Cisco vs Aruba : Which one is better for campus wifi environment ?

Good article for comparison between Cisco wireless and Aruba wireless.

Nowadays, wireless has become an essential requirement every colleges in the world. Wireless networking service would be useful tools for enhancing productivity and convenience for staff and student since it offers mobility and ubiquitous environment.

When we try to design our campus solution, many aspect we need to consider especially when it comes to basic question about coverage versus capacity. I will discuss this classic requirement in next next next post… (Coz I’m not sure when)I’ve evaluated and tested many wireless products available in the market such as Cisco, Cisco Linksys, 3Com, Motorola, Colubris, Aruba, Trapaze, Proxim, Orinoco and etc … some of the product I don’t remember when I write this article. The testing was done as prove of concept deployment (PoC). I’ve evaluated it for designing a campus wide solution for one of the Malaysian public university (check out the press release)… during that time, unofficially, it was considered as a largest WiFi deployment in Malaysian which covered 800++ local access point.

After a series of PoC been done by the end user has drawn the line for its technical requirement. The Project aims to implement campus wide coverage of wireless network using Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) based on 802.11.a/b/g technologies. The two main criteria of service availability and security are put at the highest priority. In addition to those, other features such as scalability, value-added services provision, ease of management are also highly desirable.

The infrastructure comprised of the following:
  1. Wireless Access Points (APs) : Indoor AP, Outdoor AP and VPN AP
  2. Wireless Switches/Controllers
  3. Wireless Network Management System
  4. Authentication servers (LDAP and Radius)
  5. Testing Equipments

Major technical requirement set by the end user were as follows:
  1. AP’s must be capable of serving multiple WiFi functions including: user access, RF scanning, location triangulation, RF Monitoring, RF “Fingerprinting” simultaneously. These functions must be performed without hard configuration. AP’s must capable of be provisioned as Air Monitor/Sensor only devices to provides dedicated, non-access services.
  2. AP's must able to support split tunneling in a single SSID. Allow to locally bridge selective traffic and tunnel selective traffic back to controller.
  3. Must support GRE and IPSEC tunnels between controllers and other GRE/IPSEC termination devices.
  4. Able to perform role base identity management (to set different privilege for similar SSID). Support seamless integration with the existing campus wired network in the future.(This requires role-based security policy capability of the wireless network).
  5. Advance wireless security features.

The only wireless product that able to meet the end user requirement is Aruba Network. Aruba proof that, their solution is really reliable to handle multiple application in single SSID. Doesn't matter the user is faculty staff, admin staff, student or guest, they still connected to the same SSID but they will be assigned with different set of privilege. This is the real role based identity management.

Aruba also offered additional features such as Remote AP. The end user always organize Symposium, International Conference, Seminar etc at other places. Remote AP helps them to provide campus network environment at that places either hotels or convention centre. Cisco also can offered similar features, but the end user must add another VPN concentrator appliance for VPN tunneling to the campus network. Aruba RAP just simple and plug n play.

As a conclusion, Aruba is much much better than Cisco for campus wifi deployment. In term security, in term of robustness, in term of reliability .... Aruba Network is the best. That's why.... Microsoft also deploying Aruba for supporting their wireless networking at their head office.
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