Jul 12 2022

Modernized Networking Helps Colleges and Universities Serve Students

Legacy networks might not be able to keep up with the needs of today’s students.

The higher education landscape is exceptionally complex. Colleges and universities — some with tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff — need to support robust communications and collaboration. Legacy networking infrastructure may not be up to the task.

Colleges may struggle to support the ever-growing number of devices and the rising tide of data. Existing networks may not offer adequate cyber safeguards, and legacy approaches may lack the flexibility to adapt to rapidly changing needs.

A modernized networking solution can help higher education institutions effectively meet their missions, even in the midst of these challenges.

“The network is the foundation for almost anything that happens on campus,” says Gerri Hinkel, vertical marketing manager at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. “Modernized networking is key to attracting students, pulling them back onto campus and ultimately growing your student base.”

FIND OUT: How Aruba Networks can deliver a modernized networking solution.

The Networking Landscape in Higher Ed

With the rise of remote connectivity among students, faculty and staff, university IT teams are taking a hard look at their networking solutions. Many find they are coming up short.

At a high level, legacy networks struggle to adapt to rising demands.

“Every service or experience relies on digital tools today,” says Hinkel. “The legacy network infrastructures weren’t built to support that kind of connectivity, and they don’t have the flexibility to meet the changing circumstances.”

Networks today must pull data from a diverse range of sources and pool that data to support end-user needs. Legacy solutions don’t have the ability to extract data from the network or to help people make sense of it.

“In the past, a switch just moved traffic,” says Hinkel. “Today, it needs to do much more than that.”

WATCH: How one school is accelerating research through network upgrades.

With hundreds of thousands of devices potentially connected to a campus network — from end users to Internet of Things (IoT) systems and beyond — the network must also respond to escalating cyberthreats.

“Every single one of those devices could be a potential security risk,” says Hinkel.

Legacy solutions weren’t built to support that emerging demand.

Gerri Hinkel
The legacy network infrastructures weren’t built to support that kind of connectivity, and they don’t have the flexibility to meet the changing circumstances.”

Gerri Hinkel Vertical Marketing Manager, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

Technical complexity is also an issue. Data sources may leverage various protocols, for example, that are not readily accommodated in the existing network infrastructure.

Faced with these varied challenges, higher ed needs a modernized approach to networking architecture.

DISCOVER: Why switches are key for higher education network modernization.

A Modernized Approach to Networking in Higher Ed

What does that look like in practice? A modernized network will have three key characteristics: It will be open, it will be aware and it will incorporate some level of automation.

  • Openness: In an ever-changing IT landscape, the networking architecture must be flexible and adaptable. It must accommodate not just Wi-Fi but any number of other protocols. It must support any type of modernized digital transformation initiative within the campus community.

“Openness to working with other technology partners is a huge piece of that,” says Hinkel. “You need a network that is able to work with a wide a variety of IoT vendors and devices.”

  • Awareness: The network should be able to give the IT team a high level of operational awareness. It should, for example, be able to sense when new devices attach to the network or when unusual activity occurs.

“You’ve got to have a network that is aware of what’s going on,” says Hinkel. Otherwise, the IT teams that support the network will be overwhelmed with mundane tasks, unable to devote their efforts to higher-level work.

  • Automation: A modernized network will not only know what is going on but will also be able to take some automated actions, as defined by the network operator. Automation promises to make network management more efficient and effective.

“Imagine you have thousands of switches in your campus, and now you change some security policy,” says Hinkel. “You would rather just push a button and have that happen on all the switches, automatically, rather than having to manually go to each switch and make that change.”

READ MORE: These emerging AI technologies are shaping higher education.

Aruba Helps with Network Modernization in Higher Ed

Higher education has been one of the largest and most consistent market segments for Aruba since the company’s founding 22 years ago. In a collaborative effort, higher ed leaders serve on a customer advisory council that advises Aruba on emerging needs.

Leading-edge products include a range of indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi solutions, “everything from high-capacity access points to those that can be put in an instructor’s home and still have secure access back to the campus network,” says Hinkel.

Modernized access switching solutions can deliver on the increased power demands common across higher ed today, with automated features and other key capabilities designed to dramatically simplify security.

The network management platform Aruba Central helps IT to automate deployment and gives teams visibility over the entire network. “It provides insight into coverage gaps and other key metrics to drive that improved user experience,” says Hinkel.

Aruba counts over 100 of the 130 R1 research institutions across the globe among its customers. “We understand their needs, and we work hard every day to get them the solutions that will position them for success, today and in the future,” says Hinkel.

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