Indiana University

Indiana University (IU) delivers quality experiences on 250,000 devices and advances student success with Aruba

USE CASE: Boost academic engagement, such as professors pushing cell slides to student devices for enhanced learning, as well as support exponential growth in utilizing Skype for Voice over Wi-Fi, web conferencing and screen sharing.

As one of the world’s most innovative institutions and among the largest in the U.S., Indiana University relies on its infrastructure to deliver on the high academic expectations of its students and faculty.

“When your institution is known as an innovator, rapidly evolving demands are the rule rather than the exception,” says Kirt Guinn, Director of Telecommunications and Enterprise Infrastructure at the 109,000-student university headquartered at its flagship campus in Bloomington, Indiana.

One Solution Addresses Multiple Demands

To ensure IU had the ability to meet new mobility demands, the University invested in a long-term strategic partnership with PIER Group and Aruba, a Hewett Packard Enterprise company.

Forming a long-term strategic partnership with Aruba netted us the robust and scalable network we required to meet expectations as an innovator. We’ve been exceedingly happy with Aruba from the start.
Kirt Guinn, Director of Telecommunications and Enterprise Infrastructure, Indiana University

“It was critical to gain a flexible, reliable and scalable Wi-Fi infrastructure, with innovative management tools, to help us streamline experiences while keeping IT overhead in check,” says Mark Spencer, Manager of Campus Network Engineering

In addition to adopting Aruba’s WLAN and associated campus switches, the University also has maintained an HPE networking partnership for over 20 years. “Aruba has enabled us to provide high-performance connectivity to over 20 million square feet of classrooms, instructional laboratory and study facilities as well as over 8 million square feet of residences,” Guinn says.

No Limits

A BYOD university, IU permits a wide range of devices, from tablets to IoT, to connect. “With hundreds of thousands of devices connecting 24/7, seamless access is a top priority,” says Spencer.

“Given our size, one way we gauge success is via monitoring help ticket trends,” he adds. “During the first month after deployment, we saw a 50 percent reduction in year-over-year help desk calls associated with poor Wi-Fi availability.”

Staying ahead of the rest

Competitively, IU’s flexible and scalable network also enables the institution to attract students by enabling them to connect most devices.

“We’ve heard that other universities struggle with supporting user expectations, with some even considering blocking students from leisure Netflix use,” says Guinn.

“At IU, our students use streaming services like Netflix extensively, making it a competitive differentiator that we have the infrastructure to provide restriction-free access.”

Boosting student success

It’s a similar story academically, where faculty members have embraced mobility-enabled technologies such as student response apps. Such solutions make it easy for professors to enhance student comprehension and engagement.

“Instructors are keen to ensure students are engaged, says Guinn. “This makes Top Hat, and similar apps, a new dynamic in many of our classrooms.”

“For one of our medical courses, a response app enables the professor to push cell slides to student devices,” he continues. “Rather than squinting at an overhead display, students zoom in on their own devices for significantly greater understanding.”

Just plug it in

Other connectivity demands are equally easy to meet. “As bandwidth or density requirements shift, we use Aruba’s high-density APs to quickly address the needed changes.” Spencer says. “It’s that simple.”

“Or, for an application like Skype for Business, enabling the capability needed for voice traffic took only a few clicks,” he adds. “Due to high-quality experiences when using Zoom and Skype for Voice over Wi-Fi, web conferencing and screen sharing has grown exponentially here.”

Mobile-First Switching Delivers Results

On the wired side, adopting Aruba’s 5400R switches provided benefits ranging from exceptional reliability to advanced programmability.

“Our replacement rates for the 5400R switches have been extremely low, making them an incredibly cost-effective over time,” says Guinn.

1,500 switches updated in a snap

Operationally, IU appreciates the software innovations within the switch.

“For instance, one of our programmers uses the 5400R’s APIs for creating scripts to automate provisioning and upgrades,” says Guinn.

“As we have 1,500 of the switches deployed across our Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses, programmability furnishes us with considerable efficiency benefits,” he adds. “Now, we’re evaluating other advanced capabilities within the switch.”

ClearPass Alters the Paradigm

Deploying ClearPass provided IU with further user experience and organizational lifts. “We typically receive the most complaints about failed Wi-Fi connections every fall, when students are new to logging on,” Spencer explains.

“After we rolled out ClearPass, the number of authentication issues fell from the second most-reported complaint to the eighth. That’s a 35 percent reduction in authentication issues.”

Improved authentication for better experiences

The process of identifying and resolving authentication issues is also vastly improved, boosting user satisfaction.

“ClearPass gave us visibility into the source of authentication failures,” says Spencer. “We discovered that most occur due to password miskeys.”

“Uncovering the source shifts a user’s understanding of the difficulty because the Wi-Fi system is no longer the culprit,” he adds. “Overall, this has significantly enhanced user attitudes toward our Wi-Fi while also reducing social media complaints.”

Supporting Security, Experience and Streamlining Initiatives, including IoT

Next up, IU will leverage Aruba solutions to address a new university-wide security initiative, improve user experiences, and simplify the entire network environment.

“In IT, we’ll be using our existing Aruba tools, including AirWave and ClearPass, to unify the management of our wired and wireless network,” Guinn says. “The goal is providing a consistent experience, no matter how a user connects. Plus, it will support bringing guest Wi-Fi in-house, rather than continuing to use a third party, enabling us to scale to serve 32,000 simultaneous guest connections.”

“We’ll also be using ClearPass to assist us with further securing different types of traffic, such as profiling and segmenting IoT devices,” he adds. “Whether it’s smart washing machines in the residences or temperature sensors in research labs, we can apply policies to mitigate risk.”

Analytics and assurance added to the mix

IU is also keen to deploy NetInsight. “After seeing the solution in action, we added a Wi-Fi upgrade to our impending switch refresh,” Spencer says. “By updating our WLAN we can adopt and fully benefit from NetInsight.”

“We’re impressed with NetInsight’s user interface because it integrates AirWave and ClearPass, eliminating the need to consult each tool separately,” he continues.

Connectivity That Never Sleeps

Most importantly, partnering with Aruba proved the right choice. “From the beginning, we appreciated the ability to fine-tune our systems to address evolving needs,” says Guinn.

“As the connectivity provider for a demanding community that never sleeps, users expect our wireless and wired networks to work seamlessly, like turning on the lights,” he adds. “We’re exceedingly happy with our Aruba environment for enabling us to make that happen every day.”