University at Buffalo Deploys Aruba Gigabit Wi-Fi Campus-wide

  • Aruba
SANTA CLARA, CA — Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, announced that the University at Buffalo (UB), the flagship campus of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, has replaced its legacy wireless infrastructure with an Aruba gigabit wireless network. Using a combination of Aruba 802.11ac Wave 1 and Wave 2 access points, Aruba AirWave for network management and Aruba ClearPass for policy management and guest access, the University is upgrading all three of its campus locations, totaling 150 buildings and 10 million square feet to deliver ubiquitous, high-speed wireless access to students, faculty and administrators.

Founded in 1846, UB has a diverse, international student body comprised of 20,000 undergraduates and 10,000 graduate students. UB has been in a rapid growth period, with new leadership that recognized the need to make high-density, robust Wi-Fi a top priority for its campuses. Driving that need was the expansion of hybrid and online courses, students’ access to videos and recorded lectures, in-classroom learning applications and of course, students’ desire to bring a myriad of devices into the residence halls.

“As a member of our faculty stated, ‘Wi-Fi is as important to a university today as ink or chalk was 100 years ago’,” said Brice Bible, vice president and CIO for the University at Buffalo. “Ensuring reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi has been a top priority for our IT team.”

“We chose the Aruba solutions because they delivered greater price for performance value and the portfolio included gigabit Wi-Fi access points specifically designed for residence halls/hospitality applications," according to Jerry Bucklaew, network architect with UB Information Technology. "For policy management, ClearPass was the most flexible in terms of deployment and configuration.”

Two-stage Deployment
Once UB settled on Aruba, the institution embarked on a three-year network upgrade that will be completed in the fall of 2017 and is being deployed in two parallel tracks. The first track, for classroom and administration buildings, started with the largest buildings that also have the highest concentration of academic spaces on campus including libraries and large lecture halls, and will finish with the smaller buildings. The second track, for the residence halls, is being conducted in two parts, with about half of the dorms completed in the summer of 2016, and another half to be completed in the summer of 2017.

UB is installing approximately 6,000 access points, 3,500 of which are already in place, consisting of both Wave 1 and Wave 2 802.11ac APs. In addition, UB is using Aruba’s 7000 Series Mobility Controllers, AirWave Network Management with the Clarity module, and ClearPass for device profiling, differentiated customer access and an efficient way to connect visitors on the guest Wi-Fi network.

ClearPass Guest
ClearPass was a key factor in UB’s decision to choose Aruba. Bible noted that UB is using ClearPass Guest for two purposes that are unique to the University.

“We’re using ClearPass Guest to create a guest’s active account, but more importantly, we’re using it as a way to automatically drive customers to register all of their personal devices. These devices then reside on the guest side of the house. The ClearPass Policy Manager also delivers insights and profiling capabilities used for visibility, planning and troubleshooting,” he said.

Reducing Complexity

According to Bucklaew, ClearPass has been beneficial in reducing complexity for the University, condensing their SSIDs from five or six down to three, with their ultimate goal to have one for 802.1X and one for everything else. In addition, UB is enthusiastic about the profiling capabilities that ClearPass provides, which have helped them enhance and streamline the device registration and authentication process.

Bucklaew added, “Our two biggest types of devices are APs and IP phones on our wired network, but with 6,000 of the former and 10,000 of the latter, we didn’t want each one of them to be specifically registered. Using profiling, we can determine if a device is an AP or a phone, then apply the appropriate policies in real-time, so we can avoid individually registering these 16,000 devices. We can then continue to require registration and authentication of all other devices on wired and Wi-Fi which will become even more useful as we see more IoT devices on the network.”

Looking ahead, Bible expects that the Aruba wireless infrastructure will allow the University to explore new areas like Mobile Engagement for location-based services. He also foresees UB expanding coverage to outdoor portions of the campus, fine-tuning their use of ClearPass on the wired network to bring it in line with the wireless side, and enabling more scanning and profiling of devices in preparation for IoT.

Bible says the University is already seeing significant results from the new network allowing him to better meet the mobility expectations of its students, faculty and administrators, while preparing the University for the future. For example, based on student surveys, residence halls equipped with the new Wi-Fi infrastructure have seen a 21% increase in satisfaction as compared to those still utilizing the legacy network.

“When UB first deployed wireless in 2000, it was one of those nice-to-have things,” said Bible. “Wi-Fi was cool, but if it didn’t work, it wasn’t a big deal. Now customer expectations have shifted and regardless of the location, application or type of customer, everyone considers wireless critical. It has to work 100 percent of the time, no exceptions. With our new network, we’re seeing utilization through the roof and the complaints we used to see coming in from the website, social media postings and calls into support have declined rapidly.”


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