Danes Go Global with Aruba Wi-Fi
When you are running a globe-spanning business, the last thing you need is extra IT overheads. So when agricultural supplier Cheminova found its existing Wi-Fi systems creaking at the seams, it knew it needed something more capable yet easier to manage and a lot less demanding.
What it got from Aruba Networks is not just a better Wi-Fi network though – it is a single wireless network that covers all its offices world-wide and can be managed from one central location. In addition, that single infrastructure also provides BYOD wireless for staff and guests, and it has helped Cheminova move from expensive dedicated international telecomms lines to cheaper Internet connections.
“We’ve had wireless for a while – it started here at HQ,” says Cheminova systems engineer Brian Bach-Hansen. “Our people need mobility – they needed a way of taking their laptops into meetings and so on. We are a bit DIY [do-it-yourself] and we thought we could build out own wireless service using third-party equipment adapted for our own use – we set it up so it worked the way we wanted.
The good thing with Aruba is you only need to manage in one place, even when you’re going from Denmark to Australia.
Brian Bach-Hansen, Cheminova
“It was a simple network, but it was very manual – too manual, in fact – and we didn’t get any feedback from the system if anything went wrong. So we began to look at the market to see what else there was. We found Aruba and some others, and we got them in for evaluation. Most of the ones we tried simply weren’t as leading-edge as Aruba, and on top of that we found Aruba easier to work with than anything else.”
Cheminova supplies crop protection products, meaning pesticides, fungicides and so on. It has production sites in Denmark and India, plus other facilities around the world, from Australia to the USA and various European locations.
Bach-Hansen says that a big factor in Aruba’s favour is that its Mobility Controllers allow the Wi-Fi in all the other offices to be managed and monitored from headquarters in Denmark.
“We found that we don’t even need controllers in our remote offices – we have set the system up so that even if the line goes down the remote network carries on working locally,” he says. “It is nearly everywhere in the company now, and it is only a matter of time before it is everywhere.
“We have 54 APs and six RAPs. The network is indoors-only, there has been talk of having external APs, but that’s a whole new ball game, with different coverage characteristics. We have one controller for now, but as more people come onto the system, the more they rely on it, so we will probably add two more. The Aruba 3400 is enough though – another good thing about Aruba is they all run the same software, so there is no need to buy a 6000-series just to get latency mitigation, say.”
Bach-Hansen even compares Aruba with perhaps the best known Danish invention ever – Lego. He explains that like the little bricks, “The great thing with Aruba is you can scale it whichever way you want, and it has from entry-level to expensive kit. We picked some in the middle.”
Cheminova now has two wireless networks: a secure one for internal use – staff laptops are all company-owned – and a second for guests to use. Staff can also use the guest network for BYOD, allowing them to connect their smartphones and tablets to the Internet.
“The system automatically routes users to the right network,” says Bach-Hansen. “Smartphones are not that problematic – they simply get the password for the guest network, which we change every so often. Our aim is to keep it as simple as possible so we don’t have ClearPass yet, although we will probably implement it in the future.”
He adds that the process of implementing Aruba Wi-Fi also catalysed other improvements in Cheminova’s network infrastructure. “One thing we did need to do was re-think our network links to our subsidiaries,” he explains. “Aruba needs a heartbeat [from the access points] to the controller, so if we have a lot of latency it’s a problem. The line to Australia was a bit of a headache at first – it it was the only remote office where we thought for a moment about sending a controller out there. However, once we tuned the system for the latency it was OK. Now we can change our MPLS connections to normal Internet lines – that will save some money.”
As well as the obvious business benefits of mobility and connectivity, Bach-Hansen says that Aruba technology is improving the way people work in other ways too. For example, Cheminova staff have been able to greatly simplify their connectivity when travelling by using Aruba RAPs (remote access points), which extend the internal company Wi-Fi to a remote location.
“Some of us have RAPs to travel with – plug it into your hotel Internet connection and you are instantly and securely connected to the office wireless,” he says. “Right now our guys are rolling out SAP too, and they can use RAPs for that as well. 3G is very good but unfortunately it doesn’t give us control of QoS [quality of service], and SAP needs QoS.”
Bach-Hansen advises that, as is so often the case with new technologies, simply trying to supply what your users actually need is not enough. You also need to pay attention to their expectations, and have a plan for rolling the services out in a way that keeps the users engaged.
“You do definitely need to know in advance what your company wants to have,” he says. “There’s so many ways you can work, and each has so many possibilities – for example, the sales guys want to be always online everywhere, so their vision of what wireless means is different from IT’s. For us, we started by saying all meeting rooms would have wireless and it spread from there.
“Then it’s tuning – the brilliant thing about Aruba is you can go into the management interface, and even without Airwave you can see the channels used, the client speed, how many dB you’re getting to different APs and so on. If we see many being slow we can tune APs to ignore those clients.”
His one caveat here is that the Aruba controllers can only retain a limited amount of management data, enough to give him perhaps the last hour or two. That is fined for local use, but “awkward if Australia has a problem!” However, Cheminova is already planning to install Aruba’s Airwave management tools to support its growing network, and he says this will also solve his Australian issues. “It is much easier with Airwave because then you have as long a time record as you want,” he adds.
All in all, Bach-Hansen says the Aruba technology has proved to be an ideal fit for Cheminova’s business and networking needs. “The demand for wireless is growing – as Aruba says on the box, people move and the network must follow,” he says. “That’s the business benefit we get. It changes the way people work.”
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