University of Washington Wi-Fi-meister talks Aruba, managing big networks

The challenges of networking on college campuses can be serious business, particularly if, like the University of Washington, you’ve got to worry about not one but three distinct campuses.

And, as Washington’s director of mobile communications David Morton told Network World Wednesday at Aruba Atmosphere 2017, that challenge isn’t limited to those campuses.

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Morton and his team work on three hospitals, and numerous smaller clinics in addition to the 20 million or so square feet of the university proper.

The Seattle-based university serves a total enrollment of about 46,000 students and nearly 22,000 faculty and staff. This requires about 11,000 access points, which see about 200,000 different devices a day on the school’s network, Morton said.

“On one side, we’re a large service provider, providing service for essentially a small city, but also a large enterprise and a large healthcare (provider),” he said. “And each of them has different needs and different issues that come up.”

Morton’s a long-standing Aruba user – the university is possibly Aruba’s oldest large institutional customer, having been with the company for upwards of 13 years – and he appreciates the way that wireless capabilities have evolved over that time.

In particular, he says, the increasingly software-defined nature of Aruba’s newer features appeals to him, as opposed to what he sees as a more in-hardware approach at rival Cisco.

“They’re able to add new features just by bringing software to the table,” Morton said. “Cisco has to make new chips to bring those features.”

Beyond simple issues of capacity – demand for bandwidth grows almost daily – he says that being able to know what’s going on on his network with a greater degree of granularity is his biggest concern.

“The priority for a number of years has been greater visibility into the network,” said Morton.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.