“The CAE Labs automation app is working well saving us a lot of time building the networks, and once on site, the Meraki builds are very effective!” - Lead Technical AnalystWrexham County Borough Council

Giving teachers and students a gold star network

Providing rich digital learning environments is an educational priority for Wrexham County Borough Council (WCBC), and relies on safe, secure, and reliable networks to empower teachers and support effective learning across 70 schools. 

As part of a £50 million funding programme by the Welsh government to help transform education technology and support modern curriculum teaching across Wales, WCBC invested in c.1,300 devices to upgrade their schools’ network infrastructure and enable Wi-Fi 6. While other councils replaced equipment on a like for like basis, WCBC took the opportunity to look to the future, with a complete redesign to give their teachers and students a gold star standard. 

The Challenge 

When WCBC needed to upgrade the borough’s 70 primary and secondary school networks, their aim was to ensure that teachers and students had easy access to relevant data over a reliable wireless service they could be confident in, to provide teaching and learning seamlessly. The existing network was complex and convoluted, having grown over the years with no standardisation, and IT teams had little visibility or control. 

Implementing this new, fast core network across all schools was a good opportunity to help WCBC streamline both technical and business processes around the adoption of new technology. 

CAE’s approach – doing our homework 

By concentrating effort upfront on the discovery and design elements of the project, CAE were able to make the delivery element easier and smoother, with minimal assumptions and no nasty surprises. 

Right first time, rapid, zero touch provision and deployment 

CAE uses an automation and orchestration app designed for the rapid provisioning of new sites, saving time and cost while being highly scalable, repeatable, and consistent. The app is capable of zero touch provisioning hundreds of schools in minutes and configuring thousands of networking devices across two Cisco enterprise platforms at the same time (Cisco DNA Center and Cisco Meraki Dashboard), with one non-technical drag and drop action of a basic spreadsheet. 

Switches and Wireless Access Points were fully configured in a uniform and standardised way with zero touch, avoiding human errors. Thanks to the simplified, fully automated, and orchestrated process, equipment could be simply patched in on school sites without relying on the technical knowledge of highly skilled engineers - no manual configuration or dashboard visits were required. 

After testing the delivery service at five schools in the pilot phase, CAE were able to hand over a consistent, streamlined operating model for WCBC to deploy, which was easy for them to scale and repeat for the remaining 65 schools.

The Outcome 

Rapid provisioning of a school is possible in under 60 seconds, and instead of a large comprehensive school taking almost a week, it takes just a few hours. 

Meraki Dashboard and its automation app now provide single pane of glass access to the entire school network, allowing centralised visibility, control and management of the Cisco and Meraki products going into each school. 

As the network is programmatically configured rather than human touch, there is no configuration drift or inconsistencies. Instead, every site is standardised around gold star configuration which makes support and fixes much easier and helps WCBC deliver a better service.