LTS to replace Cisco NAC

Upgrade postponed due in part to influx of requests to fix Internet connection

by Hajin Park ’17, Contributing Writer

Gone will be the days of waiting for Cisco Network Admission Control (NAC) to pop up every time you open your computer so that you can log into the Internet.

Library and Technology Services (LTS) plans to replace the current Cisco NAC with Cisco Identity Service Engine (ISE). This will be Wellesley’s first time on a secure encrypted wireless network.

The upgrade was originally scheduled for this upcoming weekend but was pushed back to an unconfirmed date due in part to the high demand for LTS services in correcting the problems with wireless connection in the residence halls, particularly in Tower and Freeman.

With Cisco NAC, students must log into the Wellesley wireless network and then the NAC agent every time they want to use the internet. However, with Cisco ISE, students can login once to the wireless network and stay connected for longer periods of time. Deputy Chief Information Officer Veronica Brandstrader thinks the switch to Cisco ISE will be warmly received by students, faculty and staff.

“After this upgrade, you will have a much faster experience,” she said. “The computer will cache credentials, so you won’t be prompted every single time. This means you’ll login less frequently.”

The new ease of login will please many students.

“When Cisco NAC is slow, I become enraged,” Ayan Ali ’14 said.

The switch will also make the campus more friendly for personal mobile devices. Students will no longer have to physically go to the help desk with their mobile phone to gain access to Internet, which should save them time and energy.

“The campus will be what we call BYOD, bring your own device, friendly,” said Brandstrater.

The upgrade will also make it easier for guests to use the Internet. Guests will no longer have to login to Cisco NAC. They will instead be able to access a guest wireless network.

According to Chief Information Officer Ravi Ravishanker, LTS installed Cisco NAC eight years ago when its precautionary safety measures were more crucial.

“When people come with their own machines, we want to make sure they’re not going to damage the network,” he said. “A lot of people come from home, after summer, they install everything and anything they want, who knows? We’re trying to figure out a balance between not inconveniencing the user and making sure that the security is not compromised.”

The first step taken this past July replaced some of the old network hardware. LTS is currently holding off on the second step, which involves upgrading from Cisco NAC to Cisco ISE. This second step is what students will notice the most. The third and fourth steps, which are tentatively planned to take place in November and in the summer of 2014 respectively, will deal more with student employee and faculty experiences with security logins and will also consist of replacing the rest of the old network hardware.

In the meantime, Brandstrader asks students to be patient while LTS carries out the changes.

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