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Unique Multi-Campus Network Refresh at Chatham University

Lisa Yeaton Specialist, Content Marketing Published 30 Jun 2017

“Our goal is to provide the best wireless experience for our students. To get there, our small IT staff has had to work around continuously-occupied residence halls. In the end, students will be much more than satisfied with their improved network connections.” Paul Steinhaus, Chatham University

Chatham University may be on summer break, but the campus is still bustling with residents and the round-the-clock IT staff. Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with over 5,000 students, faculty, nurses, and guests, Chatham University has three campus locations: Shadyside campus, Chatham Eastside, and Eden Hall Campus. Their network required a refresh because of a recent expansion, aging technology, and to meet their goal of providing excellent wireless coverage throughout the campus.  

Chatham looked no further than Extreme Networks, their trusted network vendor of more than six years, for their new robust, reliable, and secure network solution. According to Paul Steinhaus, director of information technology at Chatham University, “The whole Extreme product line is rock solid, from the 400+ new access points we are deploying to the switches and management suite.”

The project started nine months ago, when Chatham worked with Extreme and reseller Questeq to develop a new solution. “Extreme and Questeq stayed within our budget right down to the last penny and still made it possible for us to achieve all of our goals,” added Steinhaus. This upgrade will help Chatham expand coverage to 30,000 sq. ft. of new campus area, convert an office building into a residence hall, improve internet connectivity in the existing residence halls, and increase the core backbone to 40-gig.

  “Our relationship with Extreme Networks is invaluable to us. Our account executive and solutions engineer work extremely hard to make sure our goals are met; they know our network like the back of their hand.” Paul Steinhaus, Chatham University

 An extra challenge Steinhaus and his team face is that multiple residence halls on campus are renovated mansions. Due to their elegance and age, the IT team has a difficult time working around the physical structure. “We need to rewire and cable some of the residence halls so they can support the new technology,” says Steinhaus. Chatham’s model residence building, Dilworth Hall, on Shadyside campus will receive one access point per room. “Ideally, I would like to install one AP per room in all the residence halls and that’s what we plan to do, but if cabling proves difficult we may need to rethink this portion of the project,” adds Steinhaus.

The university’s location makes it an ideal spot for renting out residence halls and classrooms over the summer, but working around occupied rooms adds an extra challenge. Steinhaus notes, “Not being able to get into the residence halls over the summer may slow us down, but we still plan to have the entire upgrade completed by December.”

When referring to the decision to replace Cisco years ago, Steinhaus says, “The suite of management applications with everything in it offered by Extreme was a main reason for choosing them. This time around we decided to subscribe to Extreme Management, Extreme Control, and Extreme Analytics, because subscribing makes licensing easier and requires less upfront cost. We opted for a five-year term and figure it will make things easier and pay off simpler,” adds Steinhaus.

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 With Extreme Analytics, the university will have a much-needed proactive approach to defending against network security threats. Per Steinhaus, “With just reactive technology we might have a denial-of-service attack going on and not even know until the phones go out, but with Extreme Analytics we will be able to deter security issues before they become adverse.”

In addition to their 30+ buildings on multiple campuses, Chatham also supports outdoor wireless across the university on green spaces and athletic fields. Steinhaus explains, “Shadyside, the largest campus, is 100% covered with Wi-Fi indoors and out. Eastside doesn’t have a lot of green space, so we haven’t deployed outdoor wireless there, but we are continuing to grow our exterior wireless offering on Eden Hall to enable learning from anywhere.”

Chatham has four network cores, one at each campus and at the hosting site of the local data center. Their other summer project is to build a ring around the network that connects the three campuses and the data center. Steinhaus adds, “There will now be a 40-gig connection between our data center and Shadyside campus and Eastside campus and 10-gig up to Eden Campus. Next summer we plan to replace the core router on Eden and get that campus up to 40-gig as well.”

Next year Chatham University will enter a new era of learning with its virtual reality program. The new faculty member pioneering the initiative is bringing two of his company’s virtual reality work stations to campus. With the 40-gig core there will be no problem providing connectivity to this program and the additional devices on the network. Extreme Analytics will allow Steinhaus and his team to see if the VR devices burden the network, but they don’t envision any incidents.

“With only one network person on staff, Extreme products and support help us to manage the network and plan for upgrades like this. With limited resources, we could not ask for a better vendor-customer relationship.” – Paul Steinhaus, director of information technology at Chatham University


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