network closet

Future-proofing our network

Not unlike a vehicle needing new tires, suspension, or even a new motor, the University’s network needs constant maintenance and upgrading if it is to take it longer distances while operating efficiently.

Parts of the network are 20 years old, installed when the University of Lethbridge connected to its first campus-wide data network, says Terry Kirkvold, Infrastructure and Maintenance Support Manager.

Typical network closet prior to upgrade

Typical network closet prior to upgrade

“As many of the current network switches and routers are nearing end of life, what we’re doing, in essence, is future-proofing our network. With this

upgrade, at a minimum, we’re able to maintain and increase the quality, and also improve our service. Users will probably not see a difference in their day-to-day operations, but if they were to look under the hood, they would see a very modern, clean and efficient engine.”

Over the Family Day weekend in February, new core network switches were installed and are currently in operation, as well as new Wi-Fi access points in many classrooms and learning spaces. Next will be the installation of a new Domain Name Server (DNS) and DHCP (IP address allocations).

As outlined in the August 2014 blog article, the upgrade provides a number of improvements:

  • Faster response times for core services such as email and internet
  • Increased wireless capacity which will provide better coverage in classrooms and other student spaces
  • Ability to grow and change with the University’s needs
  • Enhanced security which provides a more secure infrastructure

“We will flip buildings to the new network in a staggered manner, one at a time, over the summer,” says Kirkvold. “These moves will be during the day as a rule and IT resources will be available to troubleshoot any problems that may occur.”

The current closets  are a complicated maze of organic growth that accommodated previous upgrades over the years.

Teams of Infrastructure staff will be required to visit each of the more than 70 network closets to completely reconfigure the network devices, cabling and fiber connections. The current closets  are a complicated maze of organic growth that accommodated previous upgrades over the years.

“With 5,500 connections and more than 27 kilometers of patch cables that have to be moved, each closet, depending on its size, could take two to four hours a day to re-configure and turn up the new infrastructure. For example, the CCBN has three closets and our staff could spend a full day or more in just that one building.”

The move will consist of first moving the wireless access points to the new network followed by the wired computers, phones and other devices attached to the network, and cleaning up all of the cables which could take up to two or three hours to complete.

Go here to see the tentative schedule of the planned work.

For more information, please contact Terry Kirkvold at kirkvold@uleth.ca, or 403-329-2720.