Meru Wireless Network Turns San José Colleges Into Campus-Wide 'Wireless Hot Zones' F
Meru Wireless Network Turns San José Colleges Into Campus-Wide 'Wireless Hot Zones' For 20,000 Students
Meru and Partner AdvanTel Networks Win Competitive RFP Based on Meru's Single-channel Virtualized WLAN Technology; Superior Signal Strength Means Lower Equipment Requirements
SUNNYVALE, Calif., April 1, 2009 – Students at Silicon Valley's San José City College and Evergreen Valley College need no longer visit the computer lab, library or local coffee shop to plug in their laptop computers since a new high-performance wireless network from Meru Networks has turned every indoor space on campus into a "wireless hot zone" for Internet access.
Meru and its integrator partner, San Jose-based AdvanTel Networks, together won a competitive request for proposal (RFP) against Cisco and Aruba Networks.
The San José/Evergreen Community College District decided in 2008 to deploy a wireless LAN across all its facilities to create an "open to everyone" network that would accommodate the district's 20,000 students plus guests. The Meru WLAN covers the two college campuses (approximately 10 miles apart) and the district administration offices adjacent to the Evergreen site, while preventing unauthorized access from parking lots and other public areas on campus.
Tom Onwiler, acting chief technology officer for Information Technology Services and Support, said that after a thorough vendor evaluation the district selected Meru because "we saw it as the next-generation wireless technology," and because it made economic sense.
Every Indoor Location a Wireless 'Hot Zone'
"Our key requirements were that the WLAN provide excellent coverage anywhere on campus and be easy to manage," Onwiler said. "We wanted every indoor location on campus to be a 'wireless hot zone.' Meru's single-channel approach was different from everyone else's. Due to its superior signal strength, we were able to reach our coverage goal with far fewer Meru access points than we would have needed from other vendors – even with the concrete-block construction of many of our buildings. In fact, certain other vendors proposed five times the number of APs to do the same job."
Dieanne Smith, account manager at AdvanTel Networks, said, "With Meru we were able to propose far fewer APs to support the same coverage. Because all Meru APs are deployed on a single RF channel, they can operate at maximum signal power without causing co-channel interference. With other vendors, adjacent APs are on different channels and typically must have their power turned down to avoid causing such interference. Because signal strength is reduced, that approach requires many more APs to cover the same area."
No Channel Planning Required With Meru WLAN
"Management is easy not only because you're managing less equipment," Onwiler said, "but also because, with single channel, there's none of the channel planning required by other vendors. It was quick to install and I didn't have to hire extra staff to manage it. And Meru's antenna technology makes it easy to control where the signal goes. We can dynamically adjust signal direction from the AP so we're keeping signals inside the buildings and not sending them into the parking lot, where a hacker could get onto the network and launch a denial-of-service attack."
Until the fall of 2008, students at the two colleges had limited wireless and wired access to the Internet and the student network within district grounds. As student laptop use increased, unused plug-in ports became scarce. Expanding the wired network would have been costly in terms of cabling and installation, and the existing network lacked some needed capabilities for student collaboration and document-sharing.
"Today we have many 'blended' courses, with both in-person and online elements," Onwiler said. "Using our course management system on the wireless network, professors can post their syllabus, assignments and course materials online for easy student download. The faculty tell us it's much easier now for students to access coursework." The Meru WLAN supports such applications as Moodle and the Blackboard learning environments, and will serve as the platform for the Datatel ActiveCampus Portal, which, when rolled out later this year, will give every student secure centralized access to manage their entire college experience.
802.11n WLAN with Backward-compatibility Accommodates All Laptops
The district chose Meru's high-speed WLAN based on the IEEE 802.11n draft 2.0 standard, which provides access at up to five times the speeds of legacy 802.11a/b/g standards, yet fully supports those earlier standards where needed. "Our district encompasses a broad socio-economic spectrum, so we get a wide range of new and old laptops," Onwiler said. "Meru easily supports the whole gamut. With other vendors we would have had to add special support, or tell people with older systems they couldn't get access."
Since the student wireless network is intended to be "wide open," Onwiler said – and because it is completely physically separated from the wired administrative network – password-protected sign-ins for specific applications (Moodle, Blackboard, ActiveCampus) and software to block downloading of copyrighted materials are deemed sufficient security mechanisms for the WLAN.
The San José/Evergreen Community College District WLAN deployment uses approximately 200 Meru AP311 access points, each including one 802.11n radio and one 802.11a/b/g radio (software-upgradeable to 11n); MC1000 controllers provide intelligent RF management for all access points.
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