Campus network gets $1.5M upgrade

Campus network gets $1.5M upgrade

Students work on computers in UNL’s Schorr Center. Information and Technology Services has launched a $1.5 million upgrade of the campus computing network. When complete, the project will double bandwidth available to campus buildings and high-demand locations.
Greg Nathan | University Communications
Students work on computers in UNL’s Schorr Center. Information and Technology Services has launched a $1.5 million upgrade of the campus computing network. When complete, the project will double bandwidth available to campus buildings and high-demand locations.

UNL has launched an upgrade to increase performance and reliability of the campus computer network.

The $1.5 million project is UNL’s largest network upgrade in more than a decade said Jim Hlava, network manager for Information Technology Services. When complete, it will double bandwidth available to campus buildings and high-demand locations. The work will also allow the Holland Computing Center to move forward with a National Science Foundation grant that will establish a 100-gigabit Internet2 connection for research use.

“This project recognizes that the network is a lifeline for the university to the rest of the world,” Hlava said. “The entire focus is to increase availability and redundancy across the entire campus network.

“The project also positions the network to meet campus needs as we move toward achieving the chancellor’s initiatives and the 30,000 student growth goal.”

The existing campus network utilizes five nodes — three on City Campus, two on East — to distribute Internet traffic. Each node is responsible to provide access to a certain portion of campus. As designed, no backup is in place if a node fails.

“If we lost any one of those pieces of hardware, in essence, 20 percent of campus would lose Internet access,” Hlava said. “From a networking point of view, that is too big of an exposure to failure.”

The upgrade replaces the five distribution nodes with four updated models split evenly between UNL’s two campuses. To increase redundancy, the two nodes on each campus will be linked together and housed in separate buildings.

“The updated network will make it so, if we lose one piece of hardware, we will not lose connection across campus,” Hlava said. “And, by linking the nodes together, we are doubling the network capacity for each building from one gigabit to two gigabits per second.”

High-demand locations that receive 10-gigabit connections will double to 20 gigabits.

Hlava said the project is designed to create a “fault-tolerant environment.”

“When you design a network,” adds Hlava. “You have to allow for what can go wrong. Equipment can overheat, software can have a bug, a fiber can get cut. Our network will be better equipped to respond to those problems and continue to run without the institution grinding to a halt.”

The same type of dual network architecture is being planned for Nebraska Innovation Campus.

Hlava said the City Campus part of the project will be completed in August. The East Campus upgrade is scheduled for a January finish.

For more information, contact the UNL Operations Center at operator@unl.edu or 402-472-5653.