Many universities can benefit from a modernized network, but the coronavirus pandemic made meeting this need a much higher priority. Early in 2020, Kent State University in Ohio had already taken steps toward a core network refresh. After the sudden shift to remote learning and socially distanced on-campus activities, the demand for a refresh became urgent.
Working under a short timeline, CDW partnered with Kent State and Aruba Networks to install new switches, controllers, access points, a master controller and two network management solutions, Aruba NetEdit and Aruba AirWave.
From conversations with members of Kent State’s IT staff, we knew they had a strong vision for what they wanted to accomplish through the network upgrade. The team sought to establish a solid networking infrastructure that would address existing performance issues and support the campus community during the pandemic. For instance, the university wanted to provide areas where students could access resources on the campus network while maintaining social distancing.
Kent State also wanted to build a foundation for future capabilities, such as expanding wireless connectivity in specific areas and supporting the ever-expanding array of devices that users bring to campus. Our key theme was modernization: making the university’s network capabilities as efficient and effective as possible.
Centralized Network Management Improves Control and Performance
One of the team’s priorities was to improve network administration with a centralized management solution, something the university hadn’t had before. The IT team also wanted to adopt a single-vendor solution that would work well with centralized management.
Like many institutions, Kent State had acquired, over time, a hodgepodge of network solutions. One of the goals of this project was to reduce the overall number of vendors in order to streamline and centralize network management.
With the new infrastructure, IT staff has visibility into the state of the network, analytical data on performance and centralized patch management. The management solution acts as a force multiplier, extending the reach of network administrators. And, with Kent State operating multiple campuses in geographically dispersed locations, centralized management empowers IT staff to monitor and maintain network performance across sites more easily.
The new network also allows for more effective cybersecurity practices, such as better network access control and segmentation. Equally important, the university is now positioned to expand the network horizontally to meet new demands, enabling it to increase capacity without requiring an extensive upgrade.
Smart Design Optimizes New Networking Solutions
The design aspect of the project was essential to its success. An institution can buy all the new switching equipment in the world, but unless it’s deployed under current best practices and modern architecture, it’s just gear. For Kent State, we were able to recommend a new, more efficient way of designing the core to support long-term scalability.
The work was completed in four months, much of it happening remotely. Knowing that technology is integral to the university’s mission, it was a great feeling to bring this project to a close and help the institution achieve its goals.