Rapidly transformed the network to support new and innovative educational use cases
Improved reliability and streamlined day-to-day operations
Enhanced security posture across the entire network infrastructure
400 Meraki MS switches
1,000 Meraki MR access points
20,000 students spread over 12 campuses
Pima Community College is a comprehensive two-year institution serving a diverse student body made up of people from a wide variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds with different world views, beliefs, and personal experiences. Across its 12 locations, Pima offers hybrid classes for over 30,000 full- and part-time students who can choose from a wide range of programs designed to give them the advanced skills demanded by today’s top employers. Pima is a high-tech institution that continues to evolve to serve the needs of its students as well as the region’s growing aerospace, defense, and healthcare industries.
When Jack Satterfield joined Pima as Chief Technology Officer in 2021, the college’s access network was overdue for a transformation. With four different switching vendors in place, the network had grown increasingly complex and unwieldy over time, making day-to-day management activities inefficient and time-consuming.
The performance limitations of the existing network were also making it extremely challenging for the IT team to meet the technology needs of faculty, students, and staff, which were evolving rapidly. Secure, seamless, and reliable wireless access from anywhere is a must in today’s higher education environment. This is especially important at Pima, as its many applied programs make use of the latest wireless and IoT devices to give their students the kind of cutting-edge training that will prepare them for success in their chosen careers.
Consolidating from multiple vendors to one for switching, wireless, and security just makes things a lot easier for our network and security teams—especially going with Cisco Secure and Cisco Meraki.
Jack Satterfield, Chief Technology Officer
Pima Community College
After evaluating network solutions from three different vendors, Pima selected Cisco Meraki networking equipment as the foundation for the transformation of its legacy network because of it’s ease of use and intuitive dashboard.
Pima completely re-architected the network and rolled out the Meraki solution rapidly. Over a nine-month period, the IT team deployed 400 Meraki MS switches and over 1,000 MR access points across Pima’s 12 campuses, an impressive accomplishment given that the project was completed while school was in session. The deployment also included Meraki MV smart cameras and MT sensors to meet the needs of the facilities department and the college’s various faculties.
As part of its transformation initiative, the college also implemented a coherent security architecture based on the Cisco security portfolio, which includes Cisco SecureX, Cisco Umbrella, Cisco Secure Endpoints, Talos, and Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE).
With the new highly secure wireless network in place, the user experience is greatly improved with fast, reliable connectivity.
“It’s a seamless experience for faculty, students, and staff to connect to one Wi-Fi SSID,” says Jack, “and based on the device and the user log-in, it gets them where they need to go.”
Given the climate extremes of the Arizona desert, Pima needs to be especially mindful of its heating and cooling usage. Some of the new use cases Pima’s network supports include the use of Meraki MT sensors to monitor the temperature in classrooms and in other facilities on campus. If students or faculty find that a particular room or area within a building is too hot or too cold, the facilities team can move a sensor into the area to track the temperature trends and use the data to fine-tune the HVAC system.
Students in the college’s culinary programs can now take advantage of Wi-Fi-enabled commercial ovens that provide precise temperature control from a phone or tablet. And with the introduction of Meraki MV cameras, Pima has been exploring new potential use cases beyond just physical security. Remote students in EMT, nursing, and other healthcare programs will be able to watch livestream feeds with close-up views of their fellow students as they perform hands-on procedures using highly specialized and expensive medical equipment, such as wireless handheld ultrasound machines and IoT-enabled medical mannequins.
Since modernizing its access network with the Meraki solution, Pima has realized a variety of important benefits. Going from four vendors to a single–vendor solution has enabled Pima to remove complexity and eliminate operational silos. With the Meraki dashboard, IT staff can easily manage all the Meraki equipment from one place, which improves efficiency and significantly reduces the team’s operational burden.
The solution is highly reliable and when disruptions and outages do occur, they can be pinpointed and resolved quickly.
“Being able to get on the dashboard and see all the devices to quickly determine if there’s a switch that has an issue or an AP that has an issue has been so impactful to my team,” says Jack, “there’s a much quicker resolution when you have that common platform to work from.” Plus, by using the Cisco ThousandEyes platform, Pima can see beyond the four walls of their campus to quickly understand how internet transit, BGP routes, and service provider outages are impacting the user experience.
With faster and more efficient troubleshooting, Pima will soon be able to reduce the number of dedicated resources required to manage the network from five people to three, freeing up two valuable resources to focus on other high-priority IT projects that will help Pima meet its long-term strategic goals.
Pima is taking advantage of the versatility of the Meraki solution to support a host of new high-value use cases. One such use case involves installing Meraki MT air quality sensors in automotive and aviation training facilities to prevent students from being exposed to harmful levels of solvents and different types of gases. Another use case would use Power over Ethernet (PoE) for lighting on campus, which could help Pima meet its carbon emissions reduction targets. The IT team is also continuing to work closely with faculty members from different programs to support innovative new use cases as they arise.
Overall, with the Meraki solution in place, Pima has a reliable, secure, and scalable network that gives it the flexibility, features, and performance it needs to support a diverse user community and an ever-expanding list of new educational use cases.