StepCG, an Extreme Partner, leveraged Extreme Fabric Connect and the implicit automation capabilities of Fabric Connect to deploy a K-12 network consisting of 242 switches (30 core and 212 edge) across 23 locations in less than a week. This was four times (4x) faster than what it took for their client’s previous deployment with an alternative network provider. Recent innovations in Extreme Fabric including port auto-sense capability allowed STEPCG to easily replace the previous network with an end-to-end Extreme Fabric with minimal effort – including no staging and no manual configuration.
The school district had previously deployed a competitive fabric switch distribution/core/edge network. When it was time for refresh, they evaluated Extreme’s Fabric Connect solution and found it to be the clear winner due to its simplicity of deployment and operations while also meeting their compliance needs through the hyper-segmentation capabilities.
The school district’s requirements for the solution were the following:
Typically deploying many edge switches is very time consuming. Labeling ports for different types of devices (such as IoT devices, wireless access points, video surveillance cameras, users, servers and printers) requires manual configuration of switch ports and doesn’t facilitate adds/moves/changes. Also, for customers that don’t have a policy server to enforce user/device access policies (such as 802.1x, MAC authentication), it’s important the solution still provides automation capabilities that alleviate manual configuration.
Fabric Connect cuts down deployment time while also protecting the network against security threats such as rogue switches in the network. Fabric Connect recently introduced Port Auto-Sense which detects when a device is plugged into a port and automatically configures that port. Device type-based port configuration can be defined and managed from ExtremeCloud IQ Site-Engine, a centralized on-premises solution for managing both Extreme devices & 3rd party devices. Edge Switch Global Settings (such as voice VLAN, data VLAN, wireless access point VLANs, camera VLAN etc.) can be applied to Edge switches using ExtremeCloud IQ-Site Engine or using CLI/Scripts. When the end device is disconnected from the network, port configuration reverts to a default state with an important security benefit by removing configuration from inactive ports.
With Port Auto-Sense capability:
Using Extreme, enterprises can choose to deploy a traditional Layer2/Layer 3 network design with stacking. Alternatively, they can deploy Fabric Connect from campus distribution/core to the campus edge for a highly automated rollout to deliver capital and operational cost savings. In addition, Fabric Connect provides hyper-segmentation for separating various networks into distinct secure groups for compliance. Unlike other Fabric solutions, clients can also extend the Fabric via Fabric Attach to Wireless Access Points for consistent user/device policies.
K-12 Network Refresh
When it was time for refresh, three technicians managed the physical installation of switches while the STEP CG network engineer collaborated with school district network engineer for this deployment.
Using the new Port Auto-Sense capabilities, the installation went from unboxing switches on Monday morning to a fully refreshed edge and core by Friday night without requiring any pre-configuration. The port auto-sense capability was the main factor contributing to the 4x accelerated network install.
Daniel Smith, Solution Architect at STEPGC said, “This is unheard of speed for us. The ability to simply unbox gear and load them in vehicles without having to first identify, asset tag, group, preconfigure, and keep in a particular physical order all the way until install, GREATLY increased our deployment rate. Not only did they not need deep expertise in networking, but they didn’t even need to configure uplinks or downlinks for Fabric.”
Most importantly, Mr. Smith said, “Once global voice and data VLANs are configured on the switch, auto-sense allowed ports to be automatically configured based on the device type connected to the port. For computer lab switches (with 2 uplinks), they didn’t have to designate uplink ports or have special configuration. Fabric Connect ensured no network loops occur with 2 uplinks.”
In summary, STEPCG leveraged Extreme’s Fabric Connect technology to replace a competitors K-12 network with end-to-end Extreme devices in unprecedented time.