The University of Memphis Upgrades Its Technology to Prepare for the Future

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The University of Memphis' goal is to become one of the nation's leading research and technology transfer facilities. As part of that effort, the university sought a cost-effective, innovative solution to upgrade its communications network. We found that having "no wires" was the way to go, so we selected Avaya Wireless LAN Solutions (www.avaya.com) to give students and faculty the freedom to move about our 1,160-acre campus while using laptops, PDAs or other devices to connect to the Internet or the university's intranet.

This technology upgrade was further prompted by the university's rapid growth and administrative needs to provide its students and faculty with enough bandwidth to complete research today and well into the future. These higher bandwidth applications are essential for supporting the broad variety of academic programs that The University of Memphis offers, which range from architecture and fine arts to engineering and chemistry.

Investing in a 21st Century Education

The implementation, completed in October, reflects our strategic plan to use the latest technology to attract and retain outstanding faculty and students, as well as to offer the highest quality teaching and research services. As Dr. Shirley Raines, president of The University of Memphis, emphasizes, "Students in the 21st century expect a 21st century education." And we truly believe investing in innovative uses of IT, such as wireless, is absolutely critical for the university.

"Using wireless is a key technology advantage for the university because it overcomes the dual barriers of time and distance," says Doug Hurley, vice president of IT and CIO at the university. "Wireless enables just-in-time learning and encourages innovative interactions in ways never before possible."

We looked to Avaya to help extend the boundaries of learning so that everyone could use PDAs and laptops to move outside the traditional classroom and no longer be limited to four walls. With more than 20,000 students, the university has deployed more than 1,100 Avaya Wireless Access Points across campus - making it one of the largest university implementations of wireless in the mid-South.

Students and faculty alike can take advantage of the Avaya Wireless LAN Solution, which features a dual-slotted architecture that supports a combination of the newer 802.11a standard and the previous standards of 802.11b and 802.11g radio PC cards. The newer standard's larger frequency allocation provides access to a broader range of data-intensive applications such as downloading large Web files while bridging into a videoconference call. This Avaya Wireless AP-3 Access Point also enables our support personnel to use IP-based soft phones - a computer that acts as a fully featured telephone via an IP address on the university's network.

As our university's degree programs encourage laptop use, it is critical that students have the freedom to move around a lab or other location with access to the Internet or intranet from anywhere. And student demand for wireless technology continues to grow as many purchase Wi-Fi-compliant wireless cards in the student center. These cards enable students to access the university's library system, online courses and electronic course materials, as well as participate in videoconferencing.

Beyond student and staff mobility, the university uses the Avaya Wireless LAN to link video cameras across campus and provide surveillance of the university's public areas. This feature allows security officials to monitor activity no matter where they may be on campus - even from inside their cars.

Remaining a Technology Leader

Our Avaya Wireless LAN Solution also saved the university considerable time and money by leaving campus facilities intact. With Avaya technology, there was no need to alter any of the university's historic buildings to install cable wiring, because each wireless access point can reach up to 300 feet per indoor zone, which offers users a wide range of access campuswide.

The Avaya solution also provides robust security using the 802.1x standard along with per-user, per-session encryption keys that protect the university's network resources. In addition, Avaya was able to provide a complete one-stop shopping solution by teaming with Avaya business partner Magowan Communications to install our wireless units.

The University of Memphis prides itself on being a technology leader from ubiquitous wireless services to state-of-the-art computing facilities, which include more than 1,200 PC and Mac workstations in campus labs, as well as 56 "smart" classrooms incorporating the latest in e-learning services.

Another recent advancement enabled by wireless is the university's new FedEx Institute of Technology (http://fedex.memphis.edu), which opened in November. The institute, a joint collaboration between the university, FedEx and other leading corporations, aims to be the center for technological innovation in the mid-South. As such, the institute conducts first-rate interdisciplinary research focused on preparing students for employment in today's rapidly changing world of the Internet and information technologies.

Our Avaya Wireless LAN Solution supports the institute's cyber cafe (http://fedex.memphis.edu/inside/cafe.html), as well as its virtual reality chamber and other meeting/presentation spaces (http://fedex.memphis.edu/inside/meeting_spaces.html). The institute features 10 research centers that are geared for studies ranging from medical breakthroughs in cancer and alcoholism to cyber security.

On a final note, The University of Memphis is the designated Internet2 gigaPoP (gigabit point-of-presence) site for Tennessee. As such, the university sponsors connections to the Internet2 network (www.internet2.edu) to serve other research institutions, schools and hospitals statewide. The goal of Internet2 is to support a research network with 100 times more bandwidth than typical Internet sites, as well as to enable new infrastructure technologies and applications. From Internet2 support for high-speed research and applications to state-of-the-art Avaya Wireless LAN access around campus, the university truly demonstrates technology leadership.

- Mark Reavis

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.

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