Back-to-school IT projects reshape campus life Part II
Virtualization is a key part of the new commons. “Virtualization lets us give folks their own separate piece of the needed resources, without having [to resort to] expensive local resources,” he says. The new site will be fully operational in early 2011.
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Much smaller Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., will create 170 virtual machines in its current fiscal year, nearly doubling the 100 it already has. It’s part of a consolidation process to create a cost-effective, high-performance compute, backup and storage service, in two data centers. “Our plan is to build an environment that’s attractive to our professional schools with [currently] their own data centers and resources,” says Ellen Waite-Franzen, Dartmouth’s CIO.

The facility is using VMware’s vSphere software components and Cisco’s Unified Computing System as the hardware platform.

Fayetteville State University in North Carolina is using VMware’s VMView with Samsung’s line of integrated monitors to virtualize computing desktops in a new community computing center and in various on-campus software development and science labs. The approach simplifies desktop support and maintenance, and lets IT create multiple software images for each user, varying with different courses, for example, says Joseph Vittorelli, FSU director of systems and infrastructure.

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4. Increasing clouds

In tandem with such virtualization is growing use of cloud-based services. Dartmouth has just adopted the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS), which are online versions of Exchange, SharePoint, Office and other Microsoft applications. The school chose Microsoft over Google’s comparable product because it plans to integrate the on-campus Exchange Server with the cloud offering. Dartmouth is also evaluating cloud offerings via Amazon and Rackspace.

Brandeis this fall will complete the transition of its campus e-mail and calendar services to Google’s online equivalents.

“Google can do it way better than Brandeis,” Turner says. One key factor in Brandeis’ decision: Google’s excellent support for mobile users. “To keep up with them, we’d have to make sure we were always updating all our software,” Turner says. “Just the new iPad puts us behind the eight-ball right away.”

Dartmouth’s Waite-Franzen says she expects more education software vendors to create cloud offerings. SunGard Higher Education, for example, announced earlier this year it will offer as a hosted service the federal methodology for calculating student financial aid eligibility base on the latest government rules.

5. Video reality

Video usage is growing, fueled partly by student use of online video streaming services. In addition, there’s expanding use of video in learning, such as “lecture capture” systems that create and store searchable videos of class presentations by teachers, visitors and students.

Duke has just chosen Panopto’s Focus software as the new foundation of its DukeCapture System, created in 2006. The new software will let Duke also support student-shot class and personal videos, according to Duke CIO Tracy Futhey. To date, the system has created about 15TB of data. Duke is studying ways to revamp its storage architecture into tiers, based on video usage patterns and data retention policies.

Video puts new demands on campus networks. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Mass., wanted to create more fine-grained bandwidth control and optimization, partly as a result of the rise in video traffic. “We used to create a [bandwidth] partition, and students competed for that bandwidth for certain file types,” says Joanne Kossuth, Olin’s CIO. “With the increased use of video, of podcasts, and video conferencing, that strategy no longer worked.”
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The college chose Procera Networks’ PacketLogic product line, allowing detailed, wire-speed packet inspection, analysis, shaping and optimization. “It gives us greater flexibility and control,” Kossuth says.

6. Bandwidth or bust

All the foregoing trends are leading to big bandwidth upgrades on many campuses. Nearly all of the 11n deployments mentioned here make use of 1Gbps Ethernet backhaul to the LAN, for example at Abilene Christian, Dartmouth and Fayetteville.

University of North Texas upgraded its campus distribution network from 1Gbps to 10Gbps, and new design to improve redundancy, UNT’s Adamo says.

On the back end, Internet bandwidth is soaring. Morrisville more than doubled its connection, from 90Mbps total to 200Mbps. Olin did exactly the same. North Texas University ended 2010 academic year hitting about 300M to 400Mbps and expects to reach 500Mbps in the new academic year.

Campuses are also paying more attention to cellular bandwidth. Campus-wide network upgrades offer the opportunity to evaluate distributed antenna systems (DAS), which are cables and hardware that take a cellular carrier’s signal from an on-campus headend and spread it evenly throughout a building. Brandeis is evaluating this, in part because new energy efficient windows in new or rehabbed buildings dramatically weaken cell signals. “It won’t be cheap, but it might make sense to bundle this with our network upgrade,” Turner says.

These projects reflect the rapid changes that are stressing underlying network infrastructures. “These are about technology shifts,” Carnegie Mellon’s McCarriar says. “There are significant costs to maintaining legacy infrastructures that people are not using.”