Case Study: Santa Clara U. graduates to Gigabit Wi-Fi

College doubles the number of Cisco access points, gains significant performance boost

Gigabit wifi

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In 2006, Santa Clara University began rolling out a Wi-Fi network as a way to supplement the school's existing production network. The initial deployment consisted of about 800 Cisco Aironet 1131 a/b/g/ access points and Cisco WiSM controllers. As expansion or renovation projects occurred, the school added some 802.11n access points, but until recently 90% of the roughly 70 buildings on campus were equipped with the older, slower technology.

Todd Schmitzer, network and telecommunications manager at SCU, says the original Wi-Fi network was designed to provide expanded ‘convenience’ access to the campus network from academic, administrative, and residence hall locations. It was never intended as a production network or the sole mechanism for people to access the campus network. It did not cover all locations (only the common occupied spaces), did not provide for high-density use (classrooms, theaters, dining halls), or provide nearly the bandwidth of the wired network.

Over time, usage grew from 3,000 unique devices/users in 2007 to more than 15,000 unique devices/users in 2012. And at peak times, simultaneous use went from 2,000 users to more than 5,000 users. In addition, "usage has shifted from convenience to production and, in many cases; it’s now the primary network for many end users," says Schmitzer.

The school was now facing the issue of how best to upgrade the Wi-Fi network. "We debated whether it made more sense to initially install access points with 802.11ac or install access points that could later be expanded to include the newest standards,” says Ronald Danielson, CIO and Information Services vice provost at SCU. Going with 802.11n "would initially save money, while still providing a significant boost in performance," says Danielson.

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