University of Bahrain Paves Way for Digital Transformation with Seamless, Secure Campus-Wide Wi-Fi from Aruba
As the IT Director of an educational institution committed to providing the latest facilities, Eng. Attiya needed to ensure that over 26,000 students and 1,800 staff had seamless campus-wide wireless internet access.
“We wanted our staff and students to take advantage of the mobility revolution as our goal is to transform into a digital university. A high performance Wi-Fi network would be fundamental to this vision,” said Eng. Attiya, Director of IT Center, University of Bahrain.
Tried and Tested, Could not be Bested
Aruba has been UOB’s vendor of choice right from when the University first decided to invest in a Wi-Fi solution back in 2008. At the time, a mere 60 Aruba 802.11a Access Points (APs) were sufficient to meet requirements.
“But as smartphone penetration in Bahrain exploded, we began to see these devices become much more prevalent in our campus. We were presented with an opportunity to introduce new mobile services but needed to upgrade our wireless infrastructure,” said Eng. Attiya.
With a campus that sprawls over 5 sq. km in area and up to 10,000 simultaneous users on the Wi-Fi network, high-density, security, ease of installation and configuration, and rapid troubleshooting were key requirements for success.
“In the seven years that we used Aruba’s previous solution, we did not have a single instance of access point failure,” said Eng. Attiya. Backed by this confidence and the expert support offered by Kanoo IT, Aruba’s integration partner in Bahrain, he and his team decided to undertake the overhaul of the University’s wireless infrastructure.
Expert Design Unlocks the Power of Aruba Technology
One of the biggest challenges during deployment was the sheer scale of the project. Over 80 buildings had to be included for coverage, and access to these could be hampered by security policies, university operational hours, and other such factors.
To overcome this, Kanoo IT proposed the use of Aruba’s 7200 series mobility controllers. Utilizing these would allow the University’s engineering teams to simply install the APs as per their convenience, while the IT team could then remotely manage the setup and configuration.
The integrator’s expertise in design has also enabled UOB to realize the true potential of the powerful Aruba mobility controllers. By implementing the two controllers in Active/Standby mode rather than the traditional Master/Slave mode, Kanoo IT has enabled the University to maintain the same level of control over its wireless network even in the rare case of active controller failure.
Easy to install APs keep deployment on track
The coverage and high-density characteristics of Aruba’s 802.11n access points has meant that APs installed in the hallways can provide ample coverage for the classrooms. So if any physical maintenance is required on an AP, it can be carried out without disruption to classes in session.
Eng. Attiya also praised the ease with which Aruba’s solutions can be integrated into multi-vendor environments. “At the time of our Wi-Fi overhaul, we also upgraded our core network with switches from a different technology vendor. However, the integration was seamless which helped keep the project on track,” he said.
High-Density Support and Seamless Roaming
An immediate benefit of the upgrade has been the improvement in data transfer speeds and the ability of each AP to handle a high-density of simultaneous connections. This ability has proved to be of vital importance in areas where students tend to congregate.
Mr. Alabdi, Head of Information Networks Division – IT Center, University of Bahrain says, “We offer a unique mobile app for student registration and during this period of the academic year, we have up to 600 students in one particular area. But since each Aruba AP can handle 100-120 simultaneous connections, we manage this peak volume with a minimal number of APs.”
Aruba’s ClientMatch technology automatically connects client devices to the best possible access point. By eliminating ‘sticky clients’, the feature has enabled seamless roaming between APs without any noticeable drop in wireless network performance.
Administration and maintenance a breeze
As was the case prior to the upgrade, Aruba’s solutions greatly simplify the administration and management of the wireless network. Each of the 450 APs can be centrally monitored and controlled and even updates can be pushed out centrally without the need for manual intervention.
In the seven years that we used Aruba’s previous solution, we did not have a single instance of access point failure.
Eng. Attiya, Director of IT Center, University of Bahrain
Furthermore, the solution supports a wide number of mobile device platforms. “This has been of paramount importance since we see all types of devices and mobile operating systems connecting to our network. Yet, we never see users facing challenges due to this factor,” stated Mr. Alabdi.
UOB’s confidence in its wireless network is further extended by the limited lifetime warranty that is offered on Aruba’s APs. Through its support contract with Kanoo IT, the University also enjoys same day replacement guarantees on vital components in the network.
In-built firewall addresses security requirements
Security is another key area that Aruba’s solution has managed to address. “Thanks to Aruba’s built-in firewall, we have a high degree of security without added complexity. Furthermore, the solution easily integrates with other security devices in our environment,” said Mr. Alabdi.
Kanoo IT also guided UOB’s IT team to leverage Aruba’s controllers to set up separate SSIDs for students, staff and guests. Here too, the in-built firewall facilitates access control by assigning users to the appropriate SSID based on the usage policy.
A Clear Plan for the Future
With the first phase of the upgrade successfully completed, 70% of UOB’s campus now enjoys Wi-Fi coverage. “Our plan is to extend this coverage in phases based on the requirements of the various departments within the campus,” said Mr. Alabdi.
“With the continued support from Aruba and Kanoo IT, we look forward to expanding our network infrastructure, allowing it to match the growth and usage within the University,” he added.
Mr. Alabdi and his team are keen to explore coverage for outdoor areas and expect that over the next two years, they will install up to 400 outdoor access points. The flexibility offered by Aruba’s platform means that such a network expansion can be easily implemented with minimal additional investment.
Partnerships for long-term success
Reflecting on the success his organization has enjoyed with Aruba, Mr. Alabdi said, “Back in 2008, we did extensive research to implement the best Wi-Fi solution on the campus. After nearly 8 years, not only have our findings shown that Aruba was the best choice, but it has been instrumental in easing the continued growth in Wi-Fi use within our campus all these years.”
“We look forward to having Aruba and Kanoo IT help the University of Bahrain be at the forefront of wireless solutions in the region,” he concluded.