Macquarie Uni mixes it up with wireless vendors

Summary:Macquarie University's cheap new wireless network continues to evolve and grow since it went live in mid-2005, with some of the original components being replaced by higher-quality and more expensive hardware from additional vendors.

Macquarie University's cheap new wireless network continues to evolve and grow since it went live in mid-2005, with some of the original components being replaced by higher-quality and more expensive hardware from additional vendors.

The network ---which was implemented to alleviate student loads on PC labs -- covers a core of approximately 15 percent of Macquarie's North Ryde campus and currently consists of 55 access points, the university's director of IT services Mary Sharp told a Sydney conference today. Macquarie has some 30,000 students and 7,000 staff.

Although the majority of that hardware was provided by Mitsubishi Diamond Digital and D-Link, the university is investigating replacing some access points with options from vendors vendors such as Cisco, Nortel and Enterasys.

Sharp said the initial hardware was chosen because of its price, with the Mitsubishi and D-Link access points costing only AU$120 and AU$300 per access point respectively. Macquarie allocated a total of AU$50,000 for the project, which the director labelled "the Target approach", referring to the popular discount retailer.

"We're now replacing some access points with more appropriate ones," said Sharp, noting the Mitsubishi access points did the basics, but collapsed under loads greater than 40 simultaneous users. The D-Link hardware has a similar capacity but the advantages of a slightly better range, and being powered through Ethernet cables as opposed to from a wall socket.

She also noted the Mitsubishi access points had proved problematic because they frequently locked up and had to be reset, and users could not roam between different locations without losing their connection - problems not shared by some of the replacement hardware being investigated.

The Macquarie network continues to grow, with around 20 access points being added since the end of November. Sharp said contrary to her expectations, the implementation had gone relatively easily, with minimal help desk calls, no security breaches to date, and minimal blackspots (areas where services could not be provided due to problematic architecture).

Students appear to be taking up the service enthusiastically, with the level of usage peaking at current highs of 170 users simultaneously.

"By the end of last semester [2005], 18 percent of all students who came to campus -- or around 4,000 -- had used it at some point," said Sharp. "We built it, and they came!"

"We expect by the end of this week to have around 200 concurrent users," she said, adding 90 percent of the usage was by students and 10 percent staff.

The Internet telephony solution Skype was also proving popular amongst Macquarie's large percentage of international students, she said.

Topics: Networking

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