Summer 2019 marks the third anniversary of the Dell wireless network service going live on campus.
Student Residences were the first locations to migrate, giving students in accommodation a fast and secure environment to underpin their study, whilst also offering them flexible options to connect their games consoles and streaming devices as if they were still at home.
After that we began moving staff areas onto the new wireless and most now have access, with the last locations at Ninewells coming on-stream early in April 2019.
Once those last locations are migrated, we will have just under 3,000 Wireless Access Points (covering indoor and outdoor) deployed across our sites. Early afternoons appear to be our busiest time on the wireless network, with peaks of 10,500 clients downloading about 2.6Gbps (see images above and below).
Wireless is now becoming our primary connection means to the network and we need to be planning ahead to ensure this service continues to deliver to the requirements of our users.
Controllers and access points change hands
The Dell wireless infrastructure (controllers and access points) are re-branded Aruba products produced under an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) agreement between the companies. Aruba were purchased by HPE in 2015/16, just as we started deploying our new network. Not long after that the OEM agreement between Dell and HPE/Aruba was terminated.
This means Dell can provide continued service support for our environment as-is, but we are restricted to security updates for software and basic hardware replacements in the event of failures.
Future proofing our wireless infrastructure
If we continue in our current position (running hardware under the old vendor (Dell)), we have no option for wireless access point expansion should we re-develop existing buildings or build new spaces. In addition, as the new vendor (HPE/Aruba) releases updated versions of software for our hardware, we will be prevented from leveraging any new features to keep our wireless service current.
To rectify this position, we have agreed with Dell and HPE/Aruba to convert our wireless licenses and hardware/software support to HPE/Aruba. This will ensure our wireless environment is fully supported and allow us to upgrade and develop it as required over the coming years.
Moving our infrastructure to the new vendor
We have been working with our network support partners (Circle IT) and specialists from Dell and HPE/Aruba over the last nine months planning for this change. Circle IT have already undertaken similar migrations with their other customers, so the process has been proven and tested.
Unfortunately, like many changes of this scale, the change of licensing and software will be disruptive. Having assessed all of our options however, we believe upgrading to new vendor support is the correct course of action to take for the reasons noted above.
Upgrade schedule and expected impact
It will take two days worth of evening work to upgrade our wireless infrastructure. This work will take place on:
- Tue 2 Apr, 18:00 – 23:00
- Thu 4 Apr, 18:00 – 23:00
As you can see there is a notified five hour disruption window for each upgrade, but any single wireless access point should only be offline for approximately 10-15 minutes sometime during that window.
This means as opposed to there being a wide scale outage of wireless, there will be small pockets of disruption as the upgrade makes its way from access point-to-access point, room-to-room, building-to-building.
If you are connected to a wireless access point as it reloads the new software, the wireless controller should try and move your device to another available access point. Due to the quantity of access point reloads, we can’t guarantee this in all circumstances, so on this occasion you may need to accept a short service outage.
We accept there is never a perfect time to undertake this critical maintenance activity, but we have tried to select times to reduce that impact as much as possible.
Should any issues arise during either work window, updates will be added to the IT Status post.
If you have any questions about this work, contact the Service Desk quoting ref C1901-027.
Thanks for reading,
Bob works within UoD IT and leads a small team of experts responsible for maintaining the University’s underlying network infrastructure. He has played a key role in the Network Refresh project, particularly within design stages.