Aruba wireless solutions are enabling UFS to operate effectively in the 21st century
In 2012 when the University of the Free State saw the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend start to gain traction, it decided to update its wireless network using Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. Aruba partner, Khipu Networks, handled the planning, Wi-Fi surveying and installation, with the first phase rolling out at the university’s south campus, and the main campus in Bloemfontein following suit a year later. Several years down the line, UFS’s QwaQwa campus rounds out Wi-Fi deployment across the campuses, while the main campus’s wireless network has been densified.
All campuses also enjoy wireless connectivity in their outside “open space” locations, with Wi-Fi being deployed in all residences as well. Gareth Trollip, Technical Manager at Khipu Networks, adds: “There are also ongoing requests for us to come and plan for Wi-Fi in new buildings as the university continues to grow. They want to have a completely connected campus.”
Developing the infrastructure to enable students to connect anywhere
Currently, the total number of Aruba access points (APs) is 2000, along with eight Mobility Controllers, to effectively serve UFS’s 33,000-strong student base and 4,500 staff. The university has worked as a mixed environment, making use of 802.11ac for high density areas and 802.11n for lower density areas. However, Trollip adds that they’re in the process of rolling out 802.11ac across the entire university.
Renier Sonnekus, Project Lead and Network Manager at UFS, comments that having Wi-Fi deployed across all parts of each of the university’s campuses is essential for its students. “The students want to be able to connect using their tablets and phones wherever they are. Ensuring that we have the latest technology not only in the lecture halls, but also in the residences and outside areas means they can continue learning and interacting with each other with no constraints.”
Managing authentication from a central location
The students want to be able to connect using their tablets and phones wherever they are. Ensuring that we have the latest technology not only in the lecture halls, but also in the residences and outside areas means they can continue learning and interacting with each other with no constraints
Renier Sonnekus, Project Lead and Network Manager at UFS
Of course, while giving students the means to connect wherever they are, it is equally important to manage their access to the wireless network effectively. Aruba’s authentication server, ClearPass Policy Manager (PM), helps simplify access for the over 30 000 users accessing the network.
“ClearPass is the authentication server to which all wireless connections in all locations are sent,” explains Trollip. “It’s in the data centre at the main campus in Bloemfontein, making it easy to manage authentication requests from the south campus or QwaQwa campus in one central place. All policies and rules are centrally managed there by the university’s IT team, along with Khipu.”
Sonnekus adds, “ClearPass has made it possible for us to manage the network across all our campuses. It has also been useful to us in dealing with students misusing the network. With the tool we were able to pick up those instances of intrusions and misuse immediately and act accordingly.”
Security policy definition & enforcement
The ClearPass Policy Manager solution was also an integral part of the deployment of ‘eduroam’ at UFS – the service that educational institutions use to ensure their staff and students can easily connect to the wireless network at all connected universities.
“It works by broadcasting the eduroam service on campus, which staff and students can connect to,” says Trollip. “If ClearPass identifies that they attend UFS, it dynamically provisions their access to local UFS resources. Alternatively, if a student or staff member is visiting a UFS campus from another university, the authentication request is sent from the UFS ClearPass system to eduroam’s centrally managed RADIUS environment, and on to the student or staff member’s home campus authentication system. This enables the user to access their home resources from a UFS campus. Our ‘eduroam-in-a-box’ deployment method allowed UFS to setup eduroam quickly with minimal resources.”
AirWave Optimizes Network Operations & Helps Locate Lost Devices
UFS are utilizing Aruba AirWave to fully manage their wireless and wired network. They also use AirWave for remote deployments and managing the air. As a network monitoring and troubleshooting tool AirWave provides UFS with helpful visuals when any access points or switches go down. All Wi-Fi controllers are also managed at one central point on the main campus which simplifies the task and save a lot of time and cost for the IT team. UFS also use AirWave to manage and prioritize VoIP for the students across the campus.
One key feature which is also taken advantage of in AirWave is the ability to detect and identify each device and therefore enhance physical security. UFS can locate and track devices which have been reported “lost” within in the campus, which is hugely beneficial as, this alone, has saved UFS a lot of money by reducing device thefts on campus.
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