The University of Westminster was founded in 1838 and was the first polytechnic in the UK – it was awarded university status in 1992.
Daniel Halter, Head of IT Infrastructure for the University of Westminster, explains how network demands have grown over the years.
“We introduced our first Wi-Fi network in the early 2000s. It’s grown exponentially from there and now it’s a must-have utility.”
“Our previous wireless wasn’t working entirely as desired, so we went to market to see what to see what else was around. As a result, we installed Aruba last summer.”
There is an average of 47,000 unique devices seen on the wireless network, which comprises 500 Aruba access points connected to a pair of 7220 controllers. While some of the devices are laptops loaned by the University library, many belong to students and each brings its own connectivity challenges.
Halter describes the two major issues faced: “We had two major issues before – one was that we had never done proper RF [radio frequency] planning, so while our Wi-Fi coverage wasn’t bad, it had grown organically.
“The other was that our previous system had become unmanageable. We also had different controllers and wireless networks, with separate configurations for each, which made it hard to manage. We had no statistics on usage, no metrics, no proactive support data.”
The University of Westminster’s IT partner was KHIPU Networks, an Aruba Platinum Partner. This meant that not only did the Aruba/KHIPU bid have very strong underlying technology, it also had that essential service and support element.
“We have worked with KHIPU for many years,” Halter says. “They support our Infoblox and Palo Alto Networks systems too, and we knew Aruba was in their portfolio.
“KHIPU knows us and vice versa – they’re small enough to care but big enough to deliver. For instance, we had some initial teething issues on the RF planning, so they sent in their engineers and fixed it.”
The University of Westminster now uses Aruba Airwave for alerting, reporting and planning, and ClearPass for 802.1x authentication and reporting. ClearPass helped simplify the wireless network, not least because it integrates with Eduroam, a worldwide scheme for academic institutions to authenticate network users.
Benefits and the future
A key advantage of Airwave with this variety of client devices is that it enables first and second level help-desk staff to handle most of the problems reported by users. In the past, many of these had to be passed to Halter’s team because of the complexity of diagnosing wireless problems.
Halter says that it will also allow them to add FAQs and other documentation, so users can fix the more common problems themselves.
KHIPU also offered the required technical support for such a widespread estate. Halter says that Aruba’s Remote Access Point (RAP) technology has been particularly useful, as it can extend the core Wi-Fi network to a remote site over a simple broadband connection.
Finally, Halter commented on learning futures, stating: “There’s a whole drive around ‘learning futures’, with IT natively embedded in every lesson, and that means building a platform where that can happen. Our previous network wasn’t where it needed to be – this one is!”
KHIPU – digital education solutions
We’re KHIPU, an Aruba platinum partner – we have been around since 2005 and built a strong partnership with Aruba since then, implementing and supporting their entire portfolio.
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