Controller-less WLAN solution helps Swansea pick Aerohive for schools

City and County of Swansea rolls out Aerohive WLAN access points and management platform across 102 primary and secondary schools

Wi-Fi and cloud managed mobile specialist Aerohive has landed a major project with the City and County of Swansea to supply a controller-less wireless LAN (WLAN) and centralised management platform across 102 schools under the Welsh government’s Learning in Digital Wales programme.

Swansea has been a pioneer in the development of digital classrooms and is already using tablets and other mobile devices widely in its schools. One of its schools has won national awards for its use of mobile technology, and a move to extend that initiative into other schools and the wider community has also picked up plaudits. Putting in place a resilient, intelligent and secure Wi-Fi network was crucial to continue this process.

The first phase of the project – which displaces a limited Aruba deployment that, by the council’s own admission, had not been the best fit for its needs – will see 1,600 Wi-Fi access points (APs) deployed in Swansea’s primary and secondary schools, managed through one centralised HiveManager Virtual Appliance.

The overall manageability of the new WLAN was a critical factor in Swansea council’s decision, said senior ICT programme delivery manager Ricky Holdsworth.

“We provide a managed service for schools in Swansea,” he said, “and they buy in through SLAs [service-level agreements] with the local authority. So, as part of that, it was even more critical that we had manageability because ultimately it is us supporting it; it’s not delegated out to schools.”

For this reason, Aerohive’s HiveManager platform and controller-less APs came up trumps in the procurement process, said Holdsworth.

Paul Hennin, director of marketing international at Aerohive, said: “When you deploy Wi-Fi with a controller-based architecture, you have to have a physical, on-premise device, specific to the size of network and in charge of all connections and APs, which must be determined at the point of deployment.

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“Once you’ve made that decision, hopefully you’ll be fine, but if you want to expand or replace controllers, or more mobile devices come into the classroom, or you want to roll out to areas you never thought you’d need to, then there’s a problem.

“With Aerohive, there is no physical controller. Our architecture pushes intelligence to the APs. It’s a flexible, fluid approach to deploying a WLAN.”

Hennin admitted that this meant Aerohive was not the cheapest solution from the outset, but he said the total cost of ownership benefit compared with its competitors would soon become apparent as the system was deployed at more and more sites. In Swansea’s case, this will stretch to 73 primary schools, 15 secondary schools and a handful of pupil referral units.

Holdsworth, meanwhile, is already embarking on plans to extend the WLAN to other council properties, eventually enabling pupils from across the county to use their school networking credentials to go online at 18 city libraries, which are currently outsourced to Capgemini for IT.

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