ESADE Business School – Xirrus Customer Case Study

Xirrus Customer Case Study

ESADE Business School

High-density Wi-Fi enriches graduate education with simulations, interactive polling, and more

Mobile devices and campus Wi-Fi networks are changing the face of higher education. For example, some professors liven up their classes by polling students, assigning online simulations, and providing hands-on experience with cloud-based business applications.

But growing numbers of wireless devices burden networks in ways their designers could not have foreseen. At the highly rated ESADE Business School in Spain, for instance, the 3000 students now have an average of 2.5 wireless devices apiece. “The growth in the number of mobile devices connecting to Wi-Fi is a real challenge for IT,” says Miguel Lopez, Manager of Architecture and Systems for ESADE Business School.

More devices and higher expectations burdened existing Wi-Fi network

ESADE Business School students attend classes on three campuses in Barcelona and Madrid. The need for a new wireless network first surfaced in a 300-seat auditorium. Many students brought more than one mobile device to class, and network load had begun to outstrip the capacity of the existing Wi-Fi network, from the same vendor that provides the campus wired network. “We asked ourselves how we could continue to provide a good wireless experience, especially in high-density areas,” says Lopez.

ESADE’s IT team began looking for a new Wi-Fi solution that would deliver a consistently good user experience. To minimize costs, the IT team preferred a simple solution that didn’t require a central controller. And to make the investment last, ESADE wanted a network that could be easily upgraded to support more devices and future standards.

The test: high-density Wi-Fi in the 300-seat auditorium

Air-Fi, a systems integrator, suggested that ESADE try out a Xirrus solution in the auditorium. Suddenly, teachers could poll all 300 students at once. “Just two Xirrus access points—one each in the seating area and lobby—covered the entire 300-seat auditorium,” says Lopez. “With any other wireless solution, the same coverage would have required 6-8 access points.” Fewer access points equates to lower capital costs, less cabling, and lower management overhead.

After the proof of concept, ESADE Business School gradually replaced existing access points. During the 18-month transition, the old and new access points coexisted with no issues.

Today, 80 the Xirrus Wi-Fi network access points provides coverage in 60 classrooms on three campuses, libraries, and other campus gathering places. Students can connect with older as well as new wireless devices because Xirrus radios operate in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.

Innovative ways to engage business students

Now that every student can connect in the classroom, professors are engaging students in new ways. In one class, students get hands-on experience with Salesforce customer relationship management software, using their own mobile devices. Real-life experience prepares them for the work world. In another class, students participate in an IBM business process management (BPM) simulation game. Their assignment is to develop more efficient ways to respond to customers in a contact center. In other classes, professors ask students to view video or download articles and case studies.

Students like being able to work on class assignments from the library and other campus hotspots. And the value of the Xirrus network goes beyond learning, because students also use Wi-Fi for communicating with friends and family, social media, and Skype job interviews. “We’re providing a service that students appreciate,” Lopez says.

Simple management, easy upgrades

The IT team saves time by not managing a central controller. Instead, the controller function is built into each Xirrus access point. Not having a central controller also improves availability by eliminating a single point of failure.

To monitor and troubleshoot the wireless network, the IT team uses the Xirrus Management System. Staff receive alerts when the system detects a potential issue. “The Xirrus Management System also makes it easier to troubleshoot connection problems,” Lopez says. “Maybe the device has the wrong driver, for instance. And when we’re planning where to place access points, we can quickly see where people connect.”

In March 2015, ESADE upgraded the Xirrus network to support more devices and the faster 802.11ac standard. “To add capacity, we just snapped in a couple of additional radios in each radio,” says Lopez. “Xirrus radios are software programmable, so we configured them for 802.11ac with a mouse click.”

 

A win for the school, the IT team, and students

The decision to conduct a proof of concept  deployment back in 2012 has paid big dividends. A state-of-the-art Xirrus Wi-Fi network boosts ESADE Business School’s already stellar reputation. A simpler architecture, without a centralized controller, lowers management overhead. And outstanding performance, even in large lecture halls, enables students and faculty to enjoy innovative learning exercises that take advantage of mobile devices and cloud services.

 

Highlights

  • Provides dependable, high-speed Wi-Fi in more than 60 classrooms and libraries
  • Provides coverage throughout 300-seat auditorium with just two access points
  • Enables professors to engage students with interactive classroom assignments
  • Lowers costs and eliminates a single point of failure by not relying on a central controller
  • Upgraded to 802.11ac with a simple software change

 

“Just two Xirrus access points—one each in the seating area and lobby—cover the entire 300-seat auditorium. With any other wireless solution, the same coverage would have required 6-8 access points.”

—Miguel Lopez, Manager of Architecture and Systems, ESADE Business School

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