How we turned around our ability to support BYOD for now and for the future

Rio Rancho (NM) Public Schools is the state’s third-largest school district; it has 18,000 students and more than 2,000 employees across 19 schools.

With reliance on mobility for K-12 curriculum increasing, the demand for wireless in our district has also increased. We not only have encouraged our faculty and staff to embrace BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), but we have also provided Chromebooks to all of our 18,000 students.

Due to these changes, we realized we needed to increase the number of access points (APs) we were deploying to one AP per classroom. That solved the device density challenge, but by multiplying our AP count from about 400 to nearly 1,700, we now needed to find a way to centralize and simplify our wireless configurations.

We decided to deploy a controller-managed WLAN with Aruba Wave 2 APs and the Aruba Mobility Master controller. Our district couldn’t dedicate resources to this transition full-time, so we completed the deployment over a couple of months during the middle of the 2017-2018 school year.

We were able to integrate ArubaOS8 as our centralized network operating system with AirWave for network management optimization, and ClearPass for securing BYOD and district-issued devices. This helped tighten and streamline policy management, allowing users to securely and seamlessly log on and receive the proper credentials whether they’re a student, staff, or guest.

Using the Mobility Master controller, we’ve also been able to utilize the Live Upgrade feature, which enabled moving our controllers from our old 1GbE connection to 10GbE during a school day, without any downtime. This not only saved us from working after hours but reduced the migration time by about half.

As IoT and other devices increase on the network, the ability to quickly apply rules limiting the users of each device is highly valuable. On-the-fly network production changes will happen, so setting up hierarchical configurations will make these processes as painless as possible. When choosing a wireless provider, it’s important to know how they will integrate with your BYOD and device policy management such as ClearPass. By increasing automation capabilities for IT, we can dedicate more time to focus on other critical projects for curriculum innovations.
We plan to become 90 percent wireless and 10 percent wired, reducing our switch port needs. While updating our switches, we will unify access policy management for our wired and wireless networks by tunneling both types of traffic through our controllers. Our new infrastructure will help us prepare for what’s next, including the new WPA3 Wi-Fi security standard, which will keep our students’ security a top priority for us.

See how a very large district turned around its English learner (EL) program.

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