Meru and Morrisville Join Forces for 802.11n Deployment

SUNY partners with Meru Networks to deploy what may be the first 802.11n campus-wide wireless network.

Dave Molta

June 20, 2007

4 Min Read
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Morrisville, N.Y., is a small college town about 30 miles southeast of Syracuse, N.Y., my hometown. It's a picturesque college town in rural upstate New York. Many people who equate New York with New York City can't imagine that such a place could exist. Not too long ago, I was looking at some old home movies my father shot back in the early 1960s, including one of my cousin Tom's graduation from Morrisville College. When I was growing up, we knew it as Morrisville Ag/Tech, a two-year school that catered to a lot of students who weren't sure they wanted to spend four years in college. Tom went on to enjoy a successful career as co-owner of J&T Automotive. Dave MoltaWireless networking transformed Morrisville, which New York State bureaucrats would prefer you call the State University of New York (SUNY), College at Morrisville. Ah, those state bureaucrats know how to come up with catchy names. Ten years ago, Morrisville faced a bit of an identity crisis. Most people in my neck of the woods viewed the college as the lowest wrung of the SUNY ladder. There were four SUNY comprehensive Research Universities, about 20 SUNY colleges and a half a dozen Ag/Tech schools, including Morrisville. If you are a college administrator, that's not the best place to be positioned.

Then, wireless LANs hit the market. I'm not talking about early 802.11b Wi-Fi products. I'm not even talking about the first 2-Mbps 802.11 products. I'm talking about frequency hopping spread spectrum offerings from Raytheon Wireless Solutions, products offered before 802.11 existed, back when the dominant players in wireless were Proxim, Symbol, Breezecom and NCR. At the time, I knew Raytheon more for its defense electronics. But the company's RF expertise was top-notch, and during an era of decreased military spending, wireless LANs were viewed as a good way to diversify Raytheon's business portfolio.

SUNY Morrisville was one of the early reference accounts for Raytheon's wireless LAN system. It didn't take long for critics, including myself, to point the finger at Morrisville as an example of what NOT to do in technology. By adopting a technology too early, before it was standardized, the institution was locked into a proprietary solution--and locked out of the benefits of standards. But in retrospect, I may have been wrong about Morrisville. While waiting for standards would have been the safe thing to do, Morrisville got a ton of mileage out of its wireless initiative. It bragged of being the most unwired campus in the country. I'll bet my cousin Tom was proud.

SUNY Morrisville is back in the news again, and I have to wonder whether history may be repeating itself. This time, Morrisville is partnering with Meru Networks to deploy what may be the first campus-wide wireless network based on the emerging 802.11n standard. Once completed, the network will include approximately 900 Meru AP300 a/b/g/n access points utilizing Meru's new 3-Tier Traffic Distribution System (3TDS), a self-proclaimed fourth-generation WLAN architecture Meru has designed to meet the increasing capacity demands associated with 802.11n.

According to Tuesday's press release, the new network is scheduled for deployment in the third quarter of 2007. Since universities typically deploy technology upgrades during the summer months, when most students aren't on campus, it's reasonable to presume that the network will be ready for students to use this fall. That's a pretty aggressive timeframe, even for early adopters.I confess that my initial reaction to this announcement was surprise that any organization would be ready to deploy a large 802.11n at this early date, especially when the final standard is still a year away. Although Meru has a well-deserved industry reputation for wireless innovation, it is also known for releasing products that aren't quite fully baked. This project will give Meru a great opportunity to reinforce the first perception and counteract the second. And for the industry as a whole, it will give us an early glimpse into the potential and pitfalls of 802.11n.

As for Morrisville, it's a big win. The sleepy SUNY institution, which recently upgraded from two-year Ag/Tech to four-year college status, has a chance to gain national exposure. Meru's press release refers to Morrisville as "one of the most technology savvy campuses in America." You can't buy that kind of positive publicity, which is sure to make its way into the college's marketing materials. I'm sure Morrisville's press release had equally positive things to say about Meru, but I wasn't able to review it before submitting this column because the college's Web site was down. I'm just crossing my fingers, hoping it wasn't the world's first campus to connect its Web site directly to its wireless network.

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