Networking

How one university is upgrading three campuses covering 10 million square feet with gigabit Wi-Fi

The University at Buffalo is replacing its aging wireless infrastructure on three campuses with Aruba 802.11ac and ClearPass Wi-Fi.

The University at Buffalo (UB), part of the State University of New York (SUNY) public college system, announced Tuesday that it is upgrading its Wi-Fi with an Aruba gigabit wireless network.

The previous Wi-Fi connectivity in place was the single most-complained about item from students, faculty, and administrators.

The deployment will happen in three phases — the first two have been completed and the third will wrap up by fall 2017. The Wi-Fi uses a combination of Aruba 802.11ac Wave 1 and Wave 2 access points, Aruba AirWave for network management, and Aruba ClearPass for policy management and guest access. Each of the three UB campuses, with two in Buffalo and one in Amherst, are being upgraded. The campuses include a total of 10 million square feet and 150 buildings.

There are 20,000 undergraduates and 10,000 graduate students at UB, and the school has recently experienced rapid growth, requiring the new high-density, robust Wi-Fi solution.

SEE: 6 things you need to know about 802.11ac Wave 2 (TechRepublic)

"As a member of our faculty stated, 'Wi-Fi is as important to a university today as ink or chalk was 100 years ago'," said Brice Bible, vice president and CIO for UB. "Ensuring reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi has been a top priority for our IT team."

UB is installing approximately 6,000 access points (AP), 3,500 of which are already in place, consisting of both Wave 1 and Wave 2 802.11ac APs. In addition, UB is using Aruba's 7000 Series Mobility Controllers, AirWave Network Management with the Clarity module, and ClearPass for device profiling, differentiated customer access, and allowing visitors to connect to the guest Wi-Fi network.

"We're using ClearPass Guest to create a guest's active account, but more importantly, we're using it as a way to automatically drive customers to register all of their personal devices. These devices then reside on the Guest side of the house. The ClearPass Policy Manager also delivers insights and profiling capabilities used for visibility, planning, and troubleshooting," Bible said.

ClearPass has reduced complexity for UB, condensing its SSIDs from five or six down to three, with the ultimate goal to have one for 802.1X and one for everything else, according to Jerry Bucklaew, network architect with UB IT's department.

aruba-university-of-buffalo.jpg

Students at the University at Buffalo, where new gigabit Wi-Fi is being installed.

Image: BusinessWire

"Our two biggest types of devices are APs and IP phones on our wired network, but with 6,000 of the former and 10,000 of the latter, we didn't want each one of them to be specifically registered. Using profiling, we can determine if a device is an AP or a phone, then apply the appropriate policies in real-time, so we can avoid individually registering these 16,000 devices. We can then continue to require registration and authentication of all other devices on wired and Wi-Fi, which will become even more useful as we see more IoT devices on the network," Bucklaew said.

Bible said UB has already experienced a 21% increase in student satisfaction with the Wi-Fi infrastructure in residence halls.

"When UB first deployed wireless in 2000, it was one of those nice-to-have things," Bible said. "Wi-Fi was cool, but if it didn't work, it wasn't a big deal. Now, customer expectations have shifted and regardless of the location, application or type of customer, everyone considers wireless critical. It has to work 100% of the time, no exceptions. With our new network, we're seeing utilization through the roof and the complaints we used to see coming in from the website, social media postings and calls into support have declined rapidly."

Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers:

  1. The University at Buffalo is upgrading Wi-Fi on its three campuses with an Aruba gigabit wireless network covering 10 million square feet and 30,000 students.
  2. The Wi-Fi uses a combination of Aruba 802.11ac Wave 1 and Wave 2 access points, Aruba AirWave for network management, and Aruba ClearPass for policy management and guest access.
  3. UB is installing approximately 6,000 access points, 3,500 of which are already in place, consisting of both Wave 1 and Wave 2 802.11ac APs.

Also see

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox