Massachusetts school upgrades to scalable, reliable virtual wireless infrastructure

St. John's Prep embraces the cloud with Bluesocket's vWLAN

St. John’s Prep is a rigorous, Catholic independent day school for boys in grades 9 through 12. When the school adds a middle school with grades 6, 7, and 8 in September 2015, its 175-acre campus in Danvers, Mass. will serve 1,450 students. Focused on creating an atmosphere that fosters intellectual growth, St. John’s Prep is dedicated to preparing all students to take full advantage of today’s technology resources. The school encourages the use of Wi-Fi-enabled devices in the curriculum and a variety of web-based technologies in the teaching process, including a schoolwide 1-to-1 iPad initiative. As a result, over the past several years St. John’s Prep has seen a significant increase in the use of Wi-Fi-enabled devices.

Wireless access had been available on campus. However, to support the growing user demand and planned digital learning programs, the original wireless network needed a major upgrade by 2012. The school required a highly scalable, reliable, cost-effective Wi-Fi infrastructure and WLAN solution which could be deployed quickly and seamlessly to users. The administrators’ goal was to ensure that students and staff have full access to online resources everywhere on school grounds. To support this “anytime” network access, the school required a wireless network that was not only highly reliable and easily scalable, but one which could also be efficiently managed across the large campus. To support this demand for network access, St. John’s Prep turned to ADTRANÁ‚® to help architect the ideal solution for the campus, students and faculty.

Committed to virtualization as an important IT strategy, St. John’s Prep had experienced the enormous benefits that virtualization had brought to its server environment. Since IT leaders at the school recognized that the same benefits could be brought to its wireless network, virtualizing its wireless LAN was an easy decision and the logical next step. Rather than deploying a traditional hardwareÁ¢†based solution to operate its wireless network, a virtual wireless local area network (vWLAN) enabled St. John’s Prep to leverage virtualization to eliminate the operational constraints and costs of physical WLAN hardware controllers. ADTRAN’s vWLAN solution provides centralized user control and softwareÁ¢†based, virtualized device management residing on a hypervisorÁ‘a key advantage for the school’s modest IT department, given its existing VMware infrastructure, large number of users and coverage area. The solution enabled the school to create a private, secure cloud for the entire campus.

Since the vWLAN is softwarebased, scaling is simple and cost-effective, and easily enables more access points to be added without requiring the typical upgrades or associated costs of WLAN controller hardware. “All other solutions required additional hardware, which added significant cost and operational burden to our IT staff,” says Christopher Butler, assistant head of school for information services. “Since ADTRAN’s vWLAN solution is certified as VMware Ready, the installation of the vWLAN software on to our VMware instance was quick and effortless.” vWLAN frees the wireless network from the LAN, making it possible to control wireless access points from anywhere in the networked world. The school’s IT department can enjoy more flexibility across their wide coverage area, since the control function does not have to reside on the same LAN as the access points. vWLAN makes scaling the network simple and cost-effectiveÁ‘ it is limited only by the size of the data center’s capacity.

Typically, a large WLAN hardware controller can support only 150 access points and about 4,000 users. In contrast, ADTRAN’s vWLAN software running on VMware can support 1,500 access points and up to 48,000 users. vWLAN enables St. John’s Prep to effortlessly accommodate new access points and users as needed without incurring additional WLAN controller costs. By abolishing the functional need for hardware controllers, vWLAN decreases the total cost of ownership of the WLAN, and will dramatically reduce energy use, since legacy WLAN hardware controllers typically account for 80 percent of the total energy consumed within a wireless network. In September 2013, St. John’s launched its 1-to-1 iPad program, requiring every student to use an iPad in Wi-Fi mode in the classroom to collaborate with students and teachers and to do research and homework assignments.

The iPad has become integral to the way students work in courses across the curriculum. ADTRAN’s vWLAN architecture empowers the WLAN cloud-based control and management needed to ensure the success of these critical learning technology initiatives, both today and in the future. “In the end, we achieved significant savings by avoiding all costs and bottlenecks associated with a hardwareÁ¢†based controller solution,” says Butler. “And we gained a futureÁ¢†proof network with immense scalability to address growing demand on our network.”

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