Sarasota County Schools includes 24 Elementary Schools, 9 Middle Schools, 8 High Schools and various Technical and various Special Centers. It houses about 40,000 students in about 250 buildings. The Sarasota School IT Team believes in using the best-in-class technologies to provide the optimal connected experience for students, faculty, staff and guests.

This next generation pervasive WLAN network enables students to collaborate with each other anywhere on the campus and with the teachers in the classroom. In the previous blog, we described how Bowdoin and the Pinellas County have embraced the IOS based 5760 Series controllers. In this blog, we will cover more details about the recent upgrade of the Wireless LAN Controller from the previous model WiSM to the new model 5760 and describe highlights of our conversation with xx about the WLAN deployment itself.

At a Glance:

Located in: Sarasota, Florida

Number of students: 40,000

Number of teachers/staff: 5,000

WLAN clients: 5,000 peak currently very early in rollout phase

Access-Points: 2500

5760 WLC Controllers: 6 (Version 3.3.2)

Prime Infrastructure: 2.1

Evaluating Identify Services Engine: 1.2

The 5760 controllers are deployed across 6 regional hubs, with a 5760 located at the central site for high availability. Each controller is connected via 10Gbps uplinks to regional hub Catalyst 6509s. Schools primarily connect via 1Gbps back to their respective regional hubs. Each school has either a Catalyst 6500 or Catalyst 4500 distribution switch with 2960X switches for AP and wired client connectivity.

Deployment Details:

A total of 4 SSIDs are deployed in the WLAN environment.

  • The first two are 802.1x enabled and dedicated for students, teachers and faculty using district owned laptops which are registered with Active Directory.
  • The third SSID is also 802.1x enabled and used for student, teacher, and faculty owned mobile devices.
  • The fourth is focused on serving guest users.

Cisco Identity Service Engine is utilized for Authentication and Authorization for the mobile device SSID, eventually the first two SSIDs will be migrated to this SSID.

When a device connects to the wireless network, ISE will first check for MDM compliance. If the device has not registered with the MDM, ISE will redirect to the MDM device registration portal. When an MDM compliant device connects ISE will use Active Directory credentials to determine appropriate VLAN and DACL assignment.

The School Board of Sarasota County WLAN leverages N:1 HA for cost effective redundancy on the 5760.

The district chose 5760 NGW Controllers for several reasons.

Performance and scalability were important due to the expectation of rapid end user adoption and associated growth. At the time of this writing peak concurrent client count is about 5,000. This number has been increasing by the hundreds every week and is expected to reach 20,000+.

Familiar IOS and CLI were also preferred. Previously wireless connectivity was offered on a limited basis. Deploying ubiquitous wireless district wide, without increasing the technical staff, was a significant undertaking.

Cisco VideoStream ensures that the districts streaming video content is reliably delivered to students and teachers using mobile devices.

Downloadable ACLs help the district ensure that end users only access the resources they should. While MQC and AVC ensure critical applications are identified and prioritized.

Sarasota County Schools recognizes the need for today’s students to be constantly and reliably connected to digital instructional resources to achieve their ultimate learning potential. Simple and secure network access provides the gateway to meet these needs for both our staff and students.

Cisco’s Unified Wireless Architecture is a core component in the design and implementation of Sarasota County Schools’ digital learning environment. The solution enables reliable delivery of video and other immersive learning technologies, while ensuring scalability to meet future demands.

Joe Binswanger, Director of Information Technology for Sarasota School Board

We are thrilled to see the success of customers like Sarasota bringing the Unified Access vision to life. Unified Access To learn more about Cisco Unified Access and how you can prepare for 802.11ac, visit www.cisco.com/go/unifiedaccess and www.cisco.com/go/80211ac.


Jeevan Patil

Director, Product Management

Wireless Network