Campus crusader builds a better network

Carleton University is turning to Hewlett-Packard Canada for a $10-million campus-wide network upgrade to help support increasing research needs, a new enterprise resource planning system, and new initiatives in e-learning.

The current “”flat”” network with a one gigabit-per-second backbone will

be replaced over the next three years with a hierarchical network that will deliver 10 gigabit-per-second Ethernet performance and bandwidth across campus.

Carleton’s chief information officer, Ralph Michaelis, says the network has been upgraded over time, but this is the first major upgrade in 10 years. It is being fueled in part by a 200 per cent increase in research activity at the university over the past four years — research projects that are bandwidth-hungry.

“”What we’ve done is look at the future here,”” Michaelis says. “”Looking at where the university wanted to be from a strategic positioning viewpoint, we needed a new network that will support the demands for the next five to ten years.””

The upgrade was a way of keeping ahead of the game and ensuring the university is able to meet future needs — and doing so before people experience a deficiency.

“”We have an operational network today.””

In the future, Michaelis wants to have the flexibility to be able to turn up service levels as they’re needed.

It will be a fundamental upgrade, moving to a hierarchal network. There will be a core network, and edge nodes will sit in the basement of each building. New access switches will be installed and new cabling will go to the wall sockets in offices and classrooms.

“”We’ve got 20 buildings on campus,”” says Michaelis. “”To go through those and put the new infrastructure in place, while working around classes because we still need to conduct business, we estimate it will take three years.””

Carleton issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the upgrade and received competitive bids from a number of major vendors, and while they all offered technology innovations and partnerships, Michaelis says HP really convinced them that they had the capabilities to do the upgrade in a timely and cost-efficient manner.

“”Their project management was strong, their ability to design and implement with us and to our requirements impressed us,”” says Michaelis. “”The new network will effectively be a 10-times improvement.””

High bandwidth requirement

Among the projects in need of that new bandwidth is a new Virtual Simulation Laboratory that has high bandwidth requirements, and a number of projects on particle physics require the capability to move large data files both around campus and to peer institutions across Canada and around the world.

There is also a need on the administration side. Michaelis says Carleton implemented a new ERP system a year ago, and they wanted to make sure they had the network capacity to support it properly.

The new bandwidth will also allow Carleton to expand its e-learning offerings. For years,

Carleton has offered an instructional television (ITV) program, where lectures are taped and broadcast over Ottawa cable television, and mailed to out-of-town students.

Carleton recently began to offer webcasts of select courses and demand has been strong. But its stretched network meant it had to be done offsite and expansion of the program wasn’t possible. With the new network, that could change.

“”Now we can begin to bring that in-house and maybe expand the offering,”” Michaelis says.

Carleton also plans to build wireless hotspots and will begin with a pilot test in the engineering building.

The wireless access will be a benefit to both students and faculty alike, Michaelis says. Though the wireless hotspots will at first be provided in areas where students congregate, he hopes that eventually the whole campus will be covered.

“”We’ll have to do that in stages and just prioritize over the next few years.””

Reg Schade, vice-president and general manager of HP Services, HP Canada, says HP will partner with Cisco Systems on the Carleton upgrade, and will be implementing HP’s OpenView software to help Carleton manage the network.

“”Academic institutions are constantly experiencing change with new students, faculty, curricula, programs and services, which collectively place new and different pressures on all of the university’s resources,”” says Schade.

— with files from Poonam Khanna

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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