Webinars - Featured Articles

November 22, 2011

Webinar - Campus-wide Mobility Solutions go Extreme

Back in the early 1990s, Nicholas Negroponte (News - Alert), then director of the world-renowned MIT Media Lab, coined the term “Negroponte Inversion.” What he said was that the era where person-to-person communications traveled in wires (e.g., phone lines) and broadcast communications traveled in the air (e.g., from a TV station's transmitting tower) would be coming to an end and be replaced by one where person-to-person communications will travel in the air and broadcast communication will travel in wires. Hence, the inversion.

This inversion plays right into the expertise of Extreme Networks (News - Alert), who in conjunction with channel partner Carousel Industries gave an information-packed TMCnet webinar, “Addressing Mobility in Campus Networks.” Shehzad Merchant, vice president of strategic technology for Extreme Networks, detailed trends in education and how and why Extreme’s new Mobile Student architecture that addresses growing administrative and security needs of IT departments serving the requirements of nomadic users with diverse backgrounds and identity needs and significant demands for access to broadband networks anywhere and anytime.

The reality is, Negroponte got it partially correct, and he probably did not expect the pace of change to be as profound as it has turned out to be. As we have seen with the explosion of mobile smart devices, this will be accelerated by the deployment of broadband fixed and mobile wireless networks, even those things that mostly go over wires will soon be wireless and delivered in HD with a high quality of experience (QoE). This is real convergence on a host of physical and virtual network fronts.

Campuses are the leading edge

The growing primacy of ubiquitous broadband wireless, the need for its seamless integration with traditional wired networks and enterprise IT shops, in many ways has been and will continue to be exemplified on the campuses of institutions of higher learning.

The average college student has:

  • At a minimum three communications devices
  • A nomadic user profile
  • A need for ubiquitous and continuous communications
  • Lots of bandwidth

Professors, researchers, administrators, support staff and guests all carry multiple devices and have different access and security needs with all of these identities needing to be managed effectively. To meet the connectivity needs of their diverse and highly mobile users, universities were early and huge adopters of WiFi (News - Alert) and other broadband wireless access solutions.

Extreme Networks, for instance, has installed campus networks in more than 700 institutions worldwide. The lessons learned from these installations have allowed Extreme to achieve significant presence in global enterprises also seeking to serve the broadband mobility needs on their campuses and transition them from providing wireless access to wireless-enabled services that are seamless to the users.

That said, colleges continue to be the test-bed for advancing the state-of-the-art as exhibited by the introduction of the Extreme Networks Mobile Student architecture in October. As Shehzad pointed out, it combines:

  • Identity management
  • Stackable and chassis-based switching
  • Universal Port capabilities
  • Advanced WLAN access points and controllers
  • Motorola's multivendor AirDefense (News - Alert) Services Platform (ADSP) providing wireless security and network monitoring

The architecture delivers what colleges and enterprises have been craving – a simple to operate but powerful platform that can deliver secure mobile solutions to a diverse and demanding population with a variety of levels of access at carrier grade quality with a low total cost of ownership. 

As Shehzad stated, “The key to supporting the quality mobility services students, faculty, teachers, guests, and academics require takes a different type of network for a number of reasons. It requires an infrastructure with the intelligence to identify the user and devices in motion as they access the network and give them automatic access to their destinations and services from anywhere on campus. The same goes for the application in motion in the virtual data center with intelligence to follow and application’s virtual machine and provide quality and security wherever it goes.  And ensure that regardless of the access, that the user has a seamless, secure, and consistent ‘quality’ experience at any time.”

Specific education and mobility challenges addressed by the new Extreme architecture are described in the chart below:

This is a nice way of portraying that identity management, security and the creation and enforcement of policies and rules on a campus is a high-touch and by definition a very complex endeavor that demanded a different kind of approach.  It means, for example, regarding the task of network authentication, moving from simple logins on various servers to:

Non-intrusive, transparent authentication

  • Kerberos snooping
    • Windows Active Directory Domain Login
    • MAC w/ Kerberos

Tracking of endpoints based on:

  • User
  • Device
    • LLDP-based device identification (e.g. VoIP phone)
  • Computer name
  • RFID tags
  • Location, location, location

All of this is critical when you consider not just all of the constituencies being served, their access and privacy/security needs, but also their nomadic nature on campus and the fact that every semester there is massive turnover of a significant part of the served population in terms of users and devices. It is why, as Shehzad explains, the Extreme has made network awareness based on authentication an enabler for role-based access —critical to the safe and high-performance management of campus environments.

The presentation also covered such things as addressing the need from better WiFi coverage, evolving wireless on-campus networks to converged distributed architectures with data plane convergence that provide security at the network edge, and the benefits of the ExtremeXOS for enabling automation and customization of a campus network based on open standards and industry-leading security software.

While the presentation was aimed at a granular look at the specifics of serving the education market, for any company with a geographically large campus with a highly mobile workforce on-campus and/or significant challenges regarding special events and unusual loads of visitors with major access and bandwidth needs (think tent sales at major retailers), the webinar is a good place to get educated on what you can, and arguably should be at least thinking about, in transforming your wireless networking assets to meet the needs of a high-octane bring your own device (BYOD) world.

Peter Bernstein is a technology industry veteran, having worked in multiple capacities with several of the industry's biggest brands, including Avaya (News - Alert), Alcatel-Lucent, Telcordia, HP, Siemens, Nortel, France Telecom, and others, and having served on the Advisory Boards of 15 technology startups. To read more of Peter's work, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves