Eighteen-year-old students these days have very high expectations about what’s normal when it comes to connecting to the Internet and their online experiences. For them, “normal” is Wi-Fi on campus that’s “just like home.”
For Simon Furber, network and data center manager at London's Brunel University, delivering on those expectations means ensuring wireless everywhere and banishing the rules that both limit and degrade the campus’ online experience.
“Our philosophy at Brunel is to make technology easy, relevant, and intuitive,” says Furber. “To enable that approach effectively, we need to hide the complexity from users while still maintaining the highest levels of agility and security. When we apply that thinking to BYOD and wireless, there are two core priorities: accelerating service consumption and recreating the online experience that students are used to at home.”
Brunel’s network evolution began in 2000, focusing on the network architecture and service delivery. Throughout every phase of the evolution, the focus was always on opening it up, speeding it up, and making IT more relevant and transparent. The concept of a “Target Architecture” arose from that focus—leading to a cost-effective, flexible network design based on organizational evolution.
The university's "Target Architecture" evolves consistently with input from Cisco and other partners. In striving for a simplistic, service-oriented approach, the underlying infrastructure and its ability to be highly available are critical. Brunel’s IT team relies on the guidance of partners like Cisco to understand its objectives and environment and make recommendations on new technologies and solutions that help meet those objectives.
Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) is a great example.
“We were grappling with how to deal with visitors, staff, and students,” explains Furber. “[Cisco] ISE became very strategic for us because it allowed us to integrate policy-driven decision making. It solved the network visibility and control issues that we were facing, but it also further enabled our ‘unrestricted’ philosophy by making self-provisioning far more intuitive and simple.”
For Furber, the validation of his Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) philosophy and supporting Wi-Fi capabilities are five simple words spoken by students: “It’s just like at home.” In his view, coming to a university should never be a regression in terms of Internet expectation and experience.
“What we offer—a ubiquitous wireless network and freedom on the network—is fairly basic, yet it’s still unprecedented for universities in the UK,” Furber says. “Students want choice in devices and how they use them. And that’s exactly what we’re giving them.”