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How One City Found the Right Network for its Wireless Strategy

The city of Kent, Wash., successfully upgraded its network to 802.11n and has reaped rewards.

As the useful life of its first-generation wireless LAN drew to a close in early 2010, the city of Kent, Wash., began preparing for an upgrade. It sought to triple the number of sites covered to a total of 35, improve system performance and reduce IT overhead.

"We wanted to ensure city employees and our external partners had seamless and secure connectivity while simultaneously moving to a centrally managed infrastructure," explains Mike Carrington, the city's director of information technology. "With the expanding use of mobile technology, we needed to provide appropriate access to our internal business systems throughout the multiple buildings on our city hall campus."

To start, the city researched about a dozen wireless equipment manufacturers along with its existing provider. After narrowing the list to five, it conducted pilots last fall. A month later, it selected Aruba Networks for overall next-generation capabilities, including support for the 802.11n wireless standard. Specifically, the city chose the MMC-3600 Multi-Service Mobility Controller and Power over Ethernet–enabled access point models AP-93, AP-105 and AP-124 to handle various performance and location-specific needs.

"In addition to meeting our key requirements, we were impressed with the scalability of Aruba's solution, the array of available equipment and the overall quality of craftsmanship," Carrington says. "Total installation time for the Aruba access points took only about an hour."

First-Class Rewards

Kent's decision to adopt the 802.11n standard and centralize management illustrates the benefits of being best in class, according to Andrew Borg, senior research analyst for the Aberdeen Group.

"Best-in-class organizations realize that a pervasive and powerful network edge is an essential enabler to delivering on the promise of a fully connected organization," says Borg. And it costs less. According to Borg, the cost per user at leading organizations is nearly 6 percent less than at lagging entities, or $177 annually versus $188.

Kent has reaped rewards from managing its Aruba wireless network from a single web-enabled console. Upon completing the first phase of the deployment in early 2011, technical support calls dropped about 20 percent.

"Staff aren't traveling to and spending time with access points," says Carrington. "As a result, we're able to concentrate on enterprisewide considerations rather than point-to-point access management.

"Plus, we've received really positive feedback from our city staff and our vendor partners," he continues. "They frequently comment on the network's improved throughput and high availability. And we've even heard from the public that the network just seems faster."

Now, Kent is midway through the second of two deployment phases and expects to finish up by the end of the year. "Then, like most communities, we'll begin working on improving connectivity throughout our service area," Carrington says. "We hope to have the city blanketed within the next three to five years."

Optimized for All

Like Kent, the Davenport Public Library began moving to 802.11n and centralized management last summer. For its next-generation WLAN, the three-facility organization selected HP equipment to serve staff and patrons in the metropolitan area of Davenport, Iowa.

"The HP solution was attractive because we also needed a new core networking switch," says Christopher Tracy, IT supervisor for the city-owned library."With HP we could get a modular switch and controller combination, which cost less than purchasing each of them separately."

By selecting the PoE-enabled HP ProCurve 5406zl-48G Intelligent Edge switch, the library simply slid the HP E-MSM765zl Mobility Controller into the switch chassis. In addition, the organization deployed 14 HP E-MSM422 access points.

67%
Improvement in end-to-end performance by those who upgraded to 802.11n-based wireless networking

SOURCE: "Wireless LAN 2011: Readying the Invisible Network for the Smart Revolution," Aberdeen Group (April 2011)

"We were fortunate that our newest branch opened at the time we needed to deploy," Tracy explains. "This allowed us to set up our old and new wireless networks side by side in the new facility. Then we worked out all the bugs and optimized the configuration before implementing enterprisewide."

In addition to centralized administration, which allows IT to push firmware updates out to the APs automatically, the HP setup also permits the library to segregate traffic and maximize bandwidth. "We allocated 10 megabits per second to our internal staff while the public network gets 5Mbps," says Tracy. "But we could get as granular as necessary and even allocate by individual user, giving us tremendous flexibility for the future."

Tracy reports that library staffers appreciate the new system's added efficiency as well as faster and more reliable wireless access. "By segregating the networks, staff can use any compatible device without going through the public authentication processes," he says.

Jul 06 2011

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