New Breed of Firewall

Rounding out the suite of security and performance improvements is a cutting-edge firewall from Palo Alto Networks. “It’s going to give us tremendous visibility not only to the information that’s coming through the network bubble, but also the application,” said Akbari. “We can do some very specific filtering around the application, if we choose. For instance, we could say, ‘We’ll allow Facebook in general, but we won’t allow posting to Facebook.’ We can put some very fine-print controls to improve our access.”

In keeping with Husain’s vision for a clean, elegant solution, the firewall integrates seamlessly with ClearPass. “ClearPass can actually inform the firewall of the user for specific traffic, which adds even more intelligence,” explained Akbari. “Both of these products also integrate with our login software, which collectively makes them a much more powerful technology platform.”

Supporting the New Digital Landscape of Education

The installation of a cutting-edge wireless infrastructure represents a critical first step in supporting the school’s push into what it describes as “the new digital landscape of education that has emerged in the 21st century.” To that end, in 2014 the college hired a vice provost of digital learning to lead its online offerings and is currently prototyping a new generation of high-tech wireless classrooms.

“We want the classrooms to have presence awareness,” said Husain, who envisages the automation of everything from scheduling and lighting to projection needs—even the ability to take attendance by scanning student’s devices. “When a faculty member walks into the classroom, it should reset according to that faculty member’s expectations. The room should know who is using the room, who its occupants are, and set the mood accordingly.”

While many of these plans are still on the drawing board, one thing is clear: None of it is possible without a reliable wireless solution. “Everything we’re rolling out now will give us the ability to do advanced things down the road,” said Akbari. “As we better understand the requirements of our students and of the college, it will give us a lot of flexibility in the future.”

About the Author:

Andrew Barbour is a contributing editor for eCampus News.

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