U of A builds wireless network with HP switches

The University of Alberta is making use of Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) functionality to deploy a new wireless network and to lay the groundwork for possible future applications like Voice-over IP (VoIP) telephones.

The network will

be using a new switch from HP ProCurve Networking, the 2626-PWR. An extension of HP’s existing 2600 chip series, the 2626 and 2650 are both compliant with the IEEE’s 802.3af standard for PoE and provide up to 15.4 watts per port.

“It enables users to power devices on the network through the data cable,” said Darren Hamilton, category business manger for HP ProCurve Networking. “Those devices might be downstream access points, IP phones or Webcams — various devices that are capable of accepting power through the data line.”

The Engineering Department at the University of Alberta was already running a large ProCurve network when they decided to create a wireless capability in their building as well for their over 2000 student and staff users, thanks to a generous grant from a past student.

Kees den Hartigh, systems and network analyst supervisor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at the U of A, said they looked at a number of options, and settled on HP’s Wireless Internet Access Point 420.

“We were looking at distributing these access points throughout the building, and without the availability of power in some places we wanted to put these things, like up in cable trees,” said den Hartigh. “When we saw the 2626 has the capability of PoE we kind of jumped on it, mainly because of the fact that anything we’ve bought from ProCurve has been reliable and economical.”

According to den Hartigh, they looked at similar products from other vendors but none were as affordable, and they liked how it fit in with their existing network infrastructure.

“There’s an awful lot of flexibility and capability,” said den Hartigh. “There’s tons of options, and they’re just a really flexible device.”

Hamilton said the new switches, the company’s first to use PoE, mean a user only needs to provision one cable or one line out to the device in many cases, such as to an access point, which can mean a cost savings as well as only one cable to manage.

“It’s been very well received by our partners, who have asked us to produce a product that addresses this market,” said Hamilton.

With the diversity of their network, den Hartigh said they needed that flexibility. Students will be connecting with their own laptops and other devices, from PDAs to iPaqs, in a variety of environments from Mac OS to Windows 95.

“It’s a fairly extensive wireless network we’re putting out there, that will give all out students secure wireless network access to the Internet,” said den Hartigh.

He said they also liked that the switches give them the flexibility to move to a VoIP system in the future. Currently they’re running parallel voice and data networks and have no plans to change that, but it’s nice to have the option.

“That was kind of a second thought,” said den Hartigh. “It’s not really something we’re moving to right now but it does give us the capability, and if we decide to go to VoIP in the future these switches would be capable of it.”

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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