We're just taking the first steps in replacing our ageing wireless setup. I like to think I've done a fair bit of reading & research around the subject but thought I'd try to gather some specific opinions on exactly what kit (eg: AP & controller models, etc ...) people have installed and coping with the loads. So if you have any of the following systems and couple spare a minute or 2 to jot down which AP models & controllers you have and what sort of load they are coping with (classrooms full of laptops, lots of BYOD's, etc) that would be most helpful! In no particular order:
I guess I'm most interested in making sure that:
(a) We definitely end up with a system that can cope with the current & near future (3-5yrs) loads that we're expecting in a regular secondary school
(b) We're not paying over the odds for provisioning more than we need ... I realise it's hard to judge ...
Thoughts at the moment are:
(i) minimum 2x2:2 per AP's
(ii) gigabit connections for all AP's
(iii) g & n standards at least (a b optional)
We had a managed system with 35 AP's installed about 18 months ago made by Aruba Networks. We have a mixture of 2x2:2 and 3x3:3 AP's. AP-105, AP-135 models. All are a/b/g/n simultaneous dual band radios. In my opinion if you're running any more than about 10 clients in a single room, dual band should be an absolute must, there's just so much more space available in the 5ghz band its silly not to use it.
The controller we have is a 3400, which can take care of 64 local AP's on your network. We are a relatively small secondary school with around 425 students, laptops outnumber desktops around 2:1 these days!
We've had precisely zero issues aside for a single AP just stopping working one day - replaced under warranty with little fuss! While it was down the surrounding AP's took up the slack without issue.
Cost wise, the entire installation was specced and arranged by our county infrastructure service who provided all switching and cabling for us, including a wireless survey (essential!) up front to decide how many and where the AP's should be. It was inevitably more expensive than some other managed wireless. I think our system with 35 AP's cost around £22000 18 months back, system alone, not the cabling/switching. But the system is rock solid and I've been unable to catch it out, with it distributing clients across AP's and a/n or g/n bands where the clients are capable. On our 3x3:3 laptops on 3x3:3 AP's we easily surpass fast ethernet connection speeds to clients, really does border on 'as good as' a wire! I am confident that the system will serve us well for many years to come.
When looking at systems when we were deciding what to go for, we did look at Meru as they use quite a different philosophy to wireless than most, where the entire site I believe runs on a single wireless channel with AP's only being 'dumb' radios that are extensions of the controller, that allows for very high client density and seamless roaming, but the cost was decidedly higher and probably a bit over the top for our needs!
You might want to check with the guys at Herts Schools ICT like Colin etc. They have deployed a lot of Aruba with the controller and with the controller-less option.
You definately want 2X2:2 - most laptops support that now - buying :3 without laptops that support it is not very useful.
you definately need 5ghz n support.
The wifi alliance hasn't tested/approved with wide 40ghz channels in the 2.4ghz band so it is not very reliable.
There are more channels available in the 5ghz band so you get more throughput when two sets of classrooms are near to each other - effectively if you have two aps on two different channels you are doubling your throughput.
Some rule of thumbs
1 AP per classroom
3 classrooms next to each other 2 APs is OK.
Make sure you have a little bit of overlap i.e. you dont put the aps right at the boundary of each other. Because if one goes down you lose coverage totally in that area.
Pick a vendor and ask them to do a virtual paper survey youll get the survey for free then. !
I know this reply is really late, but from my perspective, nothing beats the Xirrus Arrays in terms of density and throughput. My only recommendation is to look at getting a WIFI survey done, which I know Xirrus do for free.
Also, if going BYOD (or any other growth factors), it is a really good idea to look at how many clients (4 times number of users is a start for BYOD), then look at densities in buildings, then look at connections coming through the Edge switches, then what effect it will have on your network core.
For this exact reason, I am looking 10GB links from core to Edge, and also looking at upgading my HP 5406 core to a Force 10 4810 core (using it for my data network and storage fabric needs).
I would look at dual band wireless, and then what sort of authentication model you are using (Radius/AD). Are you going to implement dynamic vlanning so you can have a student WIFI zone? Are all your Edge swtiches dynamic vlan capable? will this zone be firewalled off from your production network and staff? what sort of traffic do you envisage on your network? do you need to upgrade your ISP connection? There are a lot of questions.....
So while the WIFI technology is important....there are other equally important considerations in the overall design....