Aruba Networks
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Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

How NCC’s constant network development has led it towards the edge

Swedish construction business NCC is one of the largest companies in the Nordic region. Like many other construction companies, NCC’s employees, partners and customers expect a high-level of connectivity as technology plays a more pivotal part in the industry every day.

But both environmental conditions and the need for sites to be set up on demand make this a huge challenge.

Eklind Anders, manager of IT communications at NCC, explains that the company has to regularly set up two new sites every day, and take away two sites daily. With around 1,500 sites established throughout the year, this meant putting out cables everywhere, which were a lot of hassle to contend with.

It was for this reason that NCC was an early adopter of Aruba Networks technology, enabling NCC to use wireless network infrastructure as far back as 2006. Throughout the years, the company implemented more of Aruba’s technology to suit different types of clients.

“We have Aruba’s Instant Access Points and remote APs for smaller organisations, and we have Aruba Branch Controllers for medium and larger size companies, and then we have wireless indoor and outdoor APs for the big offices.

“We’ve also implemented ClearPass and AirWave, so we are using the whole spectrum of everything Aruba has to offer – we have very diverse needs, as we deal with offices and construction sites, we require things such as wireless in tunnels, for example,” Anders states.

In addition, network access needs to support mobile devices and tools, data transfers, video conferencing and remote sensors. NCC adopted a separate network for IoT-based devices, which included automated scales and construction tools.

“For one project, we needed to install Aruba AP-275’s on our drills in order to collect data wirelessly from a tunnel. We tried to do this with another network provider and it wasn’t good enough – we didn’t get a connection for more than 60 metres, where as with Aruba we could go 300-400 metres with a stable connection,” Anders explains.

NCC could capture live data from the drill, livestream the data and examine efficiencies in real-time.

The next step in projects like this would be to process the information in the edge, meaning that the data would be analysed in real-time from the device itself. Anders believes that this will be possible for NCC using Aruba’s technology in the near future.

For now, staff on-site can access applications they need including the likes of Microsoft Office 365 and data-intensive CAD files.

“It’s a big challenge for me from a network perspective to support CAD application users, because they have files that are several gigabytes in size, and the user may need them working perfectly in the cloud,” Anders says.

Securing a network used by others

Ekling explains that previously NCC sites consisted of 80 to 90 percent of NCC staff, but that this number has now shifted to around 40 percent. This means that the vast majority of people on construction sites are subcontractors, consultants or suppliers, many of whom could be on site for only one day, while others could be there for the long-term. Aruba’s products, including ClearPass, ensure that the network can be secured so that staff can access corporate resources securely, but if there was a need for a non-staff member to access a shared project folder or use the office printer, the network can recognise, profile and authenticate users and devices, and then provide access automatically.

With its longstanding partnership with Aruba, NCC has established wireless coverage for its workers across 600 worksites, and support on-site staff and partners to use collaboration tools and applications of their choice. In addition, NCC has reduced network configuration time and ensured that its network is secure. Perhaps most significantly, Anders states that the organisation has been able to enable connectivity across the organisation, which supports the company’s digital transformation agenda.