said in a prepared statement. "That means, for instance, that the wireless LANs must work with every type of standard client that students bring on campus. Integrated security and endpoint compliance must be available to ensure that those clients are well behaved. And the networks must scale to support campus-wide deployments without imposing extra overhead on the IT staff."

Getting the right mix of APs and placement is important, but so is controlling the access. Thousands of students enter and leave Cornell University each semester. Cornell's IT team needs to be able to administer all those new and old accounts effectively, lest kids who should have access might not get it, and those that shouldn't might still be able to access the network.

Cornell is first going to tackle replacing the existing 900 legacy wireless devices with Aruba's adaptive APs. The entire network will be managed by Aruba's 80-Gbps MMC-6000 Multi-Service Mobility Controller. Once this phase is complete, Cornell will expand coverage over the entire campus.

Cornell didn't say how long it expects the roll-out to take.

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