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Washington Upgrades State Network with Juniper Gear

Washington State's K-20 Education Network recently completed an upgrade of its network infrastructure to encompass annual bandwidth growth that had reached 40 to 50 percent. The 15-year-old organization runs a wide area network (WAN) that links 498 locations at public schools, two-year colleges, and four-year colleges in the state. The upgrade to equipment in two of its major sites was completed during the third quarter of 2011. K-20 deployed MX480 3D Universal Edge Routers from Juniper Networks.

According to Tom Carroll, K-20's service manager, basic Internet access on the network has given way to more demand for support of online business applications and high-definition videoconferencing. "A child in a rural area like Forks, WA can talk on a video call to a psychologist at University of Washington in Seattle," he explained. "The network must provide high-fidelity video so that the psychologist can see the child's face. Without our network the child wouldn't get the care he or she needs."

Likewise, the new network is also supporting enterprise resource planning, time and attendance, payroll, learning management, and other school applications. "As mission critical applications migrate onto the network, the expectation for reliability goes up," Carroll said. "There's an expectation of five-nines of reliability--or better."

The original WAN used Juniper gear as well. According to Carroll, the equipment in use specifically in the Seattle and Vancouver installations had reached end of life and required replacement. Those core routers that were replaced were redeployed to other WAN locations.

A major driver for the latest upgrade was to accommodate greater demand for increased bandwidth--to 10Gbps capacity--but without a concomitant increase in service charges. "Our customers have fixed line items in their budgets for bandwidth, and the only way we can keep costs stable while providing increased bandwidth is to adopt new technology and invest in infrastructure," Carroll explained. "The network architecture has to be flexible at both the high and low ends of the spectrum at a price they can afford."

The total cost of the project was under a million dollars, an expense incurred by K-20's members.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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