May 12, 2009
North Carolina's University Deploys Meru Networks Wireless LAN
By Jyothi Shanbhag, TMCnet Contributor
North Carolina's Gardner-Webb University, serving more than 4,000 students, faculty and staff on Gardner-Webb's 200-acre campus, has reportedly deployed Meru Networks wireless LAN to offer unified data, voice and video communications to users for the next seven to ten years.
The university selected Meru Networks (News - Alert) virtual cell technology to provide students with unlimited access to increase amounts of online educational content without being tied to a physical port, while faculty members the freedom to work in the classroom, the office or at home.
Gardner-Webb's wireless deployment uses about 170 Meru AP320 dual-radio access points, which support the newest 802.11n standard but are also backward-compatible with earlier 802.11a/b/g standards. A Meru MC4100 controller provides centralized configuration and management for all APs on the network.
"We had invested in one of the best fixed networks at any university, yet that network couldn't meet the demands of an increasingly mobile student population," said Joseph Bridges, associate vice president of technology services at Gardner-Webb.
Meru Networks virtual cell technology allows a single radio channel to be used by all wireless access points and gives room for more capacity if needed; additional channels can be layered on top. In the micro cell approach used by other WLAN vendors, no two adjacent access points can be on the same channel, and three radio channels must be expended to provide a single layer of wireless coverage.
"With Meru you get full value for the APs," said Johnson who manages purchasing for capital projects, undertook an extensive vendor evaluation in cooperation with the university CIO and network engineer.
He said that, "With other vendors you have to mitigate an AP's signal strength because of potential interference from a neighboring AP on another channel. But a Meru AP can always be broadcasting at 100 percent power."
In 2008, University had adapted Meru IEEE (News - Alert) 802.11n draft 2.0 WLAN to provide wireless access from every building and almost every outdoor space on the campus. Currently a residence hall is under construction which will rely completely on the WLAN for all non-emergency communication, resulting in a 90 percent reduction in telecommunication costs for the new building.
Gardner-Webb also uses Bradford Networks' (News - Alert) Campus Manager for network access control, and its ability to interoperate with Meru's WLAN controllers allows the university to implement identical security policies across its wired and wireless networks.
"Bradford's integration with Meru provides our front-line security for faculty, staff, students and visitors who come onto Gardner-Webb's campus," said Eric Brewton, network engineer. Bradford's policy enforcement prevents casual users from disrupting mission-critical activities on the WLAN by verifying wireless client "clean access" policies and also provides emergency messaging to the university's wireless population.
Jyothi Shanbhag is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Jyothi's articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jessica Kostek