Chapman University

California University simplifies the connected experience for 13K+ users daily

As an institution that prides itself on offering personalized education, it was imperative that Chapman University deliver a premiere connected experience for students, faculty and staff. With more than 9,000 students, 920 faculty and 60+ buildings stretched over both its main campus in Orange, CA, and Rinker Health Science campus in Irvine, Chapman was experiencing spotty coverage, frequent disconnects and a lack of consistent network security as students roamed inside and between buildings.

On any given day, up to 13,000 devices connect to the network at one time. Enabling easy device connectivity while also knowing what those devices are and who they belong to is crucial. Additionally, the IT team at Chapman needed to solve the following challenges:

  • Installing a wireless solution that would meet the growing use of voice, e-Learning and cloud applications 
  • Managing the influx of IoT devices being connected by students in the residence halls
  • And, simplifying the way that users connect, regardless of location or access method

Wireless Made Easy and Secure

Chapman quickly replaced an open wireless configuration with a role-based, 802.1X model using Aruba wireless and ClearPass to simplify and secure the network. Students and staff were able to connect from anywhere using EDUROAM credentials and IT was able to easily segment student and staff traffic from guest traffic.

After arriving at Chapman, the mandate was to make wireless access simple and one of our top rated services. Selecting Aruba not only made Wi-Fi easier to manage, it allowed us to achieve our goal. Phillip Lyle, Assistant Vice President of Enterprise and Research Infrastructure, Chapman University

With Aruba wireless, students get a reliable and secure experience with a single SSID whether they’re reviewing lessons or taking tests in the classroom. Services like Wi-Fi calling, Netflix streaming or posting to social media are now possible anywhere within a residence hall.

“With our old wireless provider, we would hear complaints about students having problems connecting,” Phillip Lyle, Assistant Vice President of Enterprise and Research Infrastructure at Chapman, says. “When 5 to 10 students out of 150 have an issue, it’s a big deal. Ever since switching to Aruba wireless, the number of complaints have diminished considerably.”

Enriching the Wi-Fi experience

Historically, throttles were applied at the wireless access point level due to concerns about contention and one user eating up all the bandwidth. As more and more voice and video apps are being used, there are no bandwidth restrictions on student, staff or guest connections.

Students interacting with a techer in the classroom

This is important for teachers who are increasingly relying on mobile devices in their classrooms to deliver interactive content. They also depend on the students’ ability to use audience participation apps such as Poll Everywhere within the classroom, which enables them to get real-time feedback during a lecture or discussion.

“Wireless, in many classes, has become a hard and fast requirement for teaching,” Lyle says. “Now we simply rely on Aruba’s wireless software technology to balance the traffic load at the AP level.”

Saving time with better insights and network management features

For Chapman’s IT department, simplifying the management of the wireless network and gaining more visibility into it was key when deciding to go with Aruba. In some cases, it meant no longer having to manually tune each individual access point.

“We’ve been able to rely on features within AirWave to automatically determine settings for the individual access points, such as channel and power selection,” says Mike Ferguson, Network Operations Manager at Chapman. “Our team has saved a tremendous amount of time when it comes to optimizing an environment or bringing up a new building.”

Troubleshooting also became easier, not only does AirWave show what’s currently happening with a client but what had happened in the past.

“The reason why we chose Aruba was because we felt we were getting a total package from the manageability perspective,” Lyle says. “It has paid out in dividends for us as we’ve deployed thousands of access points over the last several years.”

Simple IoT and Guest Access Registration

On today’s university campuses, students are bringing devices, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home, game consoles and Apple TVs on a regular basis. Devices and systems like door locks, smart lights and HVAC sensors used to simplify and automate controls, collect and monitor information at the university are also impacting IT.

To enhance the BYOD onboarding experience, Chapman is using the built-in device registration portal within Aruba ClearPass so students can register their own devices. Students are using it every day and IT benefits by understanding what is connected, how many devices are being used and which devices belong to each student.

A simple-to-use guest access portal within ClearPass also allows visitors to self-register for Internet access. An additional benefit comes from the guest role automatically providing a way for Chapman to segment visitor traffic from student, staff and teacher traffic.

“ClearPass helps us manage it all,” Ferguson says. “We’re using it to simplify how users get access and isolate the traffic by a defined role, while using Aruba controllers and the wireless infrastructure to segment the traffic so it doesn’t impact the learning experience.”

Aruba Wired Within Two New Buildings

Keck Center for  Science and Engineering building

Two parallel events occurred that gave Chapman the opportunity to bring Aruba wired connectivity onto the campuses, which already were 100 percent Aruba wireless. The first was the opening of its new Keck Center for Science and Engineering, a 140,000-square-foot building that houses Chapman’s Schmid College of Science and Technology and will eventually include its new Fowler School of Engineering.

The second was the Chapman Grand residential building, a converted apartment building that houses about 900 students. The plans for both buildings—each of which opened in the fall of 2018—was to not only use Aruba wireless throughout, but also to use Aruba wired switches. Being able to leverage the capabilities of ClearPass and Aruba’s wireless software made opting for Aruba in the wired closets an easy decision.

Connecting the sciences building for the future

With Keck Center, Chapman opted for Aruba 3800 Switch Series and 2930F Layer 3 switches for aggregation and Aruba 300 Series APs. Multi-rate capable switches helped meet increasing bandwidth demands, as the building houses a shared core lab for high-resolution imaging, world-class high-performance computing facility and a wide range of collaboration spaces.

There are plans to utilize ClearPass’ ability to automatically enforce what can be connected down to the port level on switches. Aruba Dynamic Segmentation is a feature that will also allow Chapman to leverage their wireless infrastructure to automatically segment a device and its traffic on wired and wireless, regardless of location.

Zero-touch provisioning in the new residential hall

For the Chapman Grand apartment-style building, Chapman had to transition what had been traditional apartment building into a residential hall that is fitted for students. The team opted for an individual 2930M Series Layer 3 switch in each room. For wireless, Chapman is using 300 Series APs in every other room as well as in the hallways and outdoors.

“We had 400 rooms and 400 switches, and we had to install everything in a short amount of time,” Lyle mentioned. “With Aruba, we were able to save time by using zero-touch provisioning to get every single apartment in the building online very quickly.”

More on the Way

In the future, Chapman is looking to expand its Aruba partnership with plans to leverage their new infrastructure to its full potential. One such product is Aruba Meridian, which would allow students and visitors to use a mobile app and location awareness to easily navigate the campus and within buildings.

“We are excited by the possibilities of Meridian,” Lyle says, adding that the PoC will run in about three buildings on the University’s Rinker Health Science campus in Irvine. The primary purpose is to support public safety with an application called CriticalArc.

Chapman also is evaluating Aruba NetInsight for real-time network analytics and will upgrade their wireless deployment which includes Aruba 500 Series 802.11ax APs and ArubaOS 8 in the summer to take advantage of real-time up upgrades and AI-powered RF management features.