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Otago Polytechnic faces wireless test

A new campus wireless network at Kiwi technical college Otago Polytechnic is facing its first real test as this year's influx of students turn on their laptops. "This year is the real live test for it," said Otago network engineer Nathan Gordon last week, as he outlined implementation challenges to a Sydney conference.
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Written by Renai LeMay on
A new campus wireless network at Kiwi technical college Otago Polytechnic is facing its first real test as this year's influx of students turn on their laptops.

"This year is the real live test for it," said Otago network engineer Nathan Gordon last week, as he outlined implementation challenges to a Sydney conference.

The college's wireless network -- which went live late last year -- is composed of 28 ORiNOCO AP-4000 access points from network vendor Proxim, deployed around Otago's main campus in Dunedin.

"We haven't yet looked at the smaller sites, but we have started deploying a fixed wireless solution in some of our satellite sites, where we've got full-term leases on buildings," Gordon told the conference.

Altogether, Otago has some 14,000 students and around 1,300 staff.

Those students receive basic Internet and Web portal access through the wireless service, with Otago's staff able to access the full range of network services. The college uses a virtual local area network (VLAN) to separate the two types of users.

For authentication, vendor Funk Software's Radius server and Odyssey clients are used, with close integration into the college's existing Novell eDirectory implementation. Funk is now owned by Juniper Networks.

"We found a lot of products relied on [Microsoft] Active Directory," said Gordon. "We don't have Active Directory, so we needed to make sure the solution we chose didn't require it."

Proxim's hardware was chosen due to reasons of compatibility, performance and industry recommendations, according to Gordon.

"We wanted a standards-based solution," he said. "There's nothing wrong with using proprietary technologies, but in our environment, we don't have the testing environment or the time to go through the extra work to make sure such a solution is available or suitable."

The network uses Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) technologies for authentication and encryption.

Future wireless initiatives planned by Otago include investigating increased security, mesh networking and a concrete wireless access policy.

Too much time on their hands
Staying one step ahead of overly-enthusiastic students is one challenge faced by Otago's IT department.

"We found that campus users always push the boundaries, and given that we teach IT, we also teach security and hacking," said Gordon, to audience laughter.

"If they find a way to break it, they definitely will."

In addition, Otago didn't want the network to be abused by surrounding residences. "The main campus is located within a city block," said Gordon. "Directly across the road on all four streets are student flats."

"We didn't want to provide wireless coverage on the campus and then have the users go home and give access to their flatmates."

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