Mar 25 2014

Next-Gen Firewall Helps School District Prepare for Common Core

Woodland Joint Unified School District in California optimizes and prioritizes its wireless network for online testing.

Network managers have been waiting several years for tools that let them granularly optimize and prioritize traffic over a wireless network.

Now, the Next-Generation Mobility Firewall from Aruba Networks lets them do just that – and it’s specifically designed to optimize bandwidth over Wi-Fi. The firewall update, which is free in Aruba OS 6.4, lets network managers “use deep packet inspection to set granular role-based policies, quality of service and bandwidth priorities for more than 1,500 mobile applications,” according to the company. For example, school IT administrators can restrict YouTube or set Facebook only for educational and collaboration purposes.

Todd Freer, network engineer at Woodland Joint Unified School District in California, says he’s using the new firewall to set up policies to manage the network for the upcoming Common Core tests in his state. The Common Core tests seek to set a national standard for academic achievement across 48 states, two territories and Washington, D.C.


The percentage of districts with more than 10,000 students that said technology for Common Core is a top-three priority

SOURCE: “Common Core Tech” (CDW•G, June 2013)

The district’s 10,000 students will take the tests in phases starting March 18 and ending in the first week of May. Students at the district’s 16 schools will take the tests on a mix of tablets, notebooks and desktops.

“I had been asking Aruba about this new update since I heard about it a month ago,” Freer says. “What it allows me to do is set up policies that give priority to the online tests but can restrict things like YouTube videos or limit updates for student tablets.”

Freer says Aruba’s new product was in many ways a no-brainer for him. For example, if he opted for optimization tools from another manufacturer, that would require a hefty hardware investment — one the school district could not afford or, because it operates over a small region, would not really need.

“Basically, I was able to log on to the Aruba website and download the software, reboot and update our mobility controller,” he says. “The entire process took 15 minutes and I was able to do it on our existing Wi-Fi equipment. With the online testing coming up, the timing for this product couldn’t be better.”

Bob Laliberte, an analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, says Aruba’s announcement demonstrates that products are emerging that focus on prioritizing applications for wireless networks. He says Aerohive Networks, Cisco Meraki and Extreme Networks also have products that offer similar features.

“The wireless providers are coming out with tools that let network managers more effectively manage wireless networks,” he says. “It may not always come in the form of a next-gen firewall like it does with Aruba, but the general idea is that organizations challenged by an influx of mobile devices and applications want a higher level of visibility and granular control.”