While wireless network management is a major time sink for college and university network administrators and a rich target of product development for multiple vendors, the wired network and its underpinnings--such as switches and cabling--are still required to keep the wireless infrastructure running. The final word on managing that physical network hasn't been written yet. Schools are still making improvements for how they do that and sorting out what's best to move to wireless and what should remain on the wire.
While the institution's administrative and academic operations are still predominantly wired, a couple of years ago the campus crossed the 50-50 split for residential users using wireless network access instead of plugging an Ethernet cable into their computer or other device.
In fact, he added, IT anticipates a "small resurgence" in the use of wired connections as it promotes the idea among users that fixed devices--such as smart televisions--should ideally use a wired connection for optimal performance and in order to free up the wireless network for mobile usage.
That network management effort currently encompasses 40,000 "hot" wired or always-on ports on roughly 700 switches. The biggest hassles have revolved around security, and up until a couple of years ago, addressing those challenges has been a "fairly manual process," Sumpter said.
The team was always "on the lookout" for a commercial solution that would do the port lookup work for them. Eventually, SolarWinds, the vendor that provides their primary network management system, came through for them. Western Kentucky uses SolarWinds' Orion Network Performance Monitor to monitor and analyze network routers, switches, servers, and other networked devices and to send alerts to notify the team about potential and current problems. But it's the company's User Device Tracker (UDT), made generally available in May 2011, that caught their attention for tackling the port management too.
- It locates endpoints on the network;
- It identifies where an endpoint has been connected in the past;
- It sends alerts when a specific endpoint joins the network;
- It performs port usage and capacity analysis across the entire network; and
- It performs device-specific network capacity analysis.
UDT's main features are: