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Nanjing University Builds Next-Generation Campus Network

By Li Li, IMC Manager, Switch and WLAN Domain, and Sun Shengbai, Senior Marketing Manager, Switch Domain, Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.

Nanjing University (NJU) is a national university directly under the Ministry of Education of China. As a member university of ‘Project 985’ and ‘Project 211’ — both of which are dedicated to promoting the development and implementation of higher research standards for top-level Chinese universities — NJU plays a leading role in university informatization in China. And, with the emergence of new teaching models and applications (online education, micro courses, e-book libraries, and others) and wireless terminals (such as notebooks and smartphones), teachers and students increasingly expect efficient, convenient, and mobile campus networks.

To this end, NJU had planned to construct a comprehensive, high-quality wireless network covering more than 5,000 rooms in offices, classrooms, libraries, and other campus locations. To preserve the ancient-style architecture in NJU, wireless network deployment had to simultaneously consider high-quality signal coverage and zero damage to existing building structures. These conditions presented the biggest challenge for the design and deployment of the new wireless network.

Huawei proposed a scenario that used an agile, distributed Wi-Fi solution to meet NJU's requirements. The innovative solution splits traditional Access Points (APs) into a central AP and Remote Units (RUs) to deploy a wireless network with the following characteristics:

  • Pervasive coverage and deployment without recabling using flexible indoor racks: A central AP can connect to RUs through existing Ethernet cables and supply Power over Ethernet (PoE) to the RUs. The solution does not require drilling holes in the walls to preserve the original building structures. This also simplifies network construction, reduces costs, and shortens the construction period. RUs can be embedded into 86-type boxes or mounted on ceilings or walls. This ensures uncompromised signal coverage for each room. On-site tests have shown that the wireless signal strength meets the target design levels for each room.
  • Simplified management; logical nodes reduced by 95%: A central AP manages up to 24 RUs by default and up to 48 RUs through a switch. The RUs are plug-and-play and do not require licenses. The Access Controllers (ACs) are improved over traditional solutions in which ACs were needed to manage each AP. By having the AC only manage central APs, the number of managed APs is reduced by up to 95 percent (from 4,750 to 198; 1/24 = 4.17 percent). This greatly simplifies network management.
  • Dual backup; service continuity ensured: A Huawei S12708 agile switch was used as the AC. All AC cards were deployed in hot-standby mode for real-time service information backup. In this way, data on a faulty AC card will automatically be switched to the backup AC card. This ensures service continuity and greatly improves network reliability. Additionally, Huawei APs have a ‘smart service endurance’ mode. If communication with an AC is interrupted due to an AC or link fault, APs transition to a semi-autonomous state and continue to forward service data from wireless client devices, or STAtions (STAs). This function guarantees nonstop service forwarding and improves user experience. When communication with the AC is recovered, the AC manages the APs again, ensuring stable and reliable network operation.
  • The Huawei Agile Distributed Wi-Fi solution satisfied NJU’s requirements for a stable, reliable, and innovative next-generation wireless campus network. The Wi-Fi project has propelled the university’s informatization program, and permits teachers and students to access the wireless campus network anywhere and anytime. Various wireless education activities, such as online exams, courses, and assignment submissions are now made possible. The benefit is a platform that simplifies and enriches the educational and extracurricular activities for all campus stakeholders.

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