IMPROVING CAMPUS COMMUNICATION AND ACCESS TO HIGH QUALITY LEARNING AT DURHAM UNIVERSITY
Durham University is a world-class University in two locations: in the city of Durham and at their Queen’s Campus in Stockton, UK. In both locations the University is engaged in a high quality of teaching and learning. It has some of the most advanced research facilities in the UK and works in partnership with business. The University has many regional and community initiatives in the North East of England. It also provides for conferences, events and visitor accommodation. As part of creating a sense of community for both staff and students alike, this collegiate University decided to deploy a wireless LAN (WLAN) to augment the existing wired network.
A challenging environment
Durham University employs over 3000 staff and caters for over 15,000 students. The campus is not located on a single site and departmental facilities and accommodation are spread across Durham City. The colleges provide residential, social and welfare facilities for staff and students. Its academic teaching and research programmes are delivered through departments contained within three faculties: Arts and Humanities, Science and Social Sciences and Health.
There was an increasing need at the University to provide for flexible connectivity anywhere and anytime around the campus especially in locations where wiring would not be a feasible option because of the age of buildings or because of the type of network usage in a particular area such as the library or cafés or common rooms. The University had a very specific set of key wireless requirements. These included a centralised management for both controllers and access points – particularly important in Durham because of the distributed nature of the campus and expected number of access points in the future. The network had to have unmatched scalability as it is designed to grow over time and as an educational establishment it had to have a low cost of ownership as well as the highest quality of RF planning. These needs were all met by Trapeze Networks.
Seeking a long-term solution for wireless
Stephen Kay, the University’s Project Manager for Wireless at the University and Senior Network Consultant and one of an experienced IT team, had to determine the requirements of any wireless technology deployed at the University and along with the team had to choose a supplier as well as a systems integrator for the work. “During the course of the wireless tender process and resulting presentations from several companies it was determined that KBR demonstrated a clear understanding of the universities’ requirements and identified a solution that not only met our current needs but could scale to meet our future needs,” commented Stephen. “As a local company involved in the network at Durham, KBR also demonstrated the advantage of local knowledge of the campus and a fast (and flexible) response to any problems.” The need to help the IT team train on the wireless infrastructure and support it after installation was also taken into account.
“The feedback on the new system from the user community in Durham has been very positive”
One of the key issues on a distributed campus is security and the IT team at Durham was looking for a solution that had authentication against Active Directory and Radius along with multiple SSID and VLAN support that allows for control and flexibility for access to network resources. Secure connections via 802.1x and the necessity to integrate the infrastructure with an existing endpoint security system were also taken into account.
Students and staff alike move around the campus from the library to lecture theatres to accommodation areas so the wireless network had to maintain session information while “roaming”. In addition as a mainstream academic site, the wireless network had to provide Guest Access to visiting lecturers and other academics who needed access to the JANET Roaming Service – eduroam.
The initial Trapeze wireless installation involved the replacement of 80 “fat” access points which had previously provided the University wireless service. This was successfully carried out, as planned, within one week along with the installation of two Trapeze MX400 controllers and a large number of access points. Since this initial rollout in October 2006 the wireless service has expanded and there are currently three MX400 controllers in service along with over 120 access points with plans for further expansion.
Durham University needed a robust and scalable network for a wide range of different applications all of which had to be centrally managed.
Wireless now and in the future
The solution has revolutionised the way the campus community communicates. It has enabled staff and students to be far more efficient and effective and given them mobility across the whole campus. Stephen Kay and his team have been able to centrally manage the wireless infrastructure with Trapeze’s RingMaster central management software. In addition, the system provides moment to moment details – presented as graphs – of traffic and potential threats, which will enable the University to identify and plan for future wireless installations.
The University’s growing number of wireless users have been positive about the experience which is viewed as complimentary to the traditional cabling solutions. As a measure of success Stephen Kay said “the feedback on the new system from the user community in Durham has been very positive.
The University sees the new wireless network as a launch pad for possible future developments such as VOIP and asset tagging which will allow reduction of telephone costs and the tracking of University assets in the future. Tutors and security staff alike will be able to respond immediately to the needs of students on campus and IT staff will be able to efficiently manage future technology developments such as 802.11n.
Smart Mobile™ from Trapeze Networks has overcome the limits of current-generation WLANs through a ground-breaking innovation called "intelligent switching." Smart Mobile’s intelligent switching combines both centralized and distributed data forwarding based on the requirements of the underlying application, resulting in optimized traffic flow, essential for a large user base like a University.
Stephen Kay is enthusiastic about the benefits and exciting applications that wireless can deliver within the University campus environment. "The wireless infrastructure has proved to be robust and reliable. We were looking for a system that would offer staff, students and visitors the ability to connect to the network easily, flexibly and securely. Durham is a distributed campus based around a city centre so wireless security and central management were key issues. The wireless system has allowed us to deliver a solution that has successfully addressed these issues."
The University of Durham working with their wireless integration partner KBR and supplier Trapeze Networks have provided a network infrastructure that has ensured a scalable long term solution for an ever changing but inclusive campus community.
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