Upgrading Network Switches To Meet The Demands For Wireless Connectivity

Kathy Lang, CIO, Marquette University
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Kathy Lang, CIO, Marquette University

Things to be done in the area of infrastructure investment to counter the onslaught of digital content and mobile devices
With the onslaught of both digital content and mobile devices, we need to continuously look at our infrastructure to ensure we are able to support the students and faculty. As they both require infrastructure upgrades, there different types of infrastructure required for both.

In regard to digital content, there are three distinct areas of infrastructure that come to mind. First is storage capacity. More and more faculty are using pod casts and video technology to capture their lectures, both in class and outside of the classroom for use in a “flipped classroom” environment. The storage required to hold these videos and audios in growing exponentially. We need to make sure we have the storage capacity available. This storage can be either on campus or in the cloud. If it’s in the cloud, we need to ensure that the service we are using meets with our security requirements.

Second, is the network bandwidth on campus and third is the Internet bandwidth out to the rest of the world. While some faculty are creating their own content which required storage, more and more are using content already created by others. They are then asking student to view that content over the web. Both the Internet bandwidth and the oncampus network infrastructure (including wireless) has to be capable of reasonably accessing this content.

The on-campus wireless infrastructure on the other had is another issue. There never seems to be enough wireless in the location the students want it. We need wireless everywhere. In the classrooms, we need wireless access for all students in the class, regardless of the size of the class. This can become problematic with some of the larger classes. It’s a matter of adding wireless access points in the locations that best suit the needs. In addition, we need to ensure that our network switches keep up – we sometimes find we need to upgrade those switches to accommodate the increasing demand for wireless.

The influx of mobile devices has created even more of a demand on our wireless infrastructure. Since most smart phone/tablet mobile plans have limits on the amount of data users can have,students will connect to our wireless infrastructure as much as possible. We are finding that, on average, there are 3 to 4 mobile/wireless devices connected for every student living in the residence halls. This is a long way from the days when we were so proud of having a network “port for every pillow”. Today there are students who don’t even know what a network port is. They only know wireless and they expect to have excellent wireless coverage wherever they go. From the IT Services perspective, it’s a process whereby we need to continually monitor and address the most pressing needs with regard to both mobile devices and digital content.

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