Simplicity Now, Simplicity Later: Aruba 8400

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Last June we introduced the first in a new class of core and aggregation switches, the Aruba 8400, born in the mobile-cloud and IoT era. Given the tremendous traction we've witnessed since then, I've started a series of blogs to enable you to learn from early adopters about how our switches are making a difference.

Overall, when we speak to customers, we notice definite similarities across industries. IT organizations are focused on improving resiliency while simultaneously reducing network complexity and automating administrative tasks, freeing them from tedious activities in order to concentrate on forward-looking business-critical initiatives.

To gain a deeper perspective, I recently sat down with James Banks, Executive Director of Technology, and Bobby Mills, Systems Administrator, at the Texas City Independent School District to discuss their experience with a recent core update to the Aruba 8400 Switch Series.

We understand you have some unique educational options at Texas City ISD. Can you tell us more about your institution and its critical role in your region?

We're located along the Texas Gulf Coast, just to the north of Galveston, within the heart of the vital shipping lane connecting the Houston area to the rest of the world. We serve a student population of 8,800, with a total staff of about 1,900, spread across 14 school campuses and three administrative facilities.

To augment our traditional schools, we also recently established a nationally-recognized 30,000 sq. ft. Industrial Trades Center for high school students to help meet regional needs skilled workers in the manufacturing, petroleum and maritime industries. The center is a public-private partnership charged with helping close the skills gap to supply local businesses with the workers they require and enable our students to gain sustainable employment.

What were the drivers for adopting the Aruba 8400 networking switch at your institution?

Like so many organizations, our existing hardware was aging. We made the proactive decision to replace the solution prior to experiencing any disruptions.

Although every minute of instructional time is critical to student success at any district, for us the situation is particularly acute as we absorbed approximately 2,500 students from an under-performing district a couple of years ago. Advancing the capabilities of these students, as well meeting the needs of all our learners, depends on reliable access to instructional technologies.

Why did you select the 8400 instead of another solution on the market?

In addition to Aruba's well-established track record, we were drawn to the 8400's combination of performance and simplification. This included the new ArubaOS-CX a modern software foundation, which supplies intelligent network monitoring, exceptional visibility and an advanced feature set in the switch that is scalable and database-driven.

For example, as a lean IT organization, we're excited about the intuitive web-based UI and onboard Aruba Network Analytics Engine. It provides the ability to significantly speed detection, diagnosis and resolution of issues using the 8400's rules-based, real-time monitoring and intelligent notifications, which automatically correlate events to configuration changes.

These features will enable us to proactively monitor our OSPF links and multicast routing to keep traffic running smoothly and reliably.

Additionally, our current backbone is primarily 10GbE, but we're planning to scale up to 40GbE. The 8400 not only supplies the capacity but also the capability upgrade seamlessly to minimize end users disruptions.

Most importantly, the switch handles traffic between our server farm and all of our campuses as well as concentrating the WLAN controllers for our entire district. In other words, we rely on the 8400's high-availability and redundancy features to guarantee fault tolerance at our core.

Can you tell us about your experience deploying the switch?

It was fast, easy and straightforward, especially compared to our past experience. We did require a firmware upgrade, but the Aruba team made certain we had the needed software within a few hours. The last time we deployed a core switch, which was some years ago, it took two weeks to configure and deploy. From start to finish, the 8400 required less than two days.

 How about your operational experience with the 8400 since deployment?

We're already realizing the 8400's key benefit: it provides our users with always-on, high-performance connectivity without any day-to-day intervention from us. As we've had a number of other critical initiatives requiring our attention, we've yet to fully explore the solution's feature set, but we look forward to leveraging many of the switch's offerings.

To learn more about how your modern mobile, cloud and IoT environment can benefit from the Aruba 8400's flexible and innovative approach to new application, security and scalability demands, click here or contact your Aruba team.