Thinking Through an Education Campus Vendor Migration

by Jim Stewart, Technical Marketing Manager

University and college campus networks can be some of the most challenging environments to design and maintain, with so many different classes of users and device types all accessing the network at the same time, from many distinct locations.  Professors, administrative staff, and employee network management is enough to keep any decent IT staff occupied – but then you add students! Students arrive on campus at the beginning of the semester, like an invading army equipped with all the latest hot gadgets. And they expect the Wi-Fi to work everywhere, all the time, without connection issues. Wi-Fi has become a necessity in every part of campus life – students today grew up as digital natives, and they don’t know any other way of life.

As if managing a campus network wasn’t already challenging enough, students are trying to access the network with hundreds or thousands of new devices all at the same time, the standards continue to evolve, and more bandwidth is ALWAYS needed. Wi-Fi is one of the most dynamic technologies we’ve seen, working through an alphabet soup of 802.11a, b, g, n, to two waves of 11ac, with more changes coming, even though we’ve run out of letters. Your deployed Wi-Fi on campus could already be in need of a refresh, possibly including a new vendor. How are you going to manage a complex migration project? Is it even possible, let alone smart, to have two different Wi-Fi vendors on a single campus?

To answer these questions, and support our customers, we started developing guidelines for how to migrate a campus network from one vendor to another. In all honesty, my initial thought was, “Are we going to have enough material for this?” However, once I sat down and started outlining ideas and concerns…well, after 6 pages of bullet points in small type, I thought, “Suffering Sappho, this is complex!” (I recently took my kids to see Wonder Woman).

(Wonder Woman’s networked TV needs a Ruckus AP)

To try and simplify the process and insure it would be adaptable, we outlined a framework that would work on any campus, big or small, for migrating wired and wireless network vendors.  Put simply, think about using the traditional OSI model. We recommend defining location boundaries and using the OSI model to think through the network needs at each location and each network layer, and how those needs change as users cross location and vendor boundaries. We even made a handy checklist to help organize your migration planning.

To read our full recommendation, please download our white paper: How to Plan a Successful Campus Network Migration.  Or, to hear us discuss this method first-hand, listen to our on demand webinar. I hope this information is useful, and if you learn half as much as I did while working on it, we’ll be proud over here at Ruckus.

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