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WLAN deployment shortcuts

Aug 20, 20032 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecurityWi-Fi

* Let your RF tools do the walking

The newer, so-called “thin” wireless LAN architectures use centralized appliances to automate network configuration, calibration, air-traffic monitoring and access point (AP) management. They aim to reduce the RF-specific expertise required of IT staffs and make wireless networks scalable enough to be deployed across large organizations.

Aruba Wireless Networks, for example, recently announced an RF monitoring framework called RF Director, into which it is plugging automated RF software tools of its own and from third parties. Meanwhile, Aruba’s APs can function as a network-connection point or as an RF monitor for scanning the airwaves for rogue APs or spoofed packets. 

These are among the capabilities sought by Johnson & Wales University (JWU), discussed last time, when it settled on the Aruba architecture for its new Denver campus WLAN, slated for completion by the end of September.

For setup, the university used Aruba’s RF Director product to import AutoCAD drawings of its Denver site. “The tools auto-selected where to place APs, what channels to use and the output strength of each,” explains Joshua Wright, senior network and security architect at JWU.

“This tool became our site survey,” he says.

Wright says that once the devices were installed (by the university’s cabling contractor), he issued a “recalibrate” command, which causes each switch to reconfigure each AP for optimal coverage and power output. And as network utilization and RF barriers change, the same command tells APs to adjust power according to the altered environment.

He also liked the fact that the Aruba 50 can function as either an AP or an air monitor. “If an AP fails, [a device configured as an air monitor] can take over almost instantly. This provides enhanced reliability without spending money on redundant equipment that doesn’t get used most of the time,” Wright says.

For security, JWU didn’t want to have to touch all the disparate student client devices. Aruba has a VPN LaunchPad capability that downloads an IPSec client, license-free, to each user’s client upon initial logon.