EDUCATION in these pandemic conditions is affected mostly by a network’s ability to deliver the learning messages in toto—complete and unaffected by digital noise and line disruptions common to online education.
Then there is the added complication of conducting blended learning classes or slightly opening up classrooms for face-to-face education, which for some disciplines, for example pharmacy, medicine, engineering and those that require laboratory in the senior years, is necessary.
As in all modern digital environments, the school network cannot go down, and even planned downtime can cause major challenges. When educators can count on the network to perform at an optimal level, it increases their confidence and enables them to focus on student outcomes, not on whether their device connects or not.
Recently, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, introduced its ESP (Edge Services Platform). Using a combination of Aruba’s integrated wired, wireless, security, network management, and location-based solutions, ESP offers innovative, secure and safe ways to connecting to any educational institutions’ system, be it an existing network down to an LMS, it can do things like contact tracing and location heat mapping, ensuring the health and safety of students returning to the classrooms as well as managing who gets into the system, improving access points and having a single control room to view all connectivity and security aspects.
“Aruba ESP is like a AI-powered sixth sense because it is designed to automate, unify, and secure the Edge. It allows IT teams to spot and fix problems on the network before they impact a business or in this case an educational institution,” Justin Chiah, Senior Director, South East Asia, Taiwan and Hongkong/Macau for Aruba said in an exclusive interview with Malaya Business Insight.
Since the system can detect problems before it happens based on the data it receives, it can resolve impending issues, recommends an accurate resolution and automate the actions, all without manual intervention. Having no need for human intervention is one of the core advantages of Aruba ESP. According to Chiah, it can see, for example, unauthorized devices in the network. But instead of removing it, it can first isolate it, determine its credentials further and then act on it promptly.
“This is part of the network intelligence, because sometimes, for example in online learning, a device runs out of power or is broken and another device is used, the system will automatically take measures based on its Zero Trust Network Security technology to make a decision,” Chiah explained.
Zero Trust Network Security can authenticate, authorize, and control every user and device connecting to the network, using built-in role-based access technology, Dynamic Segmentation, and identity-based intrusion detection to ensure network and individual security. And the power of the Aruba ESP keeps the organization’s system humming–classes are going on unhampered, Zoom meetings continue, connections are stable and fast–while it is still detecting, preventing, isolating and stopping attacks before they impact the network.
Aruba ESP also uses Unified Infrastructure (UI) to consolidate all network operations for switching, Wi-Fi and SD-WAN across campus, or data center, or remote work environments under Aruba Central. This Cloud-native, single-pane-of-glass console correlates cross-domain events to reduce issue resolution time and manual errors. In addition, Aruba’s UI approach provides customers with a choice between controller services on-premises or in the Cloud, delivering maximum flexibility especially for campuses.
Thus as higher education institutions across the Philippines are considering the theorized length of the pandemic, estimated to extend until the 4th quarter of 2021, network infrastructure and digital technologies are now the top priority of most schools. Also realizing that social distancing will the norm for the years to come, the utilization of intelligent and accessible technology has become the priority. Technology experts agree that Aruba ESP is currently the industry’s most scalable, full-stack, Cloud-native platform in any connectivity environment that has powerful applications in schools and universities.
The technologies that are part of Aruba ESP
High-performance wireless networks. Aruba’s Wi-Fi 6 (802.11.ax) infrastructure is designed to support schools of any size with always-on secure connectivity. Seamless roaming allows network access on the move, while high-density capabilities supports both large classrooms, the auditorium and outdoor facilities. Learning management and unified communications systems can be prioritized to deliver latency-sensitive data, voice, and video without delay, loss, or jitter.
Hitless updates and hitless failover ensure that the wireless network can stay current with the latest security updates, tolerate faults, and be available whenever needed. No assessment or online test interruptions, no dropped calls.
The infrastructure leverages industry-leading tools to auto-adapt to changing environments and applications: ClientMatch to optimize roaming performance; AppRF to optimize the performance of critical applications; Adaptive Radio Management to enhance radio performance; and AirSlice to manage bandwidth allocation.
A unified infrastructure from edge to core. Wired and wireless networks work together to deliver a consistent and secure network experience. Aruba designs its own semiconductors so its switches can provide blazing fast and highly granular visibility into the performance of the switching fabric. SmartRate power-over-Ethernet (PoE) allows Wi-Fi 6 access points to operate at >1Gbps over existing cabling, eliminating the need to rip and replace cable plants to obtain multi-gigabit wireless performance.
The Aruba AOS-CX operating system features a time-series database that provides deep visibility into data traversing the switching fabric. Intuitive software-defined management tools, built-in analytics, and programmable scripting offer unparalleled insights into network and device activity, fault isolation, and system performance. Upgrades and updates can be easily enabled, reversed, and changed without impacting the network or the people who rely on it.
Redundant Aruba AOS-CX switches operating in Active-Active mode will deliver non-stop operation in the event of a fault. Virtual Switching Extension (VSX) ensures that traffic loads are validated before returning balanced traffic loads to the Active-Active pair. Once the first core switch completes the transfer, the process repeats for the remaining core infrastructure.
The Network Analytics Engine (NAE), included with AOS-CX, provides a built-in framework for monitoring and troubleshooting networks. NAE detects problems in real-time and analyzes trends using the time-series database so IT can predict future performance and security issues.
AOS-CX, coupled with high-performance switches, delivers the throughput, performance, and actionable insights IT administrators need to handle the massive amounts of data now being generated at the network edge in every college and university.
More on Zero-Trust Security
While many academic institutions around the world have been investing in cybersecurity, unsettling breach statistics and costly ransomware attacks show more needs to be done to protect people and information. Traditional security solutions create a secure perimeter and detect attacks and malware based on their patterns or signatures. This model is unsuitable for schools where there is no perimeter: students, staff, and teachers move on and off the school site, and need network access everywhere.
Aruba’s Zero Trust Security framework dynamically segments network traffic. With policy management, analytics, and automation, the risks of security breaches are minimized while detection and response are enhanced.
Know what is on the network. With IoT devices springing up seemingly everywhere, it can be challenging to know what is or should be on the IT network. AI-powered ClearPass Device Insight simplifies device identification and onboarding using machine learning to identify and profile IoT device types so they can be automatically dynamically segmented, remediated, or quarantined.
Zero Trust security access. Once devices are identified, ClearPass Policy Manager profiles, authenticates, authorizes, and tightly manages network access using granular, policy-based access controls. Users and devices have restricted access to only those network, IT, and application resources for which they have been approved. ClearPass also ensures that users and devices are compliant with regulations governing student privacy and personally identifiable information.
Separate student, administrative, and device traffic. Dynamic segmentation establishes secure tunnels between IT, IoT, and plant operational technology (OT) devices and their associated applications. This perimeter-less zero trust micro-segmentation is applied to wired, wireless and WAN networks, so no matter where users and devices work or roam micro-segmentation will remain in effect. Policies are carried across the network end-to-end, regardless of the location of the user or device or the switch port carrying the traffic, i.e., student learning traffic is isolated from student records, public safety cameras, and administrative traffic.
Aruba Edge and AI-powered management tools
Aruba’s Edge Services Platform includes assurance and orchestration features to maximize up-time, optimize user experiences, and reduce the time to troubleshoot issues to root cause. Automated network assurance delivers AIOps insights from a single pane of glass, while edge-to-cloud experience monitoring generates automated AI-based alerts that proactively pinpoint critical application and network issues.
Optimized remote site connectivity, visibility, and management. Aruba’s SD-Branch solution leverages SD-WAN capabilities to deliver secure connectivity to individual schools. Offering service level agreement (SLA) monitoring over Internet, MPLS, and cellular WAN links, the solution encompasses WAN, WLAN, wired networks, and security management.
Deployment is a snap and can even be done by non-technical personnel without an IT truck roll. An Aruba mobile app is used to scan barcodes on Aruba devices and configurations are downloaded automatically to Aruba Central cloud-managed gateways. There is no faster or more intuitive way to connect and bring-up schools than Aruba’s SD-Branch solution.
AIOps for optimized performance. Aruba delivers customized recommendations through AI-based machine learning to improve network and application performance based on anonymized comparison with peer environments. If a change could increase performance by 10%, it is recommended to the Network Admin who can then authorize the settings change. Aruba User Experience Insight provides IT a real-time view of the end-user experience and clear action steps to resolve any issues before a service ticket is opened. These powerful tools bring much-needed help to enable already overwhelmed IT staff to take necessary action and stay ahead of issues.
Unique solutions for improved student experience and safety
Schools are places of learning and community. The safety of teachers, students, and staff used to be taken for granted, but no longer. Today’s natural disasters, civil unrest, and active shooters impact campus safety and are a major concern for first responders.
Network infrastructure can help by quantifying the nature of the threat, identifying safe and unsafe areas, and automatically guiding people to safety. While networks can’t prevent incidents from occurring, they can lessen the impact of incidents by keeping faculty, students, staff, visitors, and first responders safer.
Access Points as IoT Platforms. Most people are accustomed to thinking about Wi-Fi access points in the context of secure wireless network access, and for many years that was their primary function. Not so today. Aruba Wi-Fi 6 access points include radios for wayfinding, geofencing, location tracking, sensor monitoring, door locking, and actuator control. These capabilities transform Aruba access points into secure, multi-purpose communication systems that are both network access on-ramps and full-fledged IoT platforms.
Aruba’s location-based services bridge the gap between digital and physical worlds. Using signals generated and received by Aruba access points, our location-ready infrastructure enables turn-by-turn wayfinding navigation of campuses and buildings, proximity-based messaging for guests and students, asset tracking, and location analytics.
Third-party safety devices supported by access points include, among others, mobile panic buttons, gunshot detectors, occupant detection, electronic door locks, and vaping detectors:
- Mobile panic buttons both call for help and identify the location of the individual in distress
- Gunshot detectors identify the type of weapon and muzzle flash rate, so first responders can arrive prepared
- In the event of an incident, the occupant detection system will push a message asking occupants if they’re safe and then generate an interactive 3D site model telling first responders where to go first
- Electronic doors locks can be used to secure buildings and remotely provide access to response personnel
- Vaping sensors can be used to enforce no-smoking regulations in bathrooms and other locations
All manner of low-voltage building systems – including comfort, intrusion detection, energy management, access control, personnel and asset tracking, man-down, call button, leak detection, security, and gunshot monitoring – can now reliably and securely communicate over a shared infrastructure. The resulting savings in equipment, installation, and maintenance costs over deploying dedicated control networks is significant.
The edge when learning within COVID-19
Schools and universities all over the world have started to move the semester courses from in-person to online due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. Other institutions have canceled commencement ceremonies and called off all planned community events.
Primary and secondary schools have closed across the globe, with more than 21 million students enrolled in the Philippines impacted for primary and secondary education alone. These difficult but necessary measures to “flatten the curve” and slow down further infections have been extremely disruptive to students, faculty and staff alike.
These changes pose numerous challenges. They range from enabling staff and teachers to work remotely, to educating faculty in the art of online teaching to ensure that students can stay engaged and continue learning, wherever they are. Students still need to interact with faculty members and may need access to specialized software, previously only available in lab environments.
After closing dormitory housing and asking students to shelter-in-place, teaching must still continue, and administrators need to develop the right systems in support of ongoing academic activities.
How Aruba can help
- Enabling faculty and staff to work remotely. With the need to keep social distance and self-quarantine, enabling administrators and educators to be productive from home is imperative. Aruba Remote Access Points (RAP) extend the same network and security policy to the teacher’s home. Additionally, a Virtual Intranet Agent (VIA) client from Aruba provides secure remote network connectivity for laptops and mobile devices. Unlike traditional VPN software, VIA offers a zero-touch end-user experience and automatically configures wireless LAN (WLAN) settings on client devices.
- Ensure secure access to confidential data. Work-from-home administrators and teachers will still need access to confidential information, just as they would on campus. School IT can feel confident that faculty using a RAP or VIA will have the secure connectivity they require to view or edit student or payment data.
- Leverage the power of the Cloud. One key facet of cloud service delivery is the ability to have visibility and management of remote sites. As teachers and faculty focus on delivering courses and services to students, Aruba Central allows IT managers the ability to manage new (and existing) connections to the network simply and without on-site presence. When the need for these temporary installations passes, you can scale back to normal delivery.
Schools are one of the core foundational organizations of our society, playing an important role in shaping our learner’s futures. During this difficult period, Aruba is proud to help educational institutions in their mission to continue educating and supporting students.
Extend your education network: specific solutions that help
- Aruba Access Points: Extend your network to homes. Whether working for large or small schools, Aruba access points are ideal for faculty needing network access from remote locations while maintaining connectivity to instructional tools and systems.
- Virtual Intranet Agent (VIA): An easy to deploy and use software client provides secure remote network connectivity to school resources. Use the same authentication credentials to gain access. Dynamically apply and enforce access policies based on the user’s role.
- Aruba Central: A Cloud-native single-pane-of-glass solution allows IT staff to work remotely while maintaining visibility and control over all vital network services at the campus and all remote sites.
- Aruba AirWave: Give IT granular visibility into multivendor wired and wireless networks. Role-based access and VIA enable remote access to keep IT staff safe and healthy.