Sputnik Vs. Elektron

Sputnk Logo We have a fairly large wireless network at the moment, and we’d like to improve its security. We’ve been researching two possible solutions, Elektron and Sputnik, and here’s what we’ve got so far…

We have Elektron running on one access point, but its software had to be installed on one of our Domain Controlers to work. It’s a software solution (basically a Radius server combined with WPA). We had a third DC server still in the loop, so we put it on. Worked flawlesses with a 10.4 iBook, worked with my Dell laptop after I installed the certificate, but then stopped working with the Dell. Our network administrator had it running again with a Thinkpad, but we have to see if it is stable.

It did a good job of using the Windows login credentials for the auto connect. For non-domain PCs, they need to be Service Pack II and students need to log into the system just once for it to work using their Active Directory usernames and passwords. Macs 10.3.9 and above should be automatic, but older ones… It has some nice reporting features about who’s on where.

If this is stable, we’ll likely go with it, but we will need to replace 10-15 older access points that don’t do WPA. Don’t know if we’d do more Airport Extremes or a Linksys solution (or others).

As for Sputnik, it could provide more functionality. We found that it can use Windows IAS as the Radius server, so we’d already be set. If the machines have a known MAC address, the whole log-in sequence is bypassed. Non-school machines will log in via Active Directory usernames and passwords (via IAS, Radius). It also has load graphs, etc., per access point.

Bad part with Sputnik: all Access Points on campus would have to be replaced (around 45), at a cost of at least $100 per station for hardware, and around $160 each for the “seats” for Sputnik, unless they give us an Educational or volume discount. The Sputnik appliance can support up to 100 access points, so we should be okay there.

As for WPA, if Elektron isn’t stable, then I guess we’d assume that all other WPA solutions would also be flaky. That would leave a Sputnik-like solution with specialized access points that can have Sputnik firmware upgrades installed. This is like a “half-step” to the much more expensive AireSpace solution (S10k appliances, $400 access points– last time we checked).

Jason Johnson once noted that we wanted an airport-like system to handle all the systems brought from home. I think either system could do this, but it has to be stable, and Elektron would be less expensive to deploy.

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