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Indiana U Network Upgrade to Support a Quarter-Million Concurrent Devices

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On the heels of wrapping up a 10-year network master plan, Indiana University has gone public with a new plan to undertake a massive upgrade of its network infrastructure. The university said it intends to build up its administrative and learning environment to support a quarter of a million concurrent devices across all of its nine campuses. The project is being done with the help of PIER Group, an Indiana-based higher education IT consultancy, and Aruba Networks.

The philosophy being followed is to build what the institution is referring to as a "unified edge." Rather than having the central IT unit, University Information Technology Services (UITS), provide core services and allowing individual departments to implement their own equipment on the network's edge, UITS is taking care of both the "central brain" and the periphery, according to Mark Spencer, UITS manager of campus network engineering. Spencer oversees a team of 45 people who run the network, including switching, routing, telecommunications and e-mail.

One goal of the project is to merge management and the user experience of the wired and wireless networks to make them more similar. Doing so, said Spencer in a statement, would "cut down on resource redundancy, enhance focus and ultimately create a better experience for students, faculty and guests."

"We are a volume business, based on our large number of customers," added Kirt Guinn, director of telecommunications infrastructure. "With so many faculty, staff, and students on nine campuses, and all the different devices they use and attach to our network, our goal is operational efficiency. Installation, maintenance and troubleshooting are infinitely more efficient in a homogenous environment."

The IT team expected the centralized approach to strengthen authentication and increase overall network security while also providing more straightforward administration.

Other benefits of the latest upgrade are expected to be:

  • Streaming of instructional technology, including 3D applications and virtual laboratories to any location wirelessly, not just in designated classrooms;
  • A boost in security for devices connecting to the network, including phones, gaming consoles, TV streaming boxes, digital assistants, smartwatches and Internet of Things sensors; and
  • Improved analytics, for operational uses. For example, one proposed analytics project would analyze traffic flow on the university's campuses and redeploy security personnel and cameras based on the results.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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