University of Westminster upgrades network with one eye on SDN

The University of Westminster has chosen a Brocade-based network to upgrade its network performance and resilience across its infrastructure, while paving the way for new software defined networking (SDN).

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The University of Westminster has chosen a Brocade-based network to upgrade its network performance and resilience across its infrastructure, while paving the way for new software defined networking (SDN).

The deployment will be based on Brocade’s MLX Series core routers, which are designed to deliver high reliability and operational efficiency for the most demanding network environments.

With more than 25,000 students from over 150 nations, based at four campuses across London, the University of Westminster’s network infrastructure is fundamental to the running of the organisation, delivering critical applications to both students and university employees.

The university is keen to attract international students in order to drive revenue, meaning that high quality IT services are also critical from a business perspective.

The new Brocade solution will allow the University of Westminster to deploy 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) connections across its wide area network (WAN) and data centres, giving it the faster speeds its users expect.

The new architecture will also make it easy to upgrade to 40 or 100 GbE performance at a later date. The organisation is also planning to deploy SDN capabilities in the future and this infrastructure gives it a flexible, robust platform on which to base its longer-term networking strategy.

SDN promises to cut networking costs by making it easier to manage, change and scale the network in response to business needs using the OpenFlow standard.

The Broacade kit allows network users to integrate OpenFlow into existing networks, giving them the programmatic control offered by SDN for specific flows while the remaining traffic is routed as before - an essential decision criterion for the university.

The new infrastructure will allow the university’s students to use the network not just for their studies but also for their social and entertainment needs. They are carrying out data-intensive activities such as video calls, gaming and media streaming across laptops, gaming consoles, smartphones and tablets.

“When you are providing IT services for international students the appetite for faster connection speeds and greater bandwidth will just keep growing,” said Daniel Halter, head of IT infrastructure at the University of Westminster. “Our students are online constantly, often with more than one device at a time, and they expect to be able to access content, use online applications and collaborate on their studies without any interruptions.”

With its network spread across campuses in central London and Harrow, the University of Westminster was also keen to resolve an organisational vulnerability to network outages.

Halter said: “We were very keen to resolve a vulnerability in our previous network architecture, which was over-reliant on a single connection between our two primary data centres, located more than 14 kilometres apart in central London and Harrow.

"This single connection point was a major concern and we did suffer outages, which could only be resolved manually by our on-site teams. With this new Brocade deployment we have far greater resilience and, if there is a fault, the network can seamlessly re-route traffic so that our end users will not even notice there has been a problem.”