Building a Network of Higher Learning

By Keerti Melkote, Blog Contributor
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As an engineer, I like to investigate and discover.  So when Dr. Ravi Pendse, the newly appointed CIO at Brown University called, I was intrigued. Working with Ravi, the leadership at Brown had recognized major connectivity challenges with Wi-Fi infrastructure.

Soon I was on a plane to Providence, Rhode Island, to visit the Brown campus. There I learned that the Wi-Fi network was built based on the assumption that students, faculty and administration would be accessing it from laptops. It was not designed to handle the plethora of smartphones, tablets and gaming machines that would invade the campus in a few short years. Instead of serving as the mobile alternative to the wired network, Brown's Wi-Fi had assumed the role of the default network. Perhaps unwittingly, the university had become a mobile-first environment. Clearly, something had to be done.

We helped Ravi increase Brown's Wi-Fi capacity by upgrading access points to 802.11ac and adding more of them. Soon, the academic community had all the bandwidth it needed. But then Ravi asked, why couldn't the network understand its own bandwidth issues and tell us at Aruba about them? Why would Ravi need to call us at all? Questions like those are why I love talking to customers.

Most of the time, network capacity is not a matter of technology, but of planning. Changing usage patterns are normal. Who can predict the strategies that businesses will adopt? Who can predict the exact number of users and their usage patterns? And who can predict what new technologies will burst on the scene?

At the same time, there is a lot of information about network performance. It's just a question of putting it to use so the network itself can learn about changing utilization patterns and tell us about them – or make adjustments automatically.

Toward this goal, we have been hard at work on our Clarity technology. Clarity Live, which debuted in the spring of 2016, is a software module for AirWave network management that gives network operators the information they need to anticipate and quickly resolve connectivity.

For example, Clarity Live enables AirWave to monitor the time it takes for a mobile device to associate with a Wi-Fi radio, authenticate to a RADIUS server, obtain an IP address through DHCP and resolve names for DNS services. Clarity Synthetic, rolled out in the fall of 2016, is a feature that enables administrators to test Wi-Fi networks and address problems before users' experience is affected.

In the meantime, we have acquired Rasa Networks, a company that has developed big data predictive analytics technology. The next step is to add those capabilities to Clarity. As we add automatic predictive capacity management to Clarity, we will be well on our way to answering Ravi's excellent questions. Our aim is to have your network listen, learn from and adapt to the utilization patterns of your user community. At Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, we believe higher learning is not just for bright university students, but for networks as well.