In February, Information Technology Services sent out a campus wide email informing students of upcoming fiber upgrades to the campus network. Matthew Haschak, the Chief Information Security Officer and Director of IT Infrastructure at the University offered more insight into what these changes mean to the campus community.
Haschak explains that the upgrades are really a multitude of changes converging as one project.
“There’s a lot of things going on right now, and they’re all kind of interconnected,” Haschak said.
The upgrades are what he calls Supernet 2.0, a reference to an ambitious project from the late 1990s to early 2000s that unified networking standards across the university, improving data, video and voice services on campus. Haschak said Supernet 2.0 focuses on capability, redundancy, efficiency and seeks to prepare the university network for the next 30 years of supporting the campus community.
The fiber upgrades change the current 10-gigabit network capacity to 40-gigabit capacity. That doesn’t necessarily mean improved internet speeds at once, as the university’s current 10-gigabit connection has capacity to spare. However, ITS expects that remaining capacity will be reached soon and wants to be ready to rapidly switch over.
“We want to be ready; we didn’t want to hit that threshold and wait six months and have our users upset during that time that we were unable to meet their demands,” Haschak said.
The university is working with its primary internet service provider, OARnet, and its secondary provider Spectrum, to make the connection ready to go when it is needed.
Wi-Fi 6 will bring faster, more reliable and more secure Wi-Fi to campus, according to Haschak. This upgrade will result in the replacement of over 3,000 Cisco access points with new access points produced by Aruba Networks, a subsidiary of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.
“We have been with Cisco for access points since 2001” says Haschak, who noted that ITS made their choice of new access points after consulting with other universities, including Indiana University.
This wireless upgrade, with enhanced network segmentation, will allow for more consumer devices such as Apple TV, Chromecasts, and other consumer devices in residence hall rooms through Aruba Clearpass according to Haschak, who also noted that the Wi-Fi upgrade will occur either in late spring or early summer.
Cost is an important factor in these upgrades.
“Twenty years ago, when we installed this fiber, we had a warranty on it. We discovered there were some failing parts on it, and we’re getting close to the end of the warranty,” Haschak said.
Thus, the university is getting repairs done under warranty. The repairs focus mainly on the end connectors, not the actual fiber cables themselves.
The upgrade to 40-gigabits instead of 100-gigabits was chosen because of the added cost involved in a 100-gigabit network; however, Haschak says the upgrade from 40 to 100 will be easier and cheaper than the current upgrade from 10-gigabit to 40-gigabit.
Other network upgrades in the works include better internal wiring inside buildings to support features such as power over ethernet, and more redundancy in the fiber network, which already has a degree of redundancy.
With talk of union renovations moving Starbucks and the Black Swamp Pub, ITS also has plans to move the computer lab to the current Starbucks location.
“Because the space is smaller in the new location, we want to find a sweet spot between how many computers will fit in the space, and how students are currently utilizing the current computer lab so nobody’s losing access,” ITS Student Support Supervisor Meredith Errington said. “We would never ever want to limit access.”
Details on the new lab are currently sparse, with one concern being the ability to limit too much sunlight from harming computers. Errington estimates there would be around 45 computers in the new lab.
Errington emphasized the construction would not stop access to labs for students who need them, saying “At no point will it be closed, or inaccessible for students. We won’t close the lab until the new lab is ready to be open”.
Errington also noted that ITS was offering workshops on how to use some of the tools offered by their department, and invited students to attend.