Network Refresh For Central Bedfordshire Council
In early 2015, Central Bedfordshire Council released a requirement for a network refresh. This was intended to offer supplementary Wi-Fi services for guests and corporate users.
Centiant worked with Central Bedfordshire Council to evolve the use of wireless against CBC’s business requirements, eventually extending a cloud managed wireless LAN across all 55 sites. This replaced a problematic segmented legacy Wi-Fi service, with a new solution operated seamlessly across all sites.
The service was delayed going under contract but had a hard end date of Christmas 2015 for several of the large sites. Centiant were able to optimise the rollout using the Aerohive WLAN’s cloud management and auto provisioning. This allowed parallel rollouts, bringing the programme back under time constraints. Services went live in early December, allowing time for training and assurance.
The new Wi-Fi service was extremely well received, and completely changed the council’s perception of wireless LANs in comparison with the legacy system.
This drove the council to ramp-up the rollout, adopting Wi-Fi as the primary access technology for the corporate LAN, and taking full advantage of the benefits of mobility, flexible workspaces, and unified access.
Purple Wi-Fi services were commissioned to complement the new cloud-managed Aerohive WLAN, allowing general public visitors to self-register on the guest network while retaining compliance and traceability. This provides access in libraries and offices.
Originally intended to support 3000 users, the service now supports over 4000 staff devices, and 2000 public access devices. Numbers continue to increase.
CBC’s initial requirement was to offer a wireless LAN to support over 3000 users, distributed between numerous locations across the whole of the Bedfordshire region. This was intended to enable 2500 staff and 500 contractors to carry personal Wi-Fi devices.
It should offer central management and control of the LANs, simplifying the process of managing the networks, with optional escalation and help from the supplier.
It should utilise secure Network Access Control (NAC) to allow the use of the network by staff at the OFFICIAL tier of the government security classification scheme, alongside guest access for council users, visitors and the general public.
CBC’s ICT Strategy Technology Roadmap stated “There is real potential to reduce the cost of delivering IT services to the Council while simultaneously improving service quality and reliability.”
As the service commenced CBC’s requirements evolved. Centiant adapted the solution to bring the corporate network into scope, including a new requirement to refresh the council’s wired LANs.
Aerohive’s controller-less, yet cloud managed wireless LAN platform proved optimal for CBC’s requirements. The cloud management platform provided auto-provisioning and mobility between all of CBC’s sites. This allowed a parallel, staggered rollout with minimal business impact. Centralised provisioning allowed services to be brought on-line in massively reduced timescales.
CBC were able to roll-out a fully 802.11ac compliant WLAN, offering as much as 1.3Gbps throughput with an upgrade path to 2.6Gbps. This provided over 2 orders of magnitude greater performance than the previous system, with the potential to double again. An increased density of access points provided a much greater number of clients to be adopted.
Mobility of access points between sites meant CBC could tailor the AP density to their business requirements, ramping up in business critical areas with adds, moves and changes. This allowed CBC to make maximum use of wireless access for the corporate LAN environment, moving laptops, tablets and office equipment to create a fully dynamic office environment.
Controller-less operation meant that all of CBC’s data remained on-site within their existing security envelope. None was routed via the cloud, or via hub-site controllers which could be a single point of failure.
The cloud based hive-manager provided location detection, identifying hot-spots. Frequency Spectrum Analysis built into the access points also allowed sources of interference, such as a faulty microwave oven, to be identified and traced to a physical location. These could then be dealt with.
Wireless intrusion detection provided the same functionality to identify sources of attack, especially where public access was granted. The solution supports 802.11x, WPA2, and Radius allowing full integration with CBC’s chosen Network Access Control (NAC).
Automatically generated heat-maps provide coverage planning against the number of users in the building, allowing radio transmit power to be adjusted. This also provides coverage through an AP failure, as surrounding AP’s ramp-up to replace the gap in coverage.
Purple Wi-Fi services added an access portal for separated guest users and the general public, allowing internet access to be regulated. Users can self-register, while Purple Wi-Fi authenticates the registrations automatically. Content management scans for compliance and acceptable-use-policy breaches.
Teaming to Deliver – Wired LAN upgrades
Early on in the process, Centiant were able to guide CBC on the most cost effective way of replacing legacy wired LAN technologies supporting the Wi-Fi. These replaced a significant legacy LAN estate with state-of-the-art Brocade networking. The upgrade enabled the adoption of new WLAN technologies at the network-edge.
The Brocade ICX switches provide the ability to selectively upgrade uplinks to 10Gbps using port-on-demand licensing, while Hyperedge provides the ability to drop Spanning Tree Protocol and utilise all redundant ports. This provides CBC with an upgrade path.
Most importantly, the switches offer PoE+ capabilities up-to 30Watts per-port, or 780W in a single chassis. This combined with high availability stacking features and options for power redundancy made them an ideal choice to support the WLAN implementation.
CBC staff were easily able to pick up the familiar management interface of the Brocade equipment, while Centiant provided support and configuration. These were controlled centrally from the Brocade Network Advisor management platform.
Based on this success, CBC are now extending the refresh to the remaining elements of the corporate network.