When Swedish municipal IT provider Göliska IT went looking for a new wireless network supplier, it knew it needed three things: scalability, centralised management, and high reliability. It found all three in both Aruba Networks and its local reseller partner Capeiro.
Owned by the local governments of Götene, Lidköping, Skara – hence its name – and now Essunga as well, Göliska IT was the first official merger of multiple municipal IT departments in Sweden. It is responsible for the software and hardware in nearly a hundred municipal buildings, from offices to schools and hospitals, and its network includes almost 1000 Aruba wireless access points.
That’s a big change since 2008, when the organisation first brought in Aruba to help solve the reliability problems that it was having with its previous wireless networks, says Peter Holmgren, Göliska IT’s operations manager.
“At that time we had a bad and complicated solution that we were not at all happy with, so we searched for something new that would be scalable upwards in the number of access points. The requirements we had were that the solution should be centralised and support an infrastructure that standardises on Microsoft products,” he explains.
“We met with various vendors and concluded that Aruba best met our needs,” he says, adding that the decision proved remarkably foresighted. “This was 2008, and then no one had heard about BYOD, iPads and smartphones – we just needed a few access points for conference rooms and so on. Now, wireless is the primary network, even for TVs and all sorts of other equipment.”
As usage has grown, so of course has the need to expand the wireless coverage without losing either control or reliability. “The number one business benefit is mobility – we don’t sell many desktops now, everyone has laptops,” says Holmgren, adding that in today’s world it is vital to meet your customers’ mobility demands. That’s because if you don’t, they will route around you and take the network out of your control.
“The centralised administration is also very important to us, we save a lot of money by not having to go out to configure the access points,” he says, adding that this is especially important given that the networks and users are spread out over a large area. “We notice no difference if the access points are in the same building or 50 miles away. We have now started using Remote Access Points and the Aruba VIA [Virtual Intranet Access] client, and I see no geographic barriers at all.”
Göliska’s thousands of users are spread right across the four districts, and include students and teachers, as well as other local authority staff. “We have 80% of around 100 municipal buildings covered,” says Holmgren. “Schools are the most-covered – every school is already building out its wireless to nearly 100%. We haven’t deployed wireless throughout our hospitals yet, I think that will be the next big expansion though, when healthcare staff begin working with digital tools to a greater extent.”
The wireless network is used for a large number of applications, from ordinary Windows log-ins for email and so on, to specific healthcare and school software. Holmgren says schools in particular can opt to authorise privately-owned devices for BYOD, “but most don’t. They have a lot of devices anyway – each district has its own plans, but every student gets [the use of] an iPad, Mac or Windows 7 or 8 PC. For instance, we have 4000 iPads in one district alone.”
He continues: “The biggest challenge was that none of us thought in 2008 that there would be so many access points. We started by buying an Aruba 3400 with support for 64 APs. Today, we are approaching 1000 access points and we have replaced that single controller with four controllers – three big ones, including a 3600 which is the master, and a smaller one.”
The way Aruba works through experienced local reseller partners has been of great help to Göliska IT because it has brought access to complementary expertise, with Aruba knowing how to use the wireless technology to best effect, and Caperio knowing how best to integrate that with the rest of the IT systems.
“We have received much help from both Aruba and Caperio to design our environment as it has grown,” Holmgren says. “We work very well with Capeiro – we have a long relationship with them, we buy client devices from them, they help us with Exchange problems, and so on. We also have much direct contact with Aruba though – it is very good that we can talk to both.”
He advises that as well as working with a good partner who can help you build a scalable and highly reliable wireless environment, two other things are essential in a project of this kind. One is to remember also to scale up the LAN and WAN infrastructure behind the access points, and the other is to allow for monitoring and optimisation.
“We are very pleased with the opportunities that Airwave provides us with regard to the monitoring of our environment. It is a great tool for network optimisation – we use it to move APs and see where you need more,” he says. “With Aruba’s technology you can make a lot of adjustments on the network, though in practice most problems are related to the client.”
Looking ahead, Holmgren says that wireless network usage can only increase. “I would not be surprised if our customers want to provide our citizens with free Wi-Fi,” he adds. “We will most likely buy Aruba ClearPass to give our users more opportunities to self-provision their smartphones, Apple TVs and other mobile devices. We will also work to develop a more role-based design in our environment in order to reduce the number of SSIDs.”
Higher demand will mean providing more wireless capacity as well. He says that the Gigabit-class successor to 802.11n Wi-Fi, called 802.11ac, is “very interesting. It’s sad of course that we can’t upgrade our old AP-105s, but we can still add some 11ac.” He concludes, “It is hard to know what is in the future, but Aruba is a great product because we can always scale it up and buy new controllers.”
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