CERN’s Mobile-First Research facility gets impressive network upgrade from Aruba


At Aruba’s 2017 EMEA Atmosphere conference, held in Disneyland Paris, Aruba revealed that CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is upgrading its wireless network with Aruba 802.11ac Wave 2 access points and mobility controllers. According to Aruba, the world’s largest physics lab, in which the Worldwide Web originated, is moving to a state-of- the-art wireless campus to ensure maximal workplace productivity for the 12,000 staff, visiting scientists and contract workers onsite everyday who require secure gigabit mobility across CERN’s 200+ building campus.

Founded in 1954, as revealed by the firm, the CERN laboratory has now 22 member states and sits astride the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, spread over 23 square miles. Physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe. They use the world's largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles. CERN’s flagship, the Large Hadron Collider, is a 27 kilometer ring buried 100 meters underground, accelerating particles close to the speed of light. Over 10,000 scientists from more than 100 nationalities and 600 universities collaborate with CERN.

As stated by the firm, to enable its staff and scientists to achieve their research goals, CERN decided to upgrade its infrastructure to provide a modern, mobile-first campus that could accommodate the nearly 20,000 different devices that need to connect to the network daily. Reliable coverage across its campus, enabling visiting scientists and workers to use their own mobile devices, and the ability to properly sandbox visitor devices and detect ‘rogue’ access points, were key concerns for the CERN IT staff.

“Our network handles both research data and traditional, workplace traffic and with so many visiting scientists, we have to provide a reliable, mobile work environment that allows everyone to connect with their own devices,” said Tony Cass, Leader of the Communications Systems Group and Physicist at CERN.

“Moving from our current network to a controller-based network that enables seamless roaming from one building to another and can help us provide different levels of connectivity based on the type of user connecting were top priorities for us.”

While CERN already had a high-performance HPE wired network in place, they wanted to update their wireless network to keep up with user demands for greater mobility. Following a call for proposals with strict requirements, CERN determined that upgrading to Aruba 802.11ac Wave 2 access points and controllers, along with Aruba AirWave for network management, could provide the coverage, security, reliability and centralized management capabilities they were looking for.

“The Aruba wireless network proposal met our stringent requirements,” Cass noted. “We’ve had great support from the HPE and Aruba sales, support and executive teams and they were able to deliver the solutions we needed.” A key selling point for CERN, according to the firm, was the intelligence built into the Aruba controllers that supports seamless roaming across their expansive campus and lets them segment users to improve security. Using the new network capabilities, CERN plans to give users a token, sent to their mobile devices via SMS, to allow simple and rapid connection to the network.

As CERN rolls out the network, they expect to see numerous benefits including better support for the high density of users, the ability to connect all users securely, regardless of device type, automated deployment and configuration, and improved management and troubleshooting. With the large CERN campus, new capabilities like controller clustering and AirMatch, which fine-tunes RF for the best network performance, are delivered through Aruba’s newest operating system release, ArubaOS 8, to ensure that the network is optimized automatically for users and maintains reliable connections for their critical research. In addition, choosing Aruba’s Wave 2 technology and access points that incorporate built-in BLE beacons, should CERN decide to implement locations services, future-proofs the network, protecting CERN’s investment.

As stated by Cass, “With the mobility demands of our staff and scientists increasing, we knew that installing the right wireless infrastructure was critical to enabling a productive workplace. The Aruba network addresses our current challenges, and we are confident it will help ensure that we’re prepared for future growth.”

Edited By: Darryl Linington
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