Located in the heart of Silicon Valley on a sprawling 154-acre campus, San Jose State University (SJSU) is the oldest university in the California State University system. When it was established in 1857, its first graduating class had just 54 students. Today SJSU boasts more than 33,000 students studying a variety of topics taught by more than 5,000 faculty and staff across 400+ classrooms.
Teaching the next generation’s workforce is the core competency of the university and is done in a variety of ways. Technology plays a huge role. It relies on a robust network to ensure reliable connectivity, security, and assurance. As you can imagine, managing a network that sees up to 24,000 concurrent devices connected at any time across a large and diverse campus is no small feat. It takes skill, knowledge, patience, and the right technology.
Shai Silberman, networking is in his DNA
I recently met up with Shai Silberman, IT Director at San Jose State University, for a tour of the campus. Shai has been leading the network team since 2013 and during that time he’s gone through several significant network upgrades. Over the last several months, he’s been deploying Wi-Fi 6 access points across the campus along with several other technologies including Cisco DNA Center with Assurance and AI Network Analytics.
I’m a proud SJSU alumnus and loved visiting the campus again after all these years. Things were different but in a good way. I’m not just talking new buildings, which the school has plenty of, I’m talking about connectivity. And not just any connectivity, consistent high-speed, reliable Wi-Fi across the campus, both indoors and out. That includes the newly designed and absolutely awesome student union with its restaurants, meeting rooms, a full-size bowling alley, and the biggest Starbucks this side of the Mississippi. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, and the Spartan Rec Center, a state-of-the-art gym with multiple floors, classrooms, swimming pools, and a track. It sports high-tech physical security that requires students and faculty to submit to a biometrics scan before entering. All these facilities offer Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.
In addition, SJSU has built several new dorms to house students. On average, each of these students has four devices on them, all connected to Wi-Fi. They’re simultaneously streaming YouTube, listening to music, playing multiplayer online games, talking to their parents about why they need more money, and ordering food through Door Dash.
Wi-Fi 6 improves the wireless experience regardless of the device
As we strolled across campus, Shai pointed out the dozens of Cisco Catalyst 9100 APs. All of which are Wi-Fi 6 compatible, meaning they offer higher speeds to those with enabled devices. But it’s not just Wi-Fi 6 compatible devices, everyone benefits from Wi-Fi 6. Here’s how: Orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA for short) which allows for simultaneous transmission of packets across several users at the same time resulting in less jitter, lower latency, and improved speed.
Shai says to me, “Wanna hear a cool stat? I have 100 Wi-Fi 6 capable Catalyst 9100 APs across the campus with 12 in the library. During finals, we had about 1,500 clients on these 12 APs, that’s about 125 clients on each.” Here’s the kicker. He says, “Previously, in a high-density environment we were seeing about 3mbps per client, now [with the Catalyst 9100] we’re seeing 100mbps consistently.”
In addition to the wonders of Wi-Fi 6, SJSU also leverages Cisco DNA Center with Assurance and AI Network Analytics as a proactive analytics tool. It allows them to see potential issues before they become a problem. Shai says, “You’re actually getting all the information you need to really start looking around and say, ‘Oh I see the problem, here’s what it is.”
Some of the examples we discussed included identifying APs that were misbehaving. Shai says, “They were connected to the network and doing their job, they just weren’t so great on speed.” Using Cisco DNA Center, the SJSU team homed in on the problematic APs, identified the issue, and fixed it. Amazing!
Time savings through advanced analytics
Cisco DNA gives Shai and his team the ability to see the health of the network and any potential issues across all devices from a single, centralized console. It streamlines troubleshooting and saves time by pinpointing where and when issues occurred. “Cisco DNA Center is really helpful,” Shai says. “I can see what’s going on anywhere in my network with one click. This has cut trouble-shooting time down significantly.”
In contrast, before Cisco DNA Center, SJSU used a number of different tools. They’d pull down logs and configurations from the APs, and from the wireless controller, and run them through different spectrum analyzers. It took a lot of time and didn’t always give them the results they were looking for. Shai explains that, “With Cisco DNA Center, everything is integrated.”
When asked if faculty or students noticed the difference, Shai says, “We’re now able to proactively detect and resolve network problems, including transient ones, with advanced analytics. For a ‘city’ of almost 40,000 users – we get an average of 4 wireless tickets a week.”
We also discussed SJSU’s use of Duo multi-factor authentication for staff and faculty. And we touched on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) which is currently being piloted in classrooms for some super-secret learning experiments. I’ll explore these technologies and more during my next visit. If you want to learn more about how Cisco has been on the forefront of wireless technology and IoT, read more about these customers here:
And don’t forget to check out other SJSU resources on the Cisco landing page.