The University of Arizona (UA) has more than 38,000 students and over 13,000 faculty and staff. Ranked among the United States' top public research institutions, UA is world-renowned for the excellence of its instruction, especially in science and business. However, by 2004, students were irate over the inadequacies of the university's wireless communications system, with the campus newspaper describing it as “second-rate” and “too many systems and not enough coverage.” Numerous small WiFi hotspots scattered about campus failed miserably to provide seamless mobile coverage, calls were constantly dropped and everyone was annoyed by having to log on multiple times a day.
Michele Norin, university CIO and executive director of University Information Technical Services (UITS) put it like this: “Everyone in the administration agreed something had to be done – and quickly! An institution known for outstanding research like ours must offer its students an outstanding wireless network. These days, students come to campus with certain wireless connectivity expectations.”
The challenge was to create a secure campus-wide wireless network. NEC offered to manage the project on a turnkey basis, including site surveys, predictive analysis, infrastructure vendor selection and budget management for a solution involving deployment of 4,560 wireless access points to cover virtually all campus buildings. Installation was done in three phases, with the first 12-week phase executed during summer school sessions with thousands of students on campus – a considerable feat of logistics.
UA now has a single, secure ubiquitous wireless network that incorporates 802.1x authentication using WPA2 and WPA, AES and TKIP encryption to provide even more security than the University's wired communications. There are more than 19,000 distinct clients, with the ability to handle over 5,000 concurrent users and the system is scalable to meet future needs. “With 7 million square feet of coverage, this is the largest wireless system of any university as far as we know,” says Norin.
It also lays the foundation for value-add technologies such as Unified Communications applications, including presence, dual-mode mobile devices and RFID asset tracking. The university is now using its wireless system to track campus buses and send alerts in the form of text messages to student devices so they won't miss the bus. NEC provides remote monitoring and management of UA's VoIP system as part of its Comprehensive Remote Managed Services, administers the university's maintenance contract and performs periodic network upgrades.
The Tower Hamlets City Learning Centre, located in the Whitechapel area of London, offers state of the art information technology facilities to students at local schools and is widely regarded as a source of inspiration and innovation as well as being a major route to social mobility for the people of this community. Working in conjunction with local schools and other partners to run workshops, projects and training sessions, the Centre's eLearning Team provides a range of resources to enable staff and students to access emerging and cutting edge technologies, which in turn provide opportunities for a range of individuals and organizations.
The Centre needed to enhance its equipment by replacing a previous system and increasing the number of workstations dedicated to teachers and students. Considering its inner city location, a major requirement was a secure system to avert the theft of physical assets and prevent unauthorized access to information. NEC worked closely with the eLearning Team to tailor a solution based upon the NEC Virtual PC Center (VPCC) incorporating thin client devices and Express5800 120Ri-2 servers. This dynamic, flexible solution utilizing advanced thin client technology allowed the City Learning Centre to enhance security and reduce total cost of ownership (50% less than a traditional PC server environment over three to four years). Authentic user mobility means students have access to a personalized work environment regardless of location, while also enjoying greatly enhanced performance – ultra-compact VPCC clients offer unprecedented media quality, ease of use and wide operating system compatibility.
For the Centre's IT team, NEC's technology makes it easier for them to manage work stations easier, reduces administration costs and guarantees data protection. Costs are reduced since the thin client architecture has a longer lifespan and a much lower power consumption – each thin client consumes less than 13W, eight to ten times less than a PC. And improved energy efficiency is good for the environment – lower heat emissions means there's less need for air conditioning.
Darren Coghlan, City Learning Centre Manager, assesses the results: “The Virtual PC Center solution provided by NEC has been outstanding in meeting our complex requirements in terms of enhanced security, value for money, manageability and energy efficiency to keep up with the City Learning Centre's demanding ICT needs. We have developed a mutually beneficial relationship which has exceeded our expectations and delivered cutting edge technology to enhance education.”